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Knowledge often disguised as cost

There are a lot of modern proof sets that are selling very cheaply.
2014 U.S. Coin Digest

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There are a lot of modern proof sets that are selling very cheaply. I was reminded of this when I saw the monthly newsletter of the Milwaukee Numismatic Society. A 1972-S proof set was slated to be auctioned off with an opening bid of $5.

The opening bid is the issue price that I paid for the set more than 41 years ago. Who can doubt that buying it at issue price was a lousy investment?

But there are two kinds of investment in numismatics. The first kind that everyone thinks of is the one based on the price differential between what you paid for a numismatic item and what you sold it for. If the figure is positive, you made a good investment. If it is negative, or didn’t rise along with the cost of living, you made a lousy investment.

The second kind of investment is the investment some collectors make in knowledge. They buy books. They buy periodicals. They check out information online. They go to shows. They attend seminars. They do things that at first glance look like nothing but expenses.

That impression is one that some hobbyists never abandon. Cash spent for books, or travel or seminars is money not available for spending on coins.

That reasoning is accurate as far as it goes, but there is more to this story. Buying coins that are overgraded, tampered with or overpriced can cost you more money than you would spend on books, shows and seminars in many years.

Books, shows and seminars might be considered vaccines against ignorance. Ignorance is costly. I once had a caller chew me out and tell me I was a crook when I told him the prices of coins listed in Coin Market. He had paid much more. I don’t even know what the grades were. I had to take the caller’s word for it. The differences were thousands of dollars.

If the caller was making purchases costing thousands of dollars and he couldn’t even be bothered to pick up a copy of the many prices guides out there, it makes me wonder what he could have been thinking. I will never know. Yes, I know that is the most extreme example of acting out of ignorance, but it does illustrate my point. It would be far better to jump into numismatics as you would an adventure vacation. Not just study, but experience counts, too.

Go to the local coin club meetings. There are people there who will give you a leg up on learning. Go to seminars that are sponsored by the American Numismatic Association, the Central States Numismatic Society and others.

There is an old saying that knowledge is power. When I Googled it, it was attributed to Francis Bacon. However, you cannot Google something to tell you whether the coins in front of you have original surfaces. Sure, you can learn, but that process won’t help you with the coins immediately in front of you. Plan ahead. Go to meetings. Buy cheap proof sets. Take out the coins inside to show you what original surfaces look like. The cost of knowledge always pays dividends. That $5 set might be the best purchase you ever make.

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