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Never too late to do the right thing

As an editor I see many things on which I have to exercise a judgment.

What will be of the most interest to readers? From what will they derive the most benefit?

Sometimes the two questions yield answers that are mutually exclusive. Readers often have no interest in a thing that will be of benefit to them.

I marvel at the reluctance to plan for the final disposition of their collections.

For every Eugene H. Gardner Collection, which Heritage will put on the auction block starting June 23, there are many multiples of collectors who leave families completely mystified as to what they have left behind.

In the case of Gardner. He is 78 years old and looks forward to seeing his coins going to good hands.

What more can a responsible coin collector ask?

We are all simply temporary custodians of what we own.

I had a very nice call from a married couple who said they were in their 80s. They were evaluating what they have. They wanted my advice. I gave them what I could, but they have a lot of work to do.

They admitted they had waited longer to undertake this effort than they should have, but had committed to the project.

There was no one in the family who had any interest in coins, so it was up to them.

From their comments, I gathered the collection was almost entirely pulled from circulation over many years. I tried to give them some shortcuts, such explaining that many coins can be lumped together and valued as bullion.

However, the illusion that every coin must be evaluated individually was hard to break. I do not think I succeeded.

The wife was focused on attempting to figure out the varieties of 1953 Canadian 10-cent coins. There are those where the Queen Elizabeth II appears to have a strap on her gown and one where she doesn’t.

Unless the coin is Mint State, it does not matter to the value.

She appeared to be enjoying the learning experience, so I hope the couple won’t get so bogged down in the interesting byways of numismatics that they do not achieve their goal of arriving at a value from which they can determine how to go about selling what they own. That was the subject of my conversation with the husband. He really was not familiar with coin dealers.

The two clearly have the right intent. It was nice to know they are working together. I wish them success. Their family will avoid a problem in that case.

I have done my job here of raising a topic that could be of great benefit to many collectors, but I fear as always that these very same potential beneficiaries will ignore this as not interesting.

Who, after all, wants to face mortality when coins are simply supposed to be fun?

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2013 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."