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Of hamburgers and gold

Life always looks better once I have finished my annual commitment to preparing hamburgers at the annual Iola Old Car Show.

We prepared them outside on very large propane grills that allow us to cook 100 at a time on each side of a double grill.

It is done in direct sunlight, so I wear a large straw hat and slather on the sun block. I seem to have done a pretty good job of preventing sunburn this year.

Because we are outside, those of us on the hamburger crew can get a sense of the crowd passing by and those stopping to eat at picnic tables under a very large tent nearby.

We also have bits of views of some of the special show cars and swap meet area.

Obviously, while waiting for the hamburgers to cook, the crew can swap news, trade impressions of how the show is doing and just chitchat.

While first-hand impressions are always important, I was reminded of the defects of relying solely on my own eyes in evaluating something.

When I had finished my shift on Saturday, I had decided that the show might have been a bit slower that day than last year.

On Sunday, I happened to have a conversation with the guy who supplies the show with meat. He said show-goers ate between 500 pounds and 600 pounds more hamburger on Saturday than on the same day last year.

That surprised me at first, but the meat vendor has access to all the data, whereas I only had access to what I could personally see and experience.

As the show has grown, it has spread out. We have gone from one food area to five. Sure, the location at which I work is the largest, but it is no longer a point that everyone has to pass. Some attendees could probably do all they wanted to do without ever getting close to my location.

Anecdotal information is interesting. It is seemingly more like real life than dry statistics, but don’t lose sight of the fact that statistics are necessary.

Somebody can claim physical gold is selling like hotcakes or hardly at all. The claim could be true as far as the observer is concerned, but it would not necessarily be the whole picture. I can claim that I prepared fewer hamburgers on Saturday. That is true, but it was not the whole picture.

That’s where we have to rely on statistics.

Check to see if there is solid information incorporated in any story about gold, or anything else for that matter, as well as a good tale.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."