Buy the book before you buy the coin is an old hobby saying.
I can also say subscribe to hobby periodicals, join a club and attend an American Numismatic Association Summer Seminar.
There are many resources available to help any diligent collector take command of his hobby.
That doesn’t mean we all don’t continue to learn things, but we each fit ourselves into comfortable learning and collecting modes that tend to advance simultaneously with each other.
Then there are individuals who write me so I can tell them that they have won the lottery without ever having done any of this.
Naturally, I cannot tell them that.
The latest of this kind inquiry came by email.
The sender states: “I talked to X (a dealer in Idaho) the other day and I asked him if my coins with errors are worth anything and he sent me your e-mail. So it would be great if they are worth something, because I have several Lincoln wheat backs and several others. I looked online and found that there is another show in Las Vegas the first three days of March in just a few weeks ahead. I really want to go; I haven’t been there and I am over 50, so it may be time to go, but only if my coins will make it worth the trip.”
Now I know a dealer in Idaho would know if the guy had a doubled die or some valuable error of similar kind.
I expect that the dealer giving the email writer my email address was probably a way to ease out of a situation that he probably didn’t want to be in any longer.
I can understand that.
So I didn’t tell the guy the Lincoln cents probably were worth less than $1, but I did tell him that what he had (though not ever described in the email) probably would not pay for a trip to Vegas.
He will have to find another way to finance his hoped-for journey.
The sad thing is I don’t expect he will ever buy a book, subscribe to a periodical or join a club either.
The lure of Vegas must not be strong enough to inspire that outcome.
Buzz blogger Dave Harper is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."