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'S' is for sucker?

Seeing what goes on in the hobby as others see us or as newcomers might see us is always a difficult challenge.

This is not a "walk a mile in my shoes" issue, but an exercise in history and motivation. Where the hobby is today and how we hobbyists behave is the result of how the hobby evolved and how our attitudes and actions have been shaped by our experiences in it.

A newcomer asked me a question and it was posed in such a way that it was both funny and tragic.

The question involved proof clad coins and proof silver coins. The dimes, quarters and half dollars in the clad proof set have an “S” mintmark as do the silver dimes, quarters and half dollars that will be in tomorrow’s 2010 silver proof set when it goes on sale.

Basically the question implied that the “S” mintmark on the clad coins was somehow placed there to perpetrate fraud on the unsuspecting who really want to buy silver. We as longtime collectors know that silver proofs arrived in fulfillment of long-held collector dreams.

Apparently the questioner thought all proof coins were silver. Where he got that idea, he did not say.

How could he tell the difference, he asked for the quarters he was particularly interested in?

I responded that clad “S” proofs have been made since 1968 and the “S” silver versions arrived in 1992.

If the quarters in question were out of the original packaging, I wrote, and you cannot tell the difference by color, the next step is to weigh them. The clad version is lighter, 5.67 grams versus 6.25 grams.

That certain things in the hobby might not be logical to an outsider is a given. That suspicion of fraud should arise so soon in the process of learning about coins does not bode well for that hobbyist’s future.

It also points out the need to buy the basic reference books. If you don’t do that, whether you are suspicious of others or completely trusting, you won’t do as well as a collector.