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Selling shouldn't bring surprises

If I could make collectors do one thing even if they don’t want to, what might that be?

This week the leading candidate for my use of such power is to make collectors sell something.

It feels strange to me to make this point over and over again.

When I was a kid I used to buy two to five proof sets each year from the Mint (order limit then was five) and sell a few to help pay for the set I kept. It was a way to stretch a hobby budget that was based on my paper route income.

My desires where coins were concerned were always greater than my means.

In Wisconsin this wasn’t the easiest thing. My father would have to be present to assure the coin dealer that I wasn’t stealing his or anybody else’s collection.

This, of course, is almost intolerable to a teenager who thinks he knows a thing or two.

Fortunately for me, my father was willing.

I never became a dealer, so I won’t claim that I got good at selling, but I hope I am not bad.

But this basic collector lesson does not seem to have been learned by at least some hobbyists.

I was reminded of this by a handwritten letter that I just received.

The writer tells me he is approaching 70 and has been a subscriber to Numismatic News for 30 years.

Then he writes: “I became aware of a prejudice with regard to coin prices or ‘values.’ From dealer ads to articles by contributors to Coin Market values, I find the listings almost always favor retail prices.”

The man has read Numismatic News for 30 years and only just now has realized that the regularly published retail price guide is a retail price guide?

Where have I failed?

There are only so many disclaimers that I can publish.

The root of the problem seems to me to be that this individual has not much if any experience selling coins.

That is an unfortunate situation to be in.

Selling is the complement to buying. Collectors need to be aware of this and know how it works.

Collectors need to stay in practice by selling some of their holdings from time to time. This will keep them in touch with the market and with facts like when a friendly neighborhood dealer is no longer in the neighborhood.

The Coin Market price guide has been a retail price guide since its earliest incarnation dating back to the 1960s.

I hope others are not waiting until they are 70 to discover this.

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