Private firms offering numismatic items to people who know nothing about the field have been commonplace for many years.
Every so often a reader will send me examples of these offers for my information.
Yesterday two such communications came my way.
Someone from Madison, Wis., anonymously mailed me three different printed advertisements.
The one that grabbed my attention quickest was a full-page ad from a major newspaper offering one-ounce silver bars to Wisconsin residents.
This kind of offer seems to be new. I do not recall seeing silver bar offers like this before.
But if I want to act fast I can get a free bar and buy five additional ones for just $57 each because I live in Wisconsin.
That’s $285 and I will get six one-ounce bars.
Each one has a Wisconsin outline map on it and the Indian Head from the old nickel design. They come in sealed “vault bricks” of six.
How many readers of this ad will check the APMEX website and find this morning that if they want to buy six one-ounce silver bars, all they need pay is $106.50?
Oh, and those of you don’t live in Wisconsin will be charged $134 each, or $804 for the six bars.
There is nothing illegal about selling an accurately described item for more than you can buy it for elsewhere.
If you watch the weekly sales in your area for everyday items you know how many different prices the same thing can be sold for at various stores.
The same thing applies to numismatic items.
Another ad from another firm in the same issue of the newspaper offers uncirculated 40-percent silver Eisenhower dollars for $17.95 each. If you buy 10, you get them for $14.95 each. There is also a postage and handling schedule that increases the cost.
On APMEX you can buy a common one for $11.70 each, but newspaper ads are not as cheap as a website, so it is logical that prices quoted in them would be higher.
A third offer from my Madison correspondent exhorts us to “claim your own copy of the rare 1878 Morgan silver dollar proof.”
It is $39.95 plus $7.99 shipping and handling.
It doesn’t say what it is made of, but there is a lot of information about Morgan silver dollars.
An email I received yesterday from a reader in Texas asked about an offer from the same company that does the Morgan proof.
He did not send me the ad, but asked if the United States was printing $2 bills with national parks in the background.
I assured him the United States was not doing this, but the offer probably was of genuine $2 bills on which some sort of image was attached.
This is legal to do as long as the note is not damaged.
The sender of the email did not tell me what the cost of these privately marketed pieces is, but it brings back memories of ads from the 1960s offering notes with the images of various celebrities on them.
What is so strange about these offers is not the fact that you can find them being made regularly.
What is strange is thinking about how much money apparently is being left on the table by the U.S. Mint because its marketing, such as it is, is basically aimed solely at collectors.
Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2014 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."
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