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Stake your claim

With so many multi-million dollar rarities crossing the auction block in recent days, it is obviously a great time to be a collector of top-end coins.

Cynics might say it is always a great time to collect those rarities because people who do so have money. Life, whether hobby or otherwise, is always better with extra cash.

While no one would turn down excess cash, collectors also need opportunity. You can have all the money ready, but if the current owners are not willing to sell, you are out of luck. The great rarities by definition cannot be owned by everyone.

The 1913 nickel that was just sold was in the hands of the same family since 1945 or 1946. They cannot quite pin down the year as George Walton’s records were not precise.

Patience is required even of those who possess great wealth.

Average collectors can exercise patience, too, and achieve a result that can be even more satisfying than being able to buy a top rarity.

If a collector’s average means are employed intelligently, over time great collections can be built as John Jay Pittman proved.

Some collectors today are looking to modern coinage, commemorative, bullion and other kinds, and figuring out which ones will be hard to acquire when the next generation of collectors arrive.

If you are not attracted to recent issues, you can look to the past.

What appeals to you?

Even now some collectors have staked out claims in areas that are currently out of the spotlight. You don’t hear about them now, but when their coins are put on the market in 10 or 20 years you will.

If I had had the brains to jump into the paper money field when I first arrived at my desk at Numismatic News, I could probably be sitting on my own private island enjoying the fruits of the incredible price increases that have occurred since 1978.

But, I didn’t, so here I am.

The point is, the opportunity was there. I just didn’t take it.

There are other opportunities today waiting to be identified.

The only question is who will take advantage of them. If you are up to the challenge, get going.

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