This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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Coin collecting is one of those things that can take over your life. It certainly took over mine. I wouldn’t have been sitting here for the last 33 years were that not the case.
Not everybody can spend eight or more hours a day on numismatics, though. Life’s many responsibilities get in the way. However, many people find it a very satisfying hobby that they somehow fit into their spare time. Many of these people know more than I do. How do they do it? Personal discipline is key.
If you put one foot in front of the other for many years, I expect you would be amazed to find yourself on the other side of the planet (metaphorically speaking). The same is true with coin collecting.
On the other hand, there are many people who simply want to skip to the good part. They usually come to my attention when gold and silver are high and making headlines. They want to be told where to buy the metals and, presto, a few months later they expect to be a lot richer.
While that might happen to some people, I think there probably are more individuals like an Oklahoma couple that I ran into at the Miami airport in 2008. They had seen headlines that silver was making highs then and they eagerly sold. If they had held on just three more years they would have doubled their money.
Why didn’t they wait?
The simple fact is that they had seen the silver headlines in the 1979-1980 run-up and bought then. Then they waited 28 years as the market dropped dramatically. It did recover. They got out whole. I don’t know if they made a profit, or how much of one, but the point is, for them, the clock of their lives was ticking away. They were grateful to be finally out.
Gold and silver might be eternally valuable, but those of us who own it have a fairly short lease on this life.
The time to remember that is when profits seem easy. Why study? Why learn grading? Why work diligently over many years to put a top-notch collection together? Why not just write a check, take delivery of some precious metals and cash out in a couple of months, or a couple of years, tops?
If only conditions stayed as easy as they seem now.
What if like the Oklahoma couple you have bad timing? Then what do you do?
The risks always seem less at the top of a market. Silver is $43 as this is written. It could go to $60 in a matter of days, or it could sit where it is for months on end, or it might even decline.
You get the idea. When you are driving in the numismatic orchard, some apples might just fall into the bed of your pickup truck, but that doesn’t mean you can spend your life collecting fruit that way.
It is better to plant your own orchard and reap the benefits over many years. That takes work and study. But the strange thing is, when you do it, you come to enjoy the process. You get both the hobby and the profits.
Investors often overstay their visit to numismatics and get burned. Collectors stay for life and get smart.