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What's your weakness?

Without junk emails I would have had almost nothing in my email this morning.

A phishing attempt from a sender claiming to be UPS wanted me to confirm my account information.

Another email set the lure of loads of money this way:

“Craig was my client and died in a car crash with his family in Malaysia, leaving a deposit of 9,800,000 USD.” This came under the heading of “next of kin.”

For individuals who have been on the Internet for more than five minutes, it is obvious these should be deleted.

Collectors, though, have their weaknesses. I don’t expect an email to arrive telling me that a roll of 1909-S VDB cents has been found and I might be the heir.

I would not respond, but I certainly would read such an email. Research you know.

Collectors generally seem most vulnerable to either a price that is too good to pass up, or an offer that is or is made to appear to be a hot item.

Both weaknesses long predate the Internet.

One of the most popular features in Numismatic News is a complete monthly price guide. This is something that we have published in one form or another since the 1960s.

Every collector naturally likes to see what his coins are worth, but there is another element to it. It is also a guide as to what you reasonably might expect to pay for something.

A collector might not fall for an offer to buy IBM stock at half the quoted value, but my experience has shown that collectors love the idea of buying a coin for half the listed price.

Too often these pieces are incorrectly described and turn out to be coins of lesser grades than what the buyer thought it was.

Price guides are there to help collectors stop and consider whether any offer to sell coins is reasonable.

As for hot items, the bandwagon effect is well known to me. I was introduced to it by the 1968 proof set. I missed the order period. Prices were soaring well beyond the $5 issue price. I had to have one. I spent $15 to acquire my prize. It continued to rise to $20 and then catastrophe. The price dropped and dropped again and again.

Over time it fell below issue price.

It was an object lesson.

Don’t chase things I miss.

On average after a year or two has passed you will get popular items much cheaper. Sure, there are exceptions, but these prove the rule. The savings on the coins not chased vastly outweigh the extra sums needed to buy the popular item that does not crash later.

As I said, we collectors have our weaknesses. The key is to learn them and guard against them.