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Coins I didn’t buy were the good ones

Editor Dave Harper has never regretted standing in line at a local bank in 1964 to obtain two Kennedy half dollars on the first day they became available.

As I was writing up the results of the Ruth Weinberg estate coins in the GreatCollections.com auction on Page 20, I kept thinking of all the opportunities I have missed in coin collecting.

There is no way to prove the counterfactual that had I purchased X instead of Y, I would have done a whole lot better. I just know I would have.

For my Y purchases are many. What you are probably wondering is what is a Y purchase.

These are the many items I had to have because the crowd was chasing them. I answered the question “why should I purchase them?” with the response that “everybody else was doing so, so they must be good.”

At the same time I paid $15 for a 1968 proof set that quickly became worth $5, I also made the purchase of my first Gem BU Mercury dime. I paid all of $1 for it. Naturally, it was a common date made during World War II. Why didn’t I buy 15 of the Mercury dimes and let the 1968 proof set go hang? Well, I didn’t. The rest of my Mercury dimes are in various circulated grades. I did fine on the increase in the price of bullion, but it is hard to justify a career in numismatics if I am simply going to be satisfied with bullion melt value.

Speaking of melt value, I bought a 100-ounce bar of silver in 1969 for $200. Think of the quality coins I could have acquired with that sum. But I thought I was going to get rich with bullion. Why? The crowd was chasing it.

In some cases, the crowd was right. I have never regretted standing in line at a local bank in 1964 to obtain two Kennedy half dollars on the first day they became available. Nowadays, America’s mothers would probably call the cops upon seeing an unaccompanied eight-year-old child waiting in line at a bank. I am glad I lived in the America that allowed me to do it. John F. Kennedy had been as much my president as he had been for the rest of the people in line.

But in life you learn lessons. I hope I did. I have chased my share of fads, but not all of them. I have made a few very smart purchases and wish I had made more. But the path I followed landed me here at Numismatic News. Would I have done this had I not been so interested in the next hot item? I wonder.

If I had been smarter and made more purchases of high-quality items sooner, I might have become a coin dealer as so many of my generation seemed to do. That wouldn’t have been a bad outcome, either.

Perhaps my life has been choices between Doors Number One and Two, but both would have led me to careers in essentially the same numismatic place. That’s a pleasant thought.
Somehow or other I got here, and I am glad I did. Numismatics offers everyone riches far beyond the right purchase.


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More Collecting Resources

• Are you a U.S. coin collector? Check out the 2019 U.S. Coin Digest for the most recent coin prices.

• Download The Metal Mania Seminar with David Harper to learn more about the metals market.

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