By Bernie Malis
I was somewhat saddened by Mr. Thom’s recent article. Although I somewhat agree with where he is coming from, I get a lot more out of collecting than just getting Mint products that sell out too soon or reading about our hobby elite. As a matter of fact, I have never bought anything directly from the Mint and still enjoy the hobby “bigly” (new Trump word).
I have been collecting since 1954. My Aunt got me and my brother started by giving us some coins in a small satin hand clutch. Two of them were even small gold coins. The rest of them make a story in themselves, so I will avoid it in this article.
My collecting was mostly by myself, secluded from the “real” coin collecting community. Around 15 years ago, I met a person at work who also collected, and he and I would occasionally attend the big Long Beach show. Feeling pretty good and having $200 extra for coins, My friend and I decided to attend this “big” show. The first show I went to, I got pretty depressed at the third table I visited. A man was sitting there writing out a $40,000 check for a gold octagonal $50 coin. Although out of my league, I decided not to be discouraged and I continued on to see what I could get with my meager budget. Turns out we both had a great time and we both came away with some pretty nice stuff. This was the most I ever spent on coins at one time.
Around 15 years ago, I started considering joining a coin club in order to see what they were all about. With kids at home and a job that required way too much overtime, I never really explored this option available to me. Well, 10 years ago I finally retired. I decided that my collection was way more than I desired to keep, so I decided to “keep the best and sell the rest.” I started going to a swap meet, selling all the stuff at home I no longer needed or wanted, including my “extra” coins. After several months I started getting a small following of folks who liked going through what I brought and I actually sold many items. This swap meet provided me with funds for other coins I needed. This portion of my collecting was also, for the first time, enjoying the friendships that I formed with these buyers.
After around two years of swap meets, I saw an ad for the same club that I considered joining years earlier and I decided to go and just see what a club was all about. I was welcomed with open arms and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I joined that night. The people at the meeting were folks that I could actually see as my future friends. I then invited my friend that I collected coins with and two of my buyers from the swap meet. They also joined as well. Then, two other retirees from my company joined, then my daughter, her better half, and my grandson joined as well. Wow! I now had a family and friends that I could enjoy my hobby with. It doesn’t get much better than this. I am now president of that club, starting a brochure for the club, re-wrote its constitution and by-laws (old ones were from the ’40s), had a new logo drawn up, formed an eight-person board, got a local coin shop to sponsor our yearly holiday dinner, and helping to grow the club with people just like Mr. Thom. I wish he lived near Los Angeles. I know we could help him enjoy his hobby again.
My original friend from work will join me and we go to a shop 45 minutes from our house to bid on coins at a bid board, competing sometimes with a dozen dealers. At bid boards you can get some really good deals. We also found that the smaller coin shows are excellent for forming relationships with dealers and over time, start getting some really good discounts. I now go to around 6 different smaller shows and enjoy every one of them. I can spend 6 hours at a small show and trade experiences with these dealers, get some good deals, learn more about the hobby and much, much more. The relationships formed is as much fun as the collecting itself.
So, as a recommendation for those getting discouraged in collecting coins, I recommend the following in order of priority: Join a club and form some relationships with people that have a common interest, get to know any local dealers that still have storefronts, attend the smaller shows, look at eBay (many cautions here) and other online auctions (many to choose from), and find others that you can get to know to join you in your activities.
Coin collecting is much more than filling holes in albums, buying expensive coins, or trying to compete with the elite. The relationships that one can form can bring as much or more enjoyment than the coins themselves. How is that cent collection doing?
This “Viewpoint” was written by Bernie Malis, president of Bay Cities Coin Club, Los Angeles, Calif.
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More Collecting Resources
• Are you a U.S. coin collector? Check out the 2017 U.S. Coin Digest for the most recent coin prices.
• Check out the newly-updated Standard Catalog of World Coins, 2001-Date that provides accurate identification, listing and pricing information for the latest coin releases.