This article was originally printed in the latest issue of Numismatic News.
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I feel compelled to respond briefly to the letters in the Sept. 21 issue. In particular, I would like to respond to the comments of Bob Olekson, which I found so depressing. I also would like to comment on the letters on 2010 silver proof sets, and the article on helping one’s heirs dispose of coins that outlive us.
The main point I wish to make is that it is still possible to enjoy coin collecting and to make some money along the way if you are careful about what you buy and how you build your collection. The critical ingredient is knowledge. You must arm yourself with all the information you can acquire on coins and numismatics from how to grade to storing your collection, the importance of buying slabbed coins – especially if you are an investor – finding good, honest dealers, etc.
Whether you just started collecting, or have been at it 50 years, never think you know enough and never stop learning. Your numismatic library is one of your best investments. I realize people have jobs, families to raise, and so forth, so their time for coins is not unlimited, but the important point is spend as much time as you can acquiring and reading as much as you can from a diversity of sources.
There are some terrific opportunities today to subscribe to coin publications at reduced rates. Join the ANA and take advantage of the discounts. Find the better websites and check them out regularly, and sign up for their newsletters. They can be a great source for very timely information. If you buy modern precious metal coins, study the metals markets and study mintage and sales figures. Use them to your advantage.
To Mr. Olekson, if you have coins like double eagles, please be careful who you show them to. You can invest in a small home safe for your better coins and still enjoy your collection. Just don’t tell anyone but your spouse, if you have one, or someone else you trust where it is.
Canadian sets have a long history of poor price performance, so why not find another area to collect? Over a 50-year period, coins such as better-date Morgans and type coins have done very well. But research your dealers. Stick to companies that at a minimum are ANA members, and preferably also PNG members. Both are required to follow certain ethical guidelines.
Buy from an honest dealer who specializes in what you collect, and in most cases he will buy the coins back from you at today’s wholesale price levels. Don’t expect more unless you sell them in a venue like e-Bay because dealers can buy what you have, in most cases, from another dealer at wholesale values.
As for the silver proof sets, I believe that experienced collectors should by now know that they rarely make money on these modern sets. If you want one for a complete set, as I do, and once in a while get an extra one or two for a friend or relative, or because you think that one will do well, fine. But don’t buy a stack of them and then complain years later that you lost money.
If you want to come out ahead, try something else like the super-low mintage First Spouse coins. It was not long ago that everyone and their brother said these are a terrible investment, but look at how the ones issued in the past three years have done. The Julia Tyler coin, which is the lowest mintage U.S. coin of any kind for almost 100 years, was available until June from the Mint. Today they are going for two to three times the issue price, and if you study the latest sales figures, you will see that there is a good chance this will remain the key coin for the series. Even if it is overtaken by another coin later, it will always be a gold coin with fewer than 2,900 examples.
The moral of this story is don’t buy what everyone else is buying. Find something that appeals to you that few people are buying. Go against the herd and you will reap the rewards later (hopefully).
Finally, I believe that collecting and investing are not mutually exclusive, but I otherwise agree with most of what dealer Richard Giedroyc wrote about disposing of one’s collection. I could not agree more about the importance of a comprehensive and realistic inventory and written instructions for your heirs. Buy some coins for collecting, some as an investment, and some just for fun.
Louis Golino is a collector and numismatic writer.
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