When I was 13, I attended my first coin show. Since then, I have attended coin shows on the local, regional and national levels and encountered hundreds of coin dealers. As a 16-year-old collector, I have encountered dealer behaviors specifically toward Young Numismatists that deserve commendation and those that need improvement.
I will begin with one of the most degrading, discourteous and widespread problems I encounter. I step up to a dealer’s table, examine his stock and find a coin I would like to purchase, a 1934 Washington quarter in MS-60, worth about $20, for example. The dealer is talking to another dealer about a $1,000 pattern coin transaction, obviously more important to him than my $20. I stand there for a few minutes, even uttering an “excuse me,” while the dealer continues to ignore.
Young Numismatists, while not as fiscally significant, are the future of numismatics. Everyone present at a coin show deserves to be attended to in a timely manner. After being ignored for long enough, I gladly take my $20 bill to a coin dealer down the aisle. While the occasional $20 of unhappy youngsters will never add up to be a economic risk to the dealer, it’s about time dealers start extending the equal attention and common courtesy that Young Numismatists deserve.
I have also encountered dealers that would refuse to sell me a coin until I recited a list of facts about it, a practice I term “force-fed numismatic education.” While I commend this effort, especially for younger collectors, there is a point, an age, an experience level, where looking up the composition, designer and legislation that created the coin before the purchase becomes an annoyance. Education is the center of numismatics, as it should be, but dealers who employ this practice should use their best judgment to determine whether the practice, on a case-by-case basis, is more of a hindrance than a help.
Another problem I come across is a dealer accusing me of “working the floor.” They suspect my parent is a dealer, who has sent me to buy coins from other dealers that can be sold for a profit. This concern stems from the fact that I am a Young Numismatist and some reputable dealers try to mark down prices for youth.
Neither of my parents are dealers and the only motivation I ever have at a coin show is buying coins for my personal collection. However, I respect the concern of the dealer who makes such an accusation, and condemn the dealer who would exploit his child to make a greater profit through this fraudulent and unethical practice.
Some good has come out of all this negativity, in reminding me to evaluate the opposite behaviors. I commend the dealer who gives Young Numismatists a small discount, or the occasional Lincoln cent for their collection. I commend the dealer who passes on the history behind a coin, helps a young collector with grading, or recommends membership in the ANA.
I do not expect revolution. But hopefully, in the years to come, dealers will improve on these points when dealing with Young Numismatists, realizing the tremendous benefit doing so would have on the hobby.
Ben Gastfriend is a Young Numis-matist from Huntingdon Valley, Pa.
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