Collector, Dealer or Investor?
Have you ever wondered whether one of your numismatic colleagues is a dedicated coin collector or, more likely, a dealer or investor? Perhaps you have asked that same question of yourself. In reality, a bit of all three aspects of the hobby motivate most of us in our thinking about coins. This blending of collector, dealer and investor not only is normal and healthy, but also accurately defines todayUs collector. It is rare to find a collector who does not occasionally buy and sell a few coins; consciously or not, everyone hopes to make a profit when it comes time to liquidate all or part of a collection.
Most dealers began as collectors, and many of them remain so at heart. The one thing that differentiates them from other collectors is the amount of time and effort they devote to buying and selling. Serious investors usually are specialized collectors who have focused on astute purchases they think will prove to be profitable.
The lines of demarcation between collector, dealer and investor are so narrow, it is difficult to tell them apart. For that reason, the American Numismatic Association has only one category of membership. Everyone is given equal footing to enjoy and participate in the hobby in the way that best suits their tastes. The ANA is an association for the mutual benefit and pleasure of young and old, novice and expert.
Fifty years ago, those interested in coins were categorized broadly as amateurs and speculators. Dealers were regarded as true numismatists, usually with years of training in every aspect of their specialty. Amateurs were not necessarily beginners; but they definitely were collectors and non-professionals. Speculators were the investors of the day, but they realized that coins were not an investment. They simply were playing their hunches on what might become rare or valuable in time.
Although descriptions and some attitudes have changed over the years, the hobby has remained pretty much the same. Coin collecting still is a wonderful pastime.
It seems that coins in one form or another are being sold everywhere you look today. You can find them in stores, on TV and in your daily newspaper. The "Lincoln Penny Bracelet" recently offered in a shopper's magazine is an example of how far manufacturers are going to capitalize on the current coin craze.
In this ad, you are invited to buy a bracelet that is made of nine Lincoln cents that have been holed, then joined together by copper links. The advertisement says that the pride of America is seen in this bracelet made from genuine Lincoln pennies that have been aged a bit to bring out the fine detail of the presidentUs portrait. Oddly, the advertiser did not try to convince anyone that this copper bracelet would cure arthritis.
If you spend $22 for one of these items, you can be sure all the coins are real; a certificate of authenticity is included with your purchase. Although the price seems high, the advertiser says the bracelet is marked down from $24.
A new promotion offers to give "free" coins to the American public. Like similar ads, this one is for 50 State quarters. It appeared in newspapers all over the country and had a limited ordering period. In this case, the price was quite reasonable. You had only to send in three, first-class postage stamps, and the promoters would send you an uncirculated Rhode Island quarter.
This promotion sounded dangerously like an offering from the United States Mint. It also said that the coin you will receive is packaged in an "official" display case. That, of course, is the tip-off that you will be prompted to buy the remaining coins required to fill this case at much higher prices. To show how valuable these coins may become, the ad quotes the market value for Delaware quarters as having increased by 340 percent, Pennsylvania by 415 percent and New Jersey by 290 percent.
Another new offering of 50 State quarters has a clever twist. It is a collection of the first 13 quarters (honoring the original 13 colonies), together with a Spanish-American piece-of-eight that the promoters say is "America's First Silver Dollar." The set comes in a plush case and appears to be quite attractive. It certainly is a historical, educational and interesting memento of the founding of our country.
The silver Spanish-American piece-of-eight was indeed used by our forefathers at the time these States joined the Union, though it arguably was not AmericaUs first silver dollar. The 1794 coin pictured in the ad seems to be in Very Fine condition, although probably polished. The 50 State quarters are described as being in uncirculated condition and should be a set anyone would treasure. The price of $119 is much higher than most coin dealers would charge. If you want something like this for yourself or a friend, try other sources first.
Readers have sent me copies of four more offerings of millions of dollars in funds that have been hidden in African countries just waiting for some honest American to retrieve it. The scenario always is very similar. Some slightly dishonest trustee has control of the funds that have been forgotten or stolen, and they have to be sent out of the country. Anyone who will accept them into their bank account will be given 20 percent or so for their help. The booty usually is around $30 to $60 million.
Only honest people have been selected to help get this money, of course, but to show their trustworthiness, they are expected to send a modest sum of money prior to the millions being transferred to America. Later, the official from Africa will fly here to split the loot with the lucky accomplice.
Anyone who falls for this old scam will get what he deserves. The marvel of it is that so many versions of this are going out via E-mail and no one has reported being taken in by it.