There are a few too many people in this hobby we all love that treat business ethics with a hearty, "Oh well, whatever".
I intend to be their worst nightmare.
Let me be abundantly clear about something. I do very little business with coin dealers. Call it too many bad experiences and too many near-misses. The Russians have a saying - "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." I used to use coin dealers in the retail sense. I try everything in my power to avoid that channel going forward.
You might rightly protest, "Hey there big fella, we dealers are the backbone of this hobby!"
I admit that for the unfortunate, that may be true. It's not for me. I am up to my armpits, nay, nostrils, with opportunities for non-dealer transactions and non-retail ways to pick up what the hobby calls "fresh material". I intend to. I can run my tushy ragged at a 5-day ANA convention, not spend a DIME at any dealer's table, and have a great show. Why would I pay dealer retail for material I can get over and over back home in rural Pennsylvania for just over half of retail? That is my world - the world of almost weekly coin-laden estate sales. Note to Laura Sperber: You were in my home turf with your former partner Morphy, but you left. More material for me, less for you. Not that you and I travel in the same financial circles. Tee hee.
I live in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Frankly, we have a whole lot of collectors who have, umm, fairly recently "assumed ambient temperature". It sounds crass, but the "old codger" gold and silver hoarders are "dropping like flies". I nearly joined them 5 years ago. Even a few of the auction firms have stopped doing coin sales because they don't think anyone can replace their recently deceased catalogers they've used for, like, 100 years, 40 of them blind as a stone. (As if...) I also don't need a dealer to liquidate my holdings - my son loves coins almost more than I do. Legacy, assured! He already separately owns the best Soviet Union collection I can imagine this side of Moscow. Those predominantly did come from dealers and yes, he DID overpay for quite a few of them.
(Note to "old guard" collectors: The next generation does NOT see classic American coins as any more or less collectable than anything else, unlike the World War II generation. They largely have no trace of "home country patriotism" in such matters, nor do they mostly believe the U.S. is in any way "special". I must admit that in this "NSA vs. Snowden" era and police abuses, and TSA excesses [I take Amtrak to ANA coin shows whenever possible to avoid having to deal with TSA], I'm starting to get their point. I am absolutely horrified by what is happening to my country.)
So, there used to be frequent weekends where I had to choose from among numerous auctions to go to, but now there tends to be only one or two. Whoop-dee-doo. The amount of good fresh material is still way more than I could ever afford. I also don't need a dealer to "educate" (yah) me on a coin's grade. I've proven more than often enough that my estimate of grades is being confirmed more by NGC than the dealers' stated ones are. Gee, I wonder if the dealer was trying to "play" me? Ya' think? If anything, I under-estimate the grade of most coins I have slabbed by NGC. I can even succeed far more often than not cracking out old third-tier junk slabs and getting the grade from NGC that I expect.
Bottom line: the more one uses the ANA's educational services, the less one "needs" most dealers. They are only "middle men" after all. Sorry, but most dealers are merely a convenience for those who don't have the requisite skills on their own. I believe I do, and I'm more confident about that each month that passes.
Caveat: there are some obvious exceptions to this admittedly fairly sweeping indictment of "dealerdom". For obvious examples (Duh!) I offer some true specialists with much-earned stellar reputations: Charmy Harker, Angel Dee, J.H. Cline, Rick Tomaska, the Hallenbecks, Legend, CNG, and a few dozen of their caliber. The true test is when a collector with an awesome important collection credits a dealer or a handful of dealers with helping them assemble it. Listen to those collectors and remember the names they cite. Take notes. There is a whole education in those few seconds.
For the "weekend warrior" dealer, I am mostly repulsed by most of their lack of an ethical compass. I observe far too often attempts to "lift" decent material from unsuspecting coin owners at pennies on the dollar. There is one "vest pocket" local dealer I know who offers so-called "coin appraisal services", then states that the stuff is all common junk (and it often isn't) and then instantly morphs himself into the role of "helpful buyer" to help the poor victim "get rid of the junk" for him. The worst part is this cretin then brags about his latest conquests. He is an ANA member. He justifies his "theft" based on, "Hey, they didn't HAVE TO sell it to me!" Hey jackass, you were hired to appraise the damned collection, not steal it! Again, this jackass creep is a long time ANA member!
This kind of crap cannot stand! It will not stand, if I have anything to say about it. If you are a dealer who makes or augments your living by scamming people out of valuable coins, study my picture carefully. It is my money.org avatar. Study it long and hard. At ANA shows, watch for me. I'm coming for you, and I'm going to be naming names and calling people out publicly. I'm going to be filing expulsion petitions with the Board of Governors. So who am I? Am I the "government"? In a way, kind of. I work for the House Judiciary Committee of my state legislature. We pass crime code bills. I have a special obligation to try to right wrongs I see. So is it because I work for a state legislature?
No, it's because of a deathbed promise I made to my mother of Amish and Mennonite heritage to try to help the victimized in all things I do. I am personally not that religious a man. I prefer the pursuits of intellect over spirituality. But my mother, who was 50 times the moral saint I'll ever pretend to be, considered herself unworthy of her God's grace. Tomorrow morning I'll be witness to the burial of my Mom's big sister, Ethel, more of a saint than probably any of us. Mom and her four sisters have been on my mind all week. It's time to renew solemn vows to my mother at this time.
Lesson: Don't mess with an ethical crusader of Pennsylvanian Brethren descent with an unmet promise to his dead mother. It's a bad career move. I'll let the ANA's ethics standards be my sword.
In the spirit of "Leave them laughing", I'll leave you with my favorite piece of Brethren self-deprecating humor:
Why do the Brethren object to pre-marital sex? They're afraid it may lead to dancing.