ADVICE FOR BEGINNERS|
by Paul Richards, WINS#25
Coin collecting is called the KING OF HOBBIES. I started when I was 10 years old. For me, it is the intrinsic BEAUTY and VALUE that make coins so enjoyable. Stamps, for instance, can be very artistic, but they lack the tangible, innate, enduring value of coins.
The exhortations below come from my personal experience. They also come from a good deal of numismatic reading and research. Please take them as friendly advice. And, be sure to send an e-mail message with any comments or questions. We'd be happy to hear from you.
It is a good idea to proceed slowly when you are just starting out. There are numerous rip-offs in numismatic circles, but there are also many good, honest and pleasant people and experiences. Here are five pieces of advice I can offer.
First, never buy a coin that you do not like. That sounds trite, but sometimes the "wow-that's-a-good-deal" emotion overwhelms the "it's-not-a-very-nice-looking-coin" reality. If you like the way a coin looks, then you can't go wrong buying it. Why? Because you bought something you like at a price you thought reasonable. If you get a coin from a mail-order dealer and you do not like the coin -- by all means send it back for a refund. Good dealers want repeat customers, not quick, one-time sales.
Second, always check the value of coins you are considering in the price guides. The Red Book, Grey Sheet, COINage magazine, Coin World and Numismatic News are the standard price guides. The Grey Sheet lists wholesale (dealer-to-dealer) prices. The others list retail (dealer-to-collector) prices. On-line price guides are starting to appear, but they also appear a bit high in values. Remember, unless a coin is a real super-duper LOOKER, you can usually do better than retail on your coin purchases.
Third, don't buy from dealers who run big, flashy ads with low-priced coins. Flash and low price do not go together. Flash and high-end material (i.e., coins over $1000 each) is fine. Listen to the 'good dealer/bad dealer' chatter on the Internet. The collectors at WINS and on the various e-mail lists are very knowledgable.
Fourth, buy both slabbed and raw coins, but don't spend too much money on the raw ones until you are comfortable with grading and damage assessment. 'Slabbed' coins have been encapuslated in a plastic holder by third party services known as ICG, PCGS, NGC, ANACS and PCI; 'raw' coins have not. Coin damage comes in many forms (e.g., corrosive dipping, whizzing, alterting, artificial toning and so forth). If a coin is slabbed, it is (almost always) not damaged. If a coin is raw, it takes experience to grade and assess properly. You will gain this experience as you go. There is no quick answer to coin grading and damage assessment. Remember, learning these skills is part of the fun, too.
Fifth. Never clean a coin. Never.
The Internet is a great place for coin collecting, the KING OF HOBBIES. Jump in and have fun. Remember the five points above and you'll do fine.
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