Volume 50, Number 8, August 2013
Check it out TO some of you this advice may well be the numismatic equivalent of teaching you how to suck eggs, and for that I apologise as I intend to dispense it regardless. It may seem obvious and may seem basic but you would be surprised just how much this simple piece of advice is overlooked and I think it important to bring it up here. What is it? Simply this: check what’s in your collection! Seasoned collectors will, of course, pride themselves on knowing exactly what they have—they will know every die variety, every grade, every date, and will undoubtedly be happy to tell anyone who seems vaguely interested exactly what’s in their collection. Or so they believe. Time and again we hear stories of hitherto unknown varieties of coins turning up or of ordinary coins that have sat in boxes or drawers for years suddenly being recognised as being “something different”. The story from NGC of the “marriage” dime that features in the “News” this issue is a classic example, as are the stories from the main auction houses in “Market Scene” that show how two similarly identical coins can fetch staggeringly different prices simply because somebody was eagle-eyed enough to spot how one differed from the other. Two years ago the trade was buzzing with the story of one dealer who had bought a coin at auction in the UK (after it had sat on a dealer’s list for some time with no interest) and sold it in America for many, many times what he paid—simply because he spotted how rare it was when no-one else had. This doesn’t just happen in the coin world of course . . . how many times have “finds” featured on the Antiques Roadshow or similar popular TV shows where the expert tells the delighted enquirer that his/her dinner plate with the interesting pattern is in fact the last surviving example of a hitherto heard about but unseen Wedgwood gem? Or that the battered old nursery chair used by generations of the family was in fact a rare Chippendale? The fact is that it IS possible to overlook a gem in your collection; it is possible to not notice a slight die variety, a legend error, a particular mint mark or the fact that the coin isn’t supposed to exist for that date. Most numismatists and many “ordinary” collectors will, I am sure, scoff at this notion—they will insist that they know their collections inside out, but I wonder if that really is true. How many of us actually look at what we buy? Oh, for certain, we check the grade, check for lustre and edge knocks and all the obvious stuff, but do we actually examine the coins we buy in great detail? I think possibly not . . . we check the things that affect the immediate value (grade and date) but assume the person we are buying from or swapping with has already looked at it and checked it over and thus there will be no surprises. But what if they did the same? What if they assumed the person THEY acquired it from had checked it out? What if the dealer you are buying your coin from purchased it from someone as part of a larger collection? With so much to go through they may well have just appraised the coin for date and condition to check it was saleable and that’s that—did they really examine it? Maybe not, maybe they just assumed it was what it seemed to be, priced it accordingly and sold it on. You then, trusting the dealer implicitly, do the same without ever looking at the coin in great detail. How many times does that get repeated? And what of hitherto unknown errors? You may well check your coins for the known die flaws and mistakes, etc., but have you actually checked every one for something not known about before? Something up until now never seen? I’ll bet you haven’t. Such checking takes time, of course it does, and there is always something more interesting or more important to do. But I will ask you this: can you really afford not to? SO next time you’re looking lovingly at your collection don’t just look at what you expect to see—really examine those coins, check them over properly and who knows we may well be writing about you in the “News” or “Market Scene”. Just remember who pointed you in the right direction and encouraged you to look in the first place!
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