After collecting coins off and on for years as a child, I have been involved in numismatics on a full time basis, since 1979. During that time, I have run my own coin dealership, worked for Heritage on two different occasions, been a buyer for David Hall, worked for Pinnacle Rarities and was a grader at NGC for seven years.
And, as I like to tell people, numismatics runs in my blood, literally – numismatic pioneer B. Max Mehl was my grandmother’s uncle. I am proud to have that numismatic connection and always do my best to honor it.
I created the list of collecting tips below, in order to help collectors enjoy and benefit more from our wonderful hobby.
- Buy/collect what YOU like. But keep in mind that when it comes time to sell, not everyone else will necessarily like what you did/do.
- Examine as many coins as you can which have been graded by the most highly respected grading companies. This can be done at coin shows and in auctions and is a great way to improve upon your grading skills.
- The best way to improve your grading ability is to find someone who is highly qualified AND willing to spend time reviewing coins with you. That person can be a dealer or collector, but he needs to be more than just a friend – he needs to be a teacher. Many individuals are “qualified” OR “willing to spend the time”, but few are BOTH.
- Don’t keep buying coins without ever selling any of them – learn what it’s like to try to sell, too. Once in a while you should offer one or two of your coins back to the dealers you acquired them from. See how they deal with that type of situation and whether they want to re-acquire those “gems” they sold to you.
- Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask lots of questions. You and just about everyone else can learn a great deal that way.
- Be aware of privacy and security concerns. It might not be fun to do so, but it’s extremely important.
- It’s always good to get a second opinion. Doing so doesn’t make you less knowledgeable, worthy or confident – it simply makes good sense.
- Don’t try to get bargains at the expense of quality and desirability, or you’ll likely end up with sub-par coins which aren’t bargains, anyway.
- Generally, I advise against “investing” in coins. Even if you are very well informed, based upon buy/sell spreads and other factors, the odds are against your success. That said, I understand that many collectors end up spending significant sums of money on their collections and can’t/shouldn’t ignore the financial implications.
- If you are going to “invest”, I’d suggest diversification – not putting too much of your money into one coin or one coin type. I’d also recommend staying away from especially esoteric and/or illiquid and/or currently “hot” items.
- While it is not a pleasant mindset to engage in, think about and plan for how your coins should be disposed of if/when something happens to you. Make your spouse and/or family and/or friends and/or an attorney aware of your wishes. If you have a particular dealer or coin/auction company that should be contacted, have that information recorded, along with costs, sources, purchase dates, etc., of your coins.
- Eye-appeal is hard to ignore, but technical quality shouldn’t be over-looked/compromised.
- If you participate in auctions, whether over the Internet or in person, set your price/bidding limits in advance and stick to them. Auction fever hits many bidders, and almost always to their detriment.
- Find time for other activities that don’t have anything to do with coin collecting. Don’t make coins your whole life – life is too short for that.
- If you are going to stretch to buy a coin, do it for a coin which is truly special and/or virtually irreplaceable, not on an ordinary one. There are far more of the latter than of the former, and there will almost always be other opportunities.
- Don’t talk yourself into buying a coin. If something about it bothers you now, there is an excellent chance it will bother you as much or more later.
- Don’t be lulled or suckered into a false/unrealistic sense of security by the strength of many areas of the market that we have experienced for several years now. There are good markets, and, while some current participants might not have experienced them yet, there are bad markets too – I promise.
- Do not buy rare coins on a sight-unseen basis, regardless of the seller or the images.
- Enjoy our hobby.
- I repeat, enjoy our hobby.
Check out Heritage’s FREE coin price guide for quick answers on what your item could be worth.
By Mark Feld