FTC's willingness to correct mistakes heartening

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Published : 03/21/11
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It’s heartening that at least one federal agency is amenable to listening and correcting its mistakes.

After leaders within the numismatic community pointed to a number of errors and misleading statements in three consumer advisories issued by the Federal Trade Commission Sept. 23, 2010, the agency’s staff indicated they would agree to review comments and suggestions for improving the advisories.

The FTC has now posted a revised version of Investing in Gold? What’s the Rush? — one of two dealing with buying gold. It can be viewed at www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt186.shtm.

The revisions came after months of work with leaders and key members of three of the numismatic community’s top organizations: the Industry Council for Tangible Assets, the Professional Numismatists Guild and the American Numismatic Association.

Understanding that "tweaking" rather than seeking a wholesale rewrite of the advisory would be a good strategy, the numismatic groups targeted specific, incorrect or misleading words or sentences. That approach makes the advisory now more accurate and helpful to consumers.

With the FTC’s approval, the group will next tackle the other two consumer advisories dealing with rare coins and precious metals — Investing in Bullion and Bullion Coins and Investing in Collectible Coins, both of which were also first issued last September.

As ICTA Executive Director Eloise Ullman pointed out, "All of us in the rare coin and precious metals community share the same priority with the Federal Trade Commission: educating consumers about coins and precious metals."

While this effort to correct the advisories may seem slow, it is nevertheless making progress. And progress — as anyone who has ever worked on efforts of this nature with the federal government can tell you — is a victory.

Within the numismatic community, it is also an example of how the diverse groups within the hobby can work as a united team to the mutual benefit of the hobby and the public as well.

Once the remaining two FTC advisories have been tweaked so as to present more useful and accurate information, perhaps the numismatic organizations could consider keeping its united team in place. There are a number of consumer issues that call out for comment and guidance specifically affecting the numismatic marketplace. One at the top of many numismatic consumers’ list is what is termed "coin doctoring." If the numismatic community doesn’t pay attention and deal with it, we could wake up one day soon to find an FTC advisory on this topic. n

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