Editor's note: The following post is part of Coin World's
"7 lessons in collecting" series. Find links to the other
posts at the bottom of this page.
Investing in rare coins is not easy. It takes dedication to learn
various aspects of coin collecting that are always changing: supply,
demand, rarity, grading, and understanding how to maximize value when
buying and selling. These are skills that take years, if not a
lifetime, to master.
Thankfully plenty of helpful resources exist in the coin field to
help collectors willing to put in the legwork to maximize the
investment return on their collection, including a new book by Robert W. Shippee recently published by Whitman, titled
Pleasure and Profit. In it, Shippee
discusses his pursuit over the course of more than a decade to put
together a type set of each major design type from copper half cents
to gold $20 double eagles, from 1793 to the present day. It’s a frank,
candid tome filled with anecdotes that collectors can learn from.
Lesson No. 2: Understand mistakes happen
Great collectors aren’t perfect. Shippee was candid in writing,
“While the financial results from the sale of the collection described
in this book were very satisfying, a number of my early purchases, and
even a few of my more recent acquisitions, were not great successes. I
paid too much for some common coins. I didn’t stretch enough for some
very special coins. I bought some ugly coins. I bought some overgraded
and damaged coins. Of course, these coins were not described as ugly,
overgraded, and damaged—I was just learning the hard way.”
But, like all people developing a new skill set (and collecting
coins requires a new set of skills, beyond an expanded vocabulary), he
made fewer mistakes as he progressed. He read the books he purchased.
He read numismatic publications like Coin World and met other
collectors through local coin clubs. He developed relationships with
dealers who were patient, generous with their time and knowledge and
essential to his development as a collector.
Shippee is an avid golfer and relates much of his collecting to the
lessons learned in golf. As golf commentators are fond of saying,
“There is no perfect in golf.” Well, the same can be said for building
a rare coin collection as each collector has his or her own war
stories of successes and missteps. The key is to learn from them, and
to build a team around you of dealers and confidants who can help you
in your collecting journey.
Just as it’s sensible in golf to get lessons from a professional and
spend hours at the range and putting green rather than just head out
to a golf course, tee up a ball and take a swing, the same logic is
true with collecting. It would be foolish to Google “rare coins” and
buy whatever coins you find. Making alliances with dealers, auction
houses and other collectors will help guide a collector in his or her
strategy, and Shippee suggests introducing yourself to coin dealers.
On dealers, he writes: “They are almost invariably honest—I’ve only
been really cheated on a coin purchase once in 50 years, and if I’d
bought the right book first, even that incident could have been
avoided. Many dealers are friendly and helpful—indeed, most are more
than happy to assist collectors in getting started, since a motivated
collector is their best customer.” A way to minimize mistakes is to
select dealers who are members of the American Numismatic Association and the Professional
Numismatists Guild, as both groups require dealers to use
binding mediation, which is especially helpful if there’s a dispute.
More from the "7 lessons in collecting" series:
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can someone successfully invest in rare coins?: 7 lessons in collecting
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