I like challenges, and probably you do as well. At the same time
there are good challenges and bad challenges.
When I was associated with General Mills in the 1970s — when that
company was also in the stamp business (H.E. Harris), the game
business (Parker Brothers), and two dozen diversified others, I
enjoyed talking with company executives.
I learned that a Betty Crocker cake mix had been perfected to the
point that all a buyer had to do was to add water, stir and bake. This
innovation did not fly, for it was soon learned that those who baked
and served cake wanted to feel they helped create it. So, the formula
was reworked so that the buyer had to add milk, eggs and do a few
Some challenges, granted, none of us like: recovering data from a
computer crash, taking a car in for the third time for an unrepaired
problem or doing year-end accounting.
This brings me to numismatics — proper for a Coin World column.
I have heard it said, and it seems logical, that to be a collector
forever, one has to stay with the game for at least five years. After
then, there is no going back. I would like you to do this!
In contrast, the vast majority of newcomers jump into buying coins
as quickly as possible, then either use up their money or their
enthusiasm, or both, and exit within two years. There is no challenge
in this at all.
Here is a challenge for you, and it may make a big difference in
your success and longevity in numismatics:
Do what I did when I first started: Read every word in A Guide
Book of United States Coins up to where half cents begin. Don’t rush.
Ask yourself: Do I understand this? Why is it important? If asked,
could I now explain it to someone else? It will take several hours to
do this if you read carefully and perhaps do some rereading as well.
Then look through the rest of the Guide Book and read the section
introductions, look at the pictures, and glance at the mintages and
prices in a casual manner. All of this may take a week of spending an
hour or two each evening.
When you finish, if you retain what you read, you’ll have earned
yourself a Certificate of Numismatic Accomplishment. You will be
better prepared to be a smart buyer and to understand what you are
doing. I guarantee it! And, you’ll have a good time as well.
P.S. Answers to the questions posed in the caption are found in
the Guide Book (of which I am research editor, for disclosure).
Q. David Bowers is chairman emeritus of Stack’s Bowers Galleries
and numismatic director of Whitman Publishing LLC. He can be reached
at his private email, email@example.com,
or at Q. David Bowers LLC, Box 1804, Wolfeboro, NH 03894.