Brad Karoleff

Numismatic Ramblings

Brad Karoleff

Brad Karoleff is a lifelong coin collector with a specialization in the early coins of the Philadelphia Mint. He is the proprietor of Coins Plus which operates four locations in the greater Cincinnati, Ohio, area.  

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The Internet and numismatic (mis)information

There is hardly a day that goes by here at the store that I do not hear something like, “but it is listed on the internet at (insert silly value here).” The (re)education process now begins.

I ask what site they obtained their information from. Usually the answer is “eBay.” My next question is whether they clicked on the “sold” listings or merely looked at what someone was hoping to get from an uneducated buyer. The only meaningful numbers are those that appear in green as sold items.

The next question entails the condition of their treasure compared to the condition of the piece they referenced with the astronomical price. Normally they have a well circulated and possibly damaged coin that they are comparing to a certified gem sales figure. A little more education on condition helps clarify things—sometimes.

Often I have to remove some similar items from inventory to compare to their coin and tell them how much I sell the items for across the counter. This usually works, but sometimes things just don’t come together. 

Once I had a gentleman come in with an 1885 Morgan dollar. He thought it was worth six figures! He had referenced a sale on an 1885 TRADE dollar. I showed him the difference in  The Official Red Book to no avail. He still thought his coin was different. I then put 20 other 1885 plain Morgan dollars on the counter offering to sell them to him at much less than $100K! He looked at them and still thought his coin was different and that I was attempting to trick him into selling his coin for a bargain price. Some days you just can’t win.

Other customers have received “valuable” information from someone on the Internet. I ask them if they know who was responding to their questions. Is it a 15-year-old kid, or someone with over 40 years of experience like me I ask?  Most have no idea of the qualifications of their online “teacher.” A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. One has to verify the source of their information to determine how much weight it may carry.

The Internet is a wonderful tool when used correctly. Just like a good numismatic reference or friend. 

Have fun surfing and collecting.


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Older Comments (10)
I think every coin dealer gets this sort of enquiry.
We possibly get even more of them, and it may be our own fault.
Although I have 50 years in the business, we only started our first website back in 1998; since then we have added about 20,000 pages and a similar number of high quality photos. The more pages we add, often in an attempt to pre-empt all the questions we get asked, the more questions we get; it seems most people are too lazy to read all the information we give them.
One of our recurring enquiries is from people who have come across a "gold" two pound coin, usually in a drawer or down the back of the settee.
Now the U.K., where we are based issued some nickel-brass £2 coins in 1986, 1989, and a few subsequent years. They have now been superseded by smaller lighter ones, and most people have such short memories, that they have forgotten about the larger older ones.
Our British Royal Mint also made silver and gold proof versions of these coins. People Google it, find our page about the gold ones, don't read further about the brass ones, and think theirs is s gold one.
When they phone or e-mail, we ask how they know it is a gold one, and the usual answer is because it's yellow. We politely point out that so is brass, but generally people don't want to believe the one they found is near worthless brass, and prefer to keep believing theirs is gold.
We even had one couple who would not believe us, then listed their brass coin on ebay as a gold one, and used our hight quality copyright photos to do so!
It's all just part of life in numismatics.