“Buy the Book Before the Coin”

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Could there possibly be a coin collector out there who isn’t familiar with this phrase? It’s more likely that most of you have heard this repeated so much that you would rather take up stamp collecting than ever hear it again! (Please, no angry comments from offended philatelists. It’s only a joke!)

Well, let me give you a few reasons why it’s the best piece of advice you will ever receive.

1. Ammunition: you will never walk into a purchasing negotiation unarmed. If you have ever been taken advantage of by an unscrupulous dealer you know what I’m talking about. In 1982 I was 14. My family took a trip to New Orleans and, while in the French Quarter, I found a small coin shop. All of my trip money was spent on a Maria Theresa Thaler from Austria dated 1780. I had to have it. It would be the oldest coin in my collection. Little did I know that the Maria Theresa Thaler had been struck with the date 1780 on and off ever since 1780. And, believe me, the dealer took no pains to inform me of that fact. I still have that coin to remind me never to make a purchase without doing the research first.

2. If you’re like me, you go through some economically lean times where the pursuit of your collecting interests has to take a back seat to putting food on the table and keeping the heat on. And if you’re like me, when you can’t feed the collecting monkey your interest begins to wane. So I’ve found that supplementing the collecting monkey’s diet with specialty books, auction catalogs, and online forums helps me keep the monkey from going comatose.

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One of the benefits of starting a numismatic library is all the different collecting paths you discover that never really interested you before. I was assembling a short set of Buffalo nickels (1934-38) in PCGS certified MS65 (this was obviously before my current fascination with circulated coins) and ran out of money. So I started requesting auction catalogs to pass the time until the money tree bloomed again. I discovered ancient Roman & Greek coins, American Colonial coins, patterns, obsolete currency, and authors whose works I wanted to pursue further. Consequently, I never finished the nickels and now I collect books about coins. Go figure.

3. Dave Bowers said it. That in itself should be enough but I will elaborate. Bowers has been in the business since 1953. The list of positions held, honors received, and collector’s he has influenced is endless. During his stint as a founder of Bowers & Ruddy Galleries virtually every legendary coin you can think of passed through his hands. 4 of the 5 1913 Liberty nickels, several 1804 dollars, Chain cents, 1792 coinage, I can go on and on. Okay, now you assume he’s an elitist jerk who has no time for the common collector. This man will make time for a 12 year old kid who collects Lincolns. He will write a letter (WRITE, as in by hand) to you when you have a question about something in one of his books. When you purchase one of his many books, if you ask, he will personally sign it, personalize it, and write a little inspiration in the inside front cover. Take what this man says to heart. He cares.

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