Ten Buyer's Tips for San Francisco Gold Coin Collectors

If you are a collector of San Francisco gold coins, there are a few buying tips I’d like to offer. These range from pretty basic to pretty savvy, and they can be applied (in some cases) to other series if San Francisco coins are not your particular cup of chai.

1. Don’t Pay Shipwreck Prices for non-Shipwreck Coins

It is an established fact in the market that coins from the major shipwrecks are worth a premium over non-shipwreck coins. This is especially true for S.S. Central America coins with low shipwreck populations. But this information can be misinterpreted and can cause a collector to overpay. Let me give you an example.

Recently, I was offered a decent quality AU58 1855-S double eagle by another dealer. As part of his sales pitch, he mentioned that an example had recently sold for $7,931; thus his coin, priced at $7,500, seemed like a good deal. What he conveniently failed to mention to me was that this auction price was for a coin pedigreed to the S.S. Central America and that the last non-SSCA coin had brought $5,288. Once I mentioned this, his reaction was a simple “oh…I forgot to mention that, huh?”

When you are figuring prices for S mint coins, especially Type One double eagles, the sales records for shipwreck coins have little bearing on non-shipwreck coins and vice versa.

2. Don’t Pay Full Shipwreck Prices for Re-Packaged Coins

The premiums that shipwreck coins sell for are packaging-dependent. In other words, an AU58 1855-S double eagle from the S.S. Central America is worth more (quite a bit more in fact) if it is in an original PCGS gold-foil holder than in an NGC holder. Why? Because in this instance, the coins from the SSCA were originally graded by PCGS, and collectors want them in their original packaging.

Another example: in 2013, three PCGS/CAC MS66 1857-S double eagles in their original gold-foil holders were sold at auction, and they brought $32,900, $32,900, and $33,030. Two NGC MS66 examples sold this year and they realized $17,625. Why? Because the market clearly realizes that these coins were formerly PCGS MS65’s and because they are no longer in their original holders.

3. Premium Quality San Francisco CAC Coins Can Be Worth Significant Premiums

As I have previously discussed, many San Francisco issues do not come nice, and it is likely that their CAC populations will be very low. Let me give you two quick examples.

The 1862-S half eagle is a very scarce date in all grades and it is seldom found choice and original. PCGS has graded 39, and CAC shows a current population of just two coins; an EF40 and an EF45. Now granted that many 1862-S half eagles in PCGS holders have not been sent to CAC, but the fact two only two have been approved (and none above EF45) indicates that this is an issue that is not seen with a nice, natural appearance.

As another example, let’s look at the 1862-S eagle; a date which is nearly as rare as its half eagle counterpart. PCGS has graded 45 examples and CAC shows a current population of just two: an EF45 and an AU55. Again, not all the PCGS coins have been sent to CAC, but my feeling is that the percentage of 1862-S eagles (and half eagles) with CAC approval will remain very small; probably less than 10% of the coins graded.

It seems to me that CAC approved examples of the 1862-S half eagle and eagle should be worth a fairly significant premium above their non-CAC counterparts.

4. How Do You Price Very Rare Date San Francisco Gold?

When it comes to rare/very rare San Francisco gold coinage, most published price guides are of little to no use. Auction prices are far more relevant, and this is how I price such coins. So how do you price a coin in, say, EF45 when the last auction record was in 2008?

Here are some of the factors that I take into consideration when pricing San Francisco gold. First, is the coin fundamentally rare? In the case of the aforementioned 1862-S half eagle and eagle, these are issues which are rare in all grades. Secondly, how nice is the coin which is being offered to me? Is it abraded, not terribly original and softly struck, or is it relatively free of marks, original and well impressed for the issue? If it is the former, an older auction record might have some weight with my pricing. If it is the latter, I know I will have to stretch; maybe considerably.

5. The Two Distinct Groups of San Francisco Gold

As San Francisco gold becomes more popular, we are seeing a distinct bifurcation of the market: the coins made prior to 1879 which tend to be rare in all grades, and the coins made after 1879 which tend to be rare only in high (or very high grades).

I think we will continue to see quite a bit strength in the rarity-driven market as collectors tend to be more interested in coins like 1862-S half eagles in VF than in 1892-S half eagles grading MS64. The market for condition rarities will be more hit or miss. Certain coins, including many of the “top pops” from the Saddle Ridge Hoard, will be eagerly absorbed into collections. Others may prove far harder to sell.

6. Year Sets Will Become Popular

There were six different denominations of gold coinage produced at the San Francisco mint. There were just four years in which all six denominations were made, and one of these includes a unique issue (the 1870-S three dollar). This leaves collectors with three possible choices for six-coin year sets: 1856, 1857, and 1860.

None of these three years contains an impossible rarity, and the first two years could even be completed in Uncirculated grades. The 1860-S is the most difficult set as the half eagle and the eagle are both rare in all grades, and virtually impossible to find above AU55.

I don’t think these sets are The Next Big Thing in coin collecting, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a few savvy collectors attempted to complete at least one year.

7. Learn What Real Color Looks Like

There are numerous high-value San Francisco gold coins in both PCGS and NGC holders which have questionable color. I suggest you learn what original color looks like for the San Francisco issues which are of interest to you. Notice I didn’t suggest you learn how to grade; I think most of you taking the time to read this have other things to do with your few free minutes per day. But I do think it’s important to learn that, as an example, all 1862-S quarter eagles are supposed to have a certain shade of color, and if you see one which isn’t close to this shade, it’s likely been enhanced.

How do you learn what original coins look like? Look at catalogs with old time collections (Bass, Norweb, James Stack, and Eliasberg) and study the hues/patterns of color that these coins had. Go to the ANA Museum in Colorado Springs and study the Bass coins. Carefully study the raregoldcoins.com Coinapedia to see hundreds of pictures of unmolested, original coins.

8. Learn How to Differentiate Strike vs. Wear on Type One and Type Two Double Eagles

Many new collectors of San Francisco gold are thrown off by the difference between strike and wear on Type One and Type double eagles; two of the most popular series from this mint.

As you begin to learn about these coins, you will begin to determine that certain issues are always found with weakness on the hair or on the stars or even at the centers. Learn which issues are struck which way. This is reasonably easy to do as photo archives for higher grade San Francisco double eagles can be found on ha.com or on PCGS Coinfacts.

9. Best Value Grades

I have written before on Best Value Grades. As San Francisco gold coins become more popular and increase in value, I think this is an important point for collectors to consider.

10. Does Size Matter?

So far, the San Francisco gold coin renaissance has been led by large-size coins: eagles and double eagles. Will this increase in popularity carry over to smaller coins?

I can see gold dollars and three dollars from this mint becoming popular due to the possibility of these being collected by series, and the possibility of these sets being completed.

The quarter eagles from this mint I’m not as sure about. The fundamentals of these coins make sense to me. Other than the 1854-S, all the issues are obtainable and many can be purchased in Uncirculated grades for under $5,000. But with the exception of the Civil War issues, these coins have just not yet caught on with collectors.

The “wild card” series is the half eagles. These are already reasonably expensive coins and in the case of the Civil War rarities, and they are more expensive than most any southern branch mint half eagle while (currently) being far less popular. It is hard to call a moderately popular (but indisputably rare) issue like an 1862-S half eagle “undervalued” when it is already a pricey coin. But “value” is relative, especially in the rare date gold market and I think San Francisco half eagles—at least those struck prior to 1878—are destined to become very avidly collected in the next few years.


Do you buy rare gold coins?

Do you have coins to sell?

Would you like to have the world’s leading expert with you assembling a set of coins?

Contact me, Doug Winter, directly at (214) 675-9897 or by email at dwn@ont.com.

Preparing Yourself for the FUN Show

Amazingly, the 2010 FUN is a scant two weeks away. If you have decided to attend the show (and I strongly suggest that if you go to just one show all year that this you consider this one) here is a short list of things to consider. 1. Bring a good lamp. Viewing conditions at the FUN show are not optimal and a good coin viewing lamp is essential. Try if possible to recreate the conditions that you use when you view coins at your home or office.

2. Pull the trigger on really cool coins. My gut feeling is that really good coins are going to be in short supply at this year’s FUN show. My best advice is that if you see something that looks really great or something that you’ve wanted for a long time, don’t waffle.

3. Take an hour lunch break every day. The FUN show is huge and it can be a pretty intense experience for the collector and dealer alike. I think it’s a great idea to leave the show for an hour every day in order to eat a good lunch and take a coin break. Some of the worst purchases I’ve ever made at shows have been when I’ve been tired, cranky and hungry.

4. Have a game plan. If you’ve never been to a major show like FUN, it can be really intimidating. There are hundreds and hundreds of dealers and it’s hard to know where to start. Before you go, spend time on the FUN website (www.FUN.org) and make a list of the dealers that you want to see first.

5. Look at auction lots. Even if you aren’t planning on bidding, the chance to see some of the great coins in the major sales is very educational and rewarding. The FUN sale is traditionally among the very best held each year and this year is no exception.

6. Come as early in the week as you can. Many dealers (not me...) get to Orlando almost a week before the show starts and between the pre-shows, pre-auctions and pre-show hotel room trading, they are burned-out by the time the show opens to the public. I’d say if you aren’t getting there until Saturday you are coming too late. Try, at the very least, to be there on Friday when the show opens.

7. Be safe. There have been a number of robberies after the FUN show ends and you need to remember to be safe. Don’t travel with a lot of cash, don’t display your coins outside of the show, don’t discuss your purchases among strangers and, if possible, have your expensive new purchases shipped to your home/office after the show.

8. Call your favorite dealer(s) before the show starts. Remind them what you are looking for and to hold any important coins for you until you arrive. Speaking from experience, there are a lot of distractions at the show and a gentle prod from a collector is a good way to remind me to hold a coin.

9. If you bring your family, keep them off the bourse floor. Hey, coin buying is serious stuff. Do you really need your wife and kids tagging along? The beauty of the FUN show is that the family can spend the day at Disney World while you play in the world of rare coins.

10. Don’t forget to bring pricing notes. Bring your laptop, your specialized books, your price guides, Trends, the Greysheet, etc. You want to be ready when that special coin turns up.

The 2010 FUN show begins to January 7th and if past shows are any indication, this one should be memorable. If you have any questions about the show, visit the official website mentioned above or feel free to email me at dwn@ont.com

Value Compression in the Rare Date Gold Market

The recent Coin World “Coin Values” (or Trends as we long-time dealers call it) features a number of price reductions in the various Liberty Head gold series. This has caused some interesting pricing anomalies that have major ramifications for collectors of rare date gold coins. The grade range that appears to be severely affected by the Trends revisions is AU50 to AU58. This makes sense as this is the grade range that, in my opinion, has been most severely compromised by the grading services over the years. I think this especially true for the AU55 and AU58 grades; a range that includes many coins that are marginal quality at best.

A number of factors caused these values to be reduced by the Trends editor(s). One is, of course, auction prices. As I have stated a number of times in the past, one of the biggest problems with coin pricing is the fact that one bad apple can literally spoil the whole bunch. Let me give you an example. Let’s say that Trends in AU58 for a specific Charlotte quarter eagle was $9,000 in AU58. Then let’s say that a really, really low end example in an AU58 holder sells at auction for $4,000. Does this mean that the price of this issue should suddenly be cut in half?

I would argue that it shouldn’t. But I would also argue that a compression of values for rare date gold is inevitable.

Value compression is not without precedent. Two of the most famous examples that I can think of are the Iowa half dollar (worth $85 in XF and $100 in MS65) and the Roanoke half dollar (worth $160 in XF and $180 in MS64). The reason why values become compressed for a specific coin is that the market believes that a premium is unmerited. In the case of the Roanoke half dollar, the reason is obvious: because of the cluttered design, an AU58 Roanoke looks essentially no different from an MS64. For better or worse, this is what has happened with certain branch mint gold coins due to erratic grading standards.

Let me give you an example. The more sophisticated segment of the rare date gold market believes that a choice, original coin graded EF45 is preferable to a bright, shiny processed AU53. Because of this, it tends to place a value premium on the nice 45 coin. The same collector who is willing to spend, say $2,500 on a Choice EF would probably pass on a crappy AU53 example of the same date at $3,000; even though the higher graded example is seemingly the “better deal.”

There are now at least three distinct segments of the rare date gold market. There are the serious hard-core collectors with some budget constraints who will spend $1,500-3,500 on a coin without flinching. This segment of the market is as strong as ever; maybe even more so than in the 2004-2006 Boom Years. The next segment is the casual uninformed investor, the deal-seeker or the “world-is-coming-to-an-end-so-I need-to-own-gold” buyer. They are the likely buyers of the not-so-nice coins that might range from slightly overgraded to blatantly overgraded. This segment of the market is extremely weak right now. The third segment of the market is the high budget connoisseur who is searching for coins that are in or near the Condition Census for the issue; maybe even the finest known. This segment of the market is clearly not as strong as it was a few years ago but if the right coin comes along, these buyers will pay strong prices.

With the existence of these three segments what has happened is that the market has become stronger at the lower end, much weaker at the middle end and slightly weaker but still capable of a wallop on the higher end. As a result, a coin that is worth $2,000 in EF45 and $10,000 in MS60 might only be worth $3,000-4,000 in schlocky AU53. And it might be a hard sale for a dealer even at this compressed level.

Now, here’s where the interesting play comes in for the savvy buyer. I think some nice quality AU53 and AU55 coins are going to get dragged down along with the schlock. Let’s say that you are able to buy a nice Charlotte or Dahlonega quarter eagle in properly graded AU53 for $2,750-3,250 (when a nice EF45 is worth $2,250-2,500). In this case, paying the extra 20% or so for a coin that is demonstrably better is an excellent value. If the collector learns which AU53 quarter eagles are nice for the grade, they are getting coins that are more cosmetically appealing than a nice EF45 and a compressed value that makes plenty of sense to me.

The New Rules: Coin Buying In 2009

The realities of the new coin market are such that I have refined and revised my buying strategies for 2009 and, most probably, beyond. I think my “dealer strategies” can be easily applied to “collector strategies” and they are useful for most people. My first strategy isn’t so much “new” as it is a refinement of an existing strategy. I have always considered myself to be a fussy, critical buyer with what I believe is one of the better eyes around when it comes to originality. Well now I’m even fussier than before. If a coin isn’t all there, I don’t want to buy it; even if it is a special date that I have a soft spot for.

Let me give you an idea of how this strategy works. At the recent FUN show, I saw two comparably high grade examples of the 1856-O half eagle. This is a scarce issue that I really like and it has always been a good seller for me. I generally would have no problem with owning two (or even three) pieces simultaneously. The first example I saw was an NGC AU58. It was priced fairly but it really wasn’t very nice for the grade with little of its originality intact. This is a coin that I might have bought a few months ago, given that it was fairly priced and really rare in this grade. A few hours later I saw an NGC AU53 example of the same date that was choice and fully original. I bought it without hesitation. In this market, it pays to be a fussy buyer. If I were a collector of New Orleans half eagles, I would personally rather have a choice, original AU53 than a not-so-choice and not-so-original AU58. Even though the holder says that one of the coins is five points “better” than the other, my eyes told me that the lower grade coin was aesthetically superior.

My buying guidelines have always been that I want a coin that is in the top 5-10% for the grade with choice, original surfaces, nice color and good eye appeal. I want the sort of coin that will get a sticker when I send it to CAC. In the new coin market of 2009, I am repeating this to myself every time I look at a coin (be it at auction, in another dealer’s inventory or when a collection is sent to me by a specialist-collector). I’m being ultra-careful not to slacken on my quality standards and neither should you.

Another thing that I am focusing on is a lower price point. Some dealers are still able to sell coins priced at $10,000 and up. I find these pretty hard to sell right now unless they are extremely special. Generally speaking, I’d rather have ten interesting $5,000 coins in stock than one not-as-interesting $50,000 coin.

There are exceptions to this. Obviously, if I want to participate in the early gold market, I’m not going to go very far if I limit myself to $5,000 coins. And I would without a doubt be a buyer of a $25,000, $50,000 or even $100,000 early gold coin if it met the following parameters: really choice, really original, really rare and really saleable. But expensive “product” is an area of the market that has already begun a significant downwards correction and I think such coins could go a lot lower in the coming months.

How does this apply to you? If you are a high-end collector who purchases expensive coins I am certainly not telling you to stop (in fact, I’d be thrilled to sell you all the expensive coins you’d like right now...just call me on the phone to discuss this!). What I am saying is that the expensive coin market has shifted from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market. You might be able to buy a coin that was $35,000 a few months ago for $30,000 today; maybe even a hair cheaper. If this is your price point, though, I think it is more important than ever to be hyper-critical about every potential new purchase you contemplate making.

Which brings me to another point: buying the right coins. When the market is on an unstoppable upwards course, you can make sloppy decisions and the greater fool theory will inevitable rescue you. How many collectors made poor buying decisions in 2005 or 2006 and were saved by putting lemons in an auction and having their mistakes become lemonade? This is unlikely to happen in 2009, 2010 and beyond. You want to be really careful with what you buy. Collectors with short attention spans are going to find it hard to get rid of pieces that they lose interest in after a few months because something else has captured their fancy. My suggestion is to buy every coin like you are going to keep it for five or ten years.

Another decision that I am going to try to rigorously adhere to in 2009 involves over-expanding my numismatic horizons. In years past, I dabbled in areas that I really didn’t know that well because they “seemed cool” or I “thought they were good value.” In 2009, I am going to stick with what I know best. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop buying bust silver coins or rare date Seated quarters and half dollars. I like these coins and I know these areas of the market well enough not to make dramatic mistakes. But I am definitely establishing a stronger “comfort level” this year and will likely coinslap myself anytime I am tempted to stray from it.

One last strategy I am zealously adhering to seems like a no-brainer but I think it’s important enough to bear repeating. I am going to try very hard to have an inventory that is full of popular “bread and butter” coins like nice 1854-O three dollar gold pieces and 1839-O quarter eagles. These aren’t necessarily the rarest coins but they are very popular and have multiple levels of demand. Liquidity is a key factor for collectors and dealers alike in the New Market.

Are there coins that I haven’t really specialized in the past that I will be buying more of in 2009? I anticipate buying and selling more No Motto Philadelphia half eagles and eagles in the AU55 to MS63 range because I think they are great values. I’ll probably buy more non-New Orleans Type One double eagles because this is an active market and a number of the dates are still undervalued, in my opinion. And I think I’ll start moving back into the Three Dollar gold piece market again because I like these coins at current levels.

Importance of Timing When Assembling a Collection

When assembling a collection, timing is truly everything. This goes for when you are in the process of adding to the collection or when you are disassembling it. In this article, I’ll explain how timing will, no doubt, affect you in the assembling of your set. I can’t count the number of times I have said to collectors that their holdings need to be looked at as a long-term endeavor. One of the truly amazing phenomenons of the Internet-driven coin market is that a new generation of collectors believes it is possible to very quickly assemble a set and then, just as quickly, consign it to an auction company and make a nice profit. In a rising coin market this has (sometimes) proven to be possible. But if and when the coin market corrects, I believe that you will see a return to the “old values” of assembling a collection that worked so well for the great collectors of past generations.

If you are assembling a world-class collection, you have to look at your collection as a series of opportunities. By this I mean that you have to be prepared to buy important coins for your set when the right opportunities arise. One of these is what I call the “generational turn.”

A generational turn occurs when an older collector decides that it is time to sell and he puts his coins on the market. This may occur when the collector is alive or his estate may make the decision for him. In a situation like this, it may mean that a number of coins that have not been available for a generation or more are finally up for sale.

For a younger collector, a generational turn may represent the only chance to acquire certain high grade, rare coins. As an example, for many collectors of United States gold coins, the sale of the Harry Bass collection in a series of four auctions from 1999 to 2001 enabled them to acquire a number of very rare coins that had been off the market since the 1960’s or 1970’s. In the ensuing half decade since the conclusion of the Bass sales, many of the coins offered in those auctions have not reappeared. Clearly, these went to serious collectors who were smart enough to know that this generational turn would be their only chance to acquire specific rare issues in high grades.

One reason that it is very important to stay on top of the developments in your field of specialization is to know, in advance, when a generational turn might occur. If you are, for example, very plugged into the demimonde of St. Gaudens double eagle collectors, you might know that Collector X is going to be selling his set of coins in the next six months and that there are at least three or four important rarities in this set that you would really like to own. Having this lead time to prepare yourself financially and mentally to acquire these coins is far preferable to simply picking up a copy of Coin World one day and seeing that this collector’s set is suddenly going to be sold at auction by Heritage or ANR.

Looking at the concept of the generational turn from the other point of view, as an older collector it is always important to pick a time in the market when there are younger, newer collectors clamoring for your fresh material. Now, obviously, no one knows exactly the right time to sell. But common sense dictates that it makes a lot more sense to sell when your area of specialization is “hot” than when no one really cares.

If you go back and study the coin market in the past few decades there are numerous points in time when a seller clearly made a bad decision to liquidate his holdings. An example that comes to mind is the Chestatee collection of Dahlonega gold that was sold in the 1999 ANA auction. There had already been two huge collections of Dahlonega gold sold at auction earlier that year (in the FUN and February Long Beach sales) and by the time the Chestatee coins became available, the market was clearly saturated. As a result, these coins sold very cheaply and the Dahlonega market entered a downward spiral that took a number of years to recover from.

If you have the luxury of deciding on an orderly schedule of dispersal for your collection, choose a point in time when your collection will be appreciated by a younger generation of specialists.

As a buyer, keep your powder dry and make certain that you are ready to be aggressive at the points in time when you are accorded unusual opportunities to acquire rare and/or exceptional items.

Making Friends With Your Coin Dealer

Most high quality specialized collections are built with strong cooperation between a collector and one or two dealers that form a close, mutually beneficial relationship. What can you as a collector do to earn the trust of a dealer who will be critical in the success of assembling the sort of collection you aspire to form? How do you become the sort of collector that dealers like to do business with? If you look at the roster of great collectors over the course of the past century you will find a number of common traits: they were keen students of numismatics, they had strong financial resources, they were not afraid to "step out" when purchasing important coins and they had intelligent numismatic advisors who were regarded as allies and not adversaries.

In today's numismatic world, too many dealer/collector relationships are based on distrust. While there are certainly dealers who cannot be trusted, there are many specialized dealers who are extremely trustworthy and whose counsel should be eagerly sought by collectors.

Here are some suggestions on behaviors to avoid:

1. Don't Expect Continual Freebies: Imagine what a doctor's reaction would be if you called him up a few times and asked for a free diagnosis. A coin dealer will feel the same way if you call him repeatedly asking for information but never buy from him. By the same token, most dealers will be very happy to provide all sort of free services to good clients. I will sometimes make "courtesy purchases" from dealers who are good guys and who provide me with information that I find helpful. I am also happy to perform a number of free services for good clients including upgrading coins, looking at auction lots, sending detailed write-ups on coins and helping to establish credit with other dealers or auction firms.

2. Don't Be A "Know It All": I greatly respect collectors who admit their shortcomings. Admitting that you do not know everything is, in my opinion, far preferable to pretending that you do. I am a professional numismatist who has intently studied the coin market for over twenty years. I should know more about it than my clients, just like they know more than I do about what they do for a living. Most dealers are pretty adept at spotting a "faker" and it is hard to shed this label once it has been applied to you.

3. Be Accessible: If you are impossible to get in touch with, a dealer is not likely to make an effort to offer you coins. Let a trusted dealer know your "secret" cell phone number or whether you prefer to be called at work or at home.

4. Pay Promptly: Unless you make prior arrangements, send payment on the coins you buy within a few days. Slow payers get a bad reputation and tend to be forgotten when interesting new coins become available. It is very important for a medium to large-sized coin dealer to have good cash flow. If you slow up this cash flow, you make the dealer unhappy. Pay promptly and the dealer is happy.

5. Be Loyal (if the dealer has earned loyalty): There are certain collectors who are known in the business as being price shoppers. They will buy from whoever has the least expensive example of what they are searching for. Most dealers greatly respect loyalty and will reciprocate. A customer who has no sense of loyalty with any dealer will wind-up purchasing lots of low-quality, cheaply priced coins.

In the same vein, do not give your want list to every major dealer in the country. When I learn that a want list I receive is also in the hands of ten other dealers (and I will generally figure this out in a few days since I'll get phone calls from the same dealers looking for coins on the list!) I become much less interested than if the list is "fresh."

6. Let the dealer make a fair profit: In an ideal dealer/collector relationship, there will be as much disclosure as possible. In many cases, I'll tell a collector where I bought a coin, what I paid for, what I am pricing the coin at to dealers and what I have bought and sold other comparable examples. Most collectors will let me make 10-20% on coins that I have assumed all of the risk on and 5-10% on coins that I have assumed no risk on.

Some collectors just can't help themselves and will try and negotiate a reduction in price even after a deal has been struck. Don't get in the habit of taking "shots" at a dealer.

7. Decide whether you are a collector or a dealer: The Internet has created a new hybrid in the numismatic world: the collector who is simultaneously a dealer. If you are a collector, you are "entitled" to certain services which a dealer does not receive. These cost more money but provide a safety net. If you want to act like a dealer, than understand that you have to make quick decisions (see below) and you have little recourse for returning a coin after you've bought it.

8. Make Quick Decisions: No dealer expects a collector to make an immediate decision on any coin, especially one that is expensive. But it is very inconvenient when a collector ties up a coin for a week agonizing over a decision. Let the dealer know up front if it will take a while to make a decision. And if the dealer asks you not to show the coin to other dealers or ask for second (or third) opinions, don't blatantly do this anyway.

9. Understand The Dealer's Terms: Know in advance what a dealer's return policies are. Don't expect to be able to return a coin for a full refund after a month if the return policy of the dealer is stated as ten days. If a coin is purchased on a sight-unseen basis (a bad idea, in my opinion...) than the collector should understand that he has no return privilege.

In my two decades in the rare coin business, I have been very fortunate to meet a number of really nice collectors. Many of these people have become good friends of mine who I see on a social basis. They know that they are being represented in their numismatic transaction by someone who genuinely cares about their best interests. I know that their word is their bond. And that's what I am looking for in a customer: an honest, sincere person who will treat me with as much respect as I will treat him.