Why I Made Collector X Mad

The phone rang early Saturday morning. It was a collector calling. The conversation went something like this: "Hi Doug, this is "collector X" (the names have been changed to protect the innocent) and I'm getting ready to enter the convention hall. I want to see your coins. What's your table number again?"

"Ummm...it was Table 201 but I left the show last night and I'm currently in my office working up my new purchases so they can be on the website this afternoon."

"You what?!? You left?!? Isn't the show on Saturday? You HAVE to be there. That's not right..."

"I'm really sorry, sir, but I arrived in Schaumberg on Tuesday and I thought three and a half days was enough time to spend at the show. I was around all day Thursday and much of Friday."

"But I work and can't get the time off."

We talked back and forth for a few more minutes. I felt bad that Collector X had driven a few hours to the show and he was about to discover that some of his favorite dealers (not just me) had left on Friday.

Which brings us to the major question at hand: why did I leave early and why will I continue to leave shows (with one or two exceptions) on Friday?

The short answer: most coin shows are too long. Many open on Wednesday and go through Saturday or even Sunday. If you ask ten dealers if they need a coin show to be four or five days, I'm guessing that nine (or more) will say "no." Exceptions to the rule: The January FUN show and the Summer ANA show which are busy enough that most dealers are OK with attending them for the extra day or two.

Here's my take on shows: not only are they too long, there are too many of them. I look at shows as a necessary evil. I have to go to them because this is where I buy a lot of my coins. But if I could figure a way to reduce my show schedule to, say, three or four a year, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

As Collector X was quick to remind me, coins shows are important for him. He gets to see coins, he gets to schmooze with his favorite dealers, and he can buy some stuff. I see his points but I'd offer the following retorts:

1: Most dealers don't put their good coins out at shows, choosing instead to offer them to selected clients via want lists or placing them on their websites.

2: At most shows, dealers are highly stressed-out and a relaxin' chat with a collector isn't practical. If a collector wants to speak to a fully focused, well-rested dealer, he'd do much better speaking to that individual on the phone a week or two after a show, when the dealer is decompressed and relaxed.

3: As a collector, wouldn't you rather make a buying decision in the comfort of your own home, using your own lighting (at most shows the lighting is abysmal...) and not being pressured to make a quick "yes or no" decision?

If you ask ten dealers what they go to shows for, I'm sure you'd get ten different answers. I go to shows primarily to buy. I believe that the excellence of my website means that I have a better delivery method for coins than putting them out in a showcase once per month. That's the reason why when you go to my table at most shows, you see around eight coins laid out in the case. Where are the rest of them? Put away in my safe, waiting for me to image and describe them and place them on my website.

As I mentioned above, I feel that my website is excellent and my inventory is best served by the good images and descriptions found on www.raregoldcoins.com. In order for me to buy coins at shows, I have to get there early.

I told Collector X that the problem with a show like Central States is that it's "front-loaded." By this, I mean that, as a dealer, if you arrive on Wednesday afternoon, you've probably blown your chance to get an early shot at the fresh coins other dealers have for sale. If I had a staff, I'd have them come in the day I was departing in order to man the table while I went home and processed the new purchases. The problem is, most collectors, like Collector X, want to talk to me and not a staff member. Which sort of leaves me between a rock and a hard place.

The ideal solution to this problem is to start shows first thing on a Thursday and end them in the mid-afternoon on Saturday; lean and efficient, please. And I like the idea of having "day tables" where I might be able to vacate my space at the front of the room on Friday and have a smaller dealer from the back of the room move up to my spot.

Collector X, when you read this blog please realize that I feel your pain. Taking the time to drive to a major show and then having many of your favorite dealers not there is no fun. Please know that I was hard at work all day on Saturday (and much of Sunday) on the two nicest days of the year so far in Portland (you have no possible idea how much I wanted to go hiking...) so that you and other DWN customers would be able to have a shot at over fifty new coins by late morning Saturday. Next time I'm in your neck of the woods, let's go have a cocktail, let's go talk about gold coins and let's bury the hatchet.


Doug Winter

What Does "On Hold" Mean on Your Website?

I was asked this seemingly innocuous question by a client the other day and it made me pause. Even though many coins are listed as "on hold" on my website, there are actually a number of potential scenarios that could more accurately describe them. These deserve a brief explanation and an end-of-the-blog realization (I hope) that just because a coin marked on hold it doesn't mean that you shouldn't inquire about it. In most instances, a coin is marked "on hold" because it has been ordered by an existing client and sent out to him on an approval basis. Generally, the status of such a coin will change quickly as I tend to ship coins out the same day they have been ordered by overnight delivery. If a coin on approval is sent out, say, on a Tuesday, I might known its atatus as early as Wednesday or Thursday.

However, I do not mark such a coin as being "sold" until it is paid for. If I trust a client enough to send him a $5,000 coin on approval, I trust him enough to pay me in good funds for it. That said odd things do happen from time to time and it is not impossible for a coin that I thought was sold on Thursday to become available again on Friday.

If a coin is sold to a client and he requests extended payments, the coin is taken off the website. This way, coins won't sit and fester with an endless "on hold" status. I update my website constantly and as soon as I know the exact status of a coin, it is marked as such.

There are times when another dealer or a collector will ask for a coin on my site to be put on hold for a pre-determined period of time while he tries to sell it or, in the case of a collector, he makes a decision. In most instances, this decision-making period is 24 to 48 hours. I don't think its fair for a coin to be tied-up longer than this and I do not generally allow for this to happen.

In a case where a coin is "on hold" while being considered, I will typically tell the second person who calls that they have second shot should the deal fall through. This doesn't happen often but it does happen enough that I would strongly urge you to request second shot on a coin you want even if it is already marked as being on hold.

The "on hold" process might be slowed down by a few factors. If the potential buyer of a coin wants it sent to CAC for approval or to PCGS for a crossover this will add time to the process. I don't want to take such a coin off my website as it is still not technically sold but, to be fair to the buyer I might attempt to get the coin stickered or crossed. Or, there might be a situation where the coin was shipped to a collector on Monday but he is out of town on business for a few days, slowing down the process.

Sometimes I will have a coin on my site marked as "sold." There are a few reasons for this. The first is thast, after selling a rare or important coin, I kind of like to brag a little bit. I might leave it up as being sold for a few days just to show people looking through my coins that I am capable of selling major coins. Plus, it feels good for me to browse my coins and see a few "solds" here and there.

I'm in the business of selling coins, so I want as many people as possible to feel confident about the entire buying process at DWN. I know collectors get frustrated when they go on my website and see many of the coins marked "on hold." I'd like to think that this is because I sell really nice coins and that there are a lot of people looking for the quality that I specialize in. Because I run a small, boutique coin business, I don't have salespeople who will manage want lists or send out emails with specific coins you may (or may not) be looking for. My feeling is that by maintaining and frequently updating a high-quality website, I am giving everyone an equal chance of purchasing coins with character.

Please remember that a coin marked as "on hold" could become available but if I don't know that you have an interest in it, it will never be offered to you directly. Just send me at email at dwn@ont.com or phone me at (214) 675-9897 when you see a coin on my site that is of interest. I will give you as much information about its availability as I can and, who knows, it might be sitting on your desk in a few days!

"Hey DWN, Why's Your Inventory So Small...?"

I recently received an email from a new collector with a subject line that was similar to the quotation that I titled this blog. At first I thought the question was obnoxious. Then I pondered it a little and realized that it was actually a pretty good question after all. So why is my current on-line inventory so small? I can give you the standard ten word answer but since this is my forum and I'm assuming you actually care about these things I'm going to give you the long, drawn-out multi-part answer.

I own considerably more coins than what you see for sale at any point in time on my website. Colns that aren't on www.raregoldcoins.com might not be listed for a number of reasons. They may be out at PCGS or NGC being graded. They might be at CAC awaiting a blessing from John Albanese. I may have decided to sell them somewhere else other than my website (sometimes for stealthy reasons and sometimes not) or I may have offered them directly to a collector with whom I have an established relationship with.

There are a small number of boutique retail operations (of which I proudly count myself as one) that handle really nice, really rare coins. I'm guessing that most of them are experiencing the shortage of good coins to buy right now that I am. I've already explained, ad nauseum, my reasoning for the current Coin Drought and I won't repeat my reasons here. But I'd be wary of any firm right now with hundreds and hundreds of seemingly cool coins in stock at this point in time. If you are a choosy, fussy buyer like I am, there is no way that you'll have a ton of good coins in stock right now.

Even if we weren't in the midst of Coindroughtapoolza I'd still never have what would be considered a vast, deep inventory. The coins that I specialize in are genuinely rare and that fact, coupled with my personal fussiness, means that I am likely to pass on 95+% of the coins that I see in other dealer's inventories. I promise you that for every Charlotte half eagle in Extremely Fine or Dahlonega quarter eagle in About Uncirculated that I pull the trigger on and buy, I've passed on alot of other pieces that aren't "DWN Quality."

I have always been attracted to rarity and there are not many common or semi-scarce coins that I will buy. This has changed a bit in recent years as I've had to expand my definition of what makes a coin cool enough for me to write a check for it. As an example, No Motto Philadelphia gold coinage has become interesting to me in recent years. The main reasons why this is are that a) the coins are actually available from time to time b) they seem like really good values and c) choice, original examples with nice color and surfaces are more plentiful than, say Charlotte or Dahlonega coins of this era which are often vile and not interesting to me at any price.

There's another reason why I don't want 500 coins in stock at any given time. I am very controlling when it comes to inventory control (sorry for the bad pun...) and I want to know about every coin that I own. I can always tell you what I paid for a coin, where it was bought, its pedigree and anything else interesting about it; without having to look up this information on my computer or having to refer to a spreadsheet. If I had hundreds or thousands of coins I obviously would not be able to do this. As a collector this might not be important to you. But I think it's kind of neat to deal with someone who is really aware of every coin that he owns.

Another reason why I don't list a ton of coins on my website is that I want it to be very user-friendly and easy to navigate. If I had a thousand coins listed at any given time on www.raregoldcoins.com it would become far less simple and elegant to use than it currently is. There is a reason why it is easy to find things on my site. I deliberately don't want you to have to click three links and pull down two scroll-bars just to find Liberty Head quarter eagles. I've designed the site to be exactly what I personally want when I'm looking for things on the web. And there's nothing I had more than cluttered, confusing websites.

So for those of you who want to be overwhelmed by coins on a website, you've come to the wrong place. If you value quality over quantity, I think you'll find my site to be the number one resources for rare United States gold coinage. I look forward to your visits to the site and welcome feedback to make your experience(s) more enjoyable.

A User's Guide to the Inventory Pages on my Website

If you are new to coin collecting or you haven’t spent much time on my website (www.raregoldcoins.com) you might not understand some of the nomenclature that appears on the inventory pages. Let’s take a look at a typical listing and let me guide you through the information and the symbols that appear with each coin. I’m going to choose a coin that is currently for sale in my inventory, an 1844-O eagle graded AU55 by NGC. The listing for this coin appears as follows:

1844-O $10.00 NGC AU55CAC 10/9 91/62 5000 $3,500

This seemingly innocuous line actually contains quite a bit of information and if you are not familiar with the terminology I use, it is going to seem like so much numerical babble.

The first and most obvious fact is that the coin is an 1844-O eagle. All of the coins on my website are listed chronologically and they are listed in denomination order from lowest to highest. Mintmarks are listed in alphabetical order.

The next piece of information is that the coin is graded AU55 by NGC. I only sell coins graded by PCGS or NGC on my website. There are no exceptions to this rule. Ever.

The “CAC” designation means the coin has been sent to CAC and it has been given a green sticker that designates it as being acceptable for the grade by CAC’s standards. If a coin does not have a CAC sticker there are a few possible explanations. It may be right after a coin show and I have not yet sent it to CAC. Or, it may be a coin that I do not feel is necessary to send to CAC. Or, it might be a very expensive coin that I do not feel comfortable mailing to CAC. I like CAC and agree with its standards and objectives but I am not “locked into” selling only CAC coins. I would suggest that if you have a question about why one of my coins isn’t CAC-stickered, ask me. I’m happy to give you an honest answer.

The next two pieces of information have to do with certified populations. In this case, “10/9” means that the population at PCGS for the 1844-O eagle is ten in AU55 and nine in higher grades while NGC has graded ninety-one in this grade and sixty better.

Certified populations are something that I think are important but there is a downside to this level of transparency. For the most part, these numbers are inflated by resubmissions and, in the case of the 1844-O in NGC AU55, they are inflated to the point of irrelevancy.

In many instances, when I disagree with a certified population I will note this in the description of the coin. And whenever possible I will state what I believe to be a more accurate population.

The next number, in this case “5,000” is the price given in the most recent copy of Coin World’s “Coin Values.” This figure is better known to collector as “Trends” and it represents a suggested retail price for a coin. In most cases, I sell coins in the 60-80% range of Trends. There are clear exceptions to this rule and if I think that Trends is too low for a certain issue (a perfect example would be an 1883-O eagle in any grade) I will note this in the description and explain why my price is greater than the Trends valuation.

There are times when I use the designation “Q” for pricing and this refers to the Quarterly Bid listed in the current Coin Dealer Newsletter or Greysheet. This tends to be for coins such as Proof gold where Trends is not used or for higher grade listings (MS64 and up) that are not addressed by Trends.

After this comes my price; in this case $3,500. I try and price coins fairly and I try to price them at levels that discourage excessive negotiation. I never list coins as “POR” (Price On Request). If I have a new coin priced at $3,500 the chances are very good that I will not sell it for $3,000 but I might sell it for a small discount. As with most businesses, I tend to price coins most favorably to repeat clients or to those collectors that I have established a good rapport.

After the price is listed, I have a modifier that explains the status of a coin. If a coin has been in my inventory for two weeks or less it is designated as “new.” If I have had the coin for more than 30 days and I realize the original price might have been too high, I will mark the coin as being “reduced.” If someone has ordered the coin but I have not yet received payment for it, it is designated as being “on hold.” If you see a coin that interests you but it is marked as being on hold, I would suggest you still contact me. From time to time, deals fall through or people who order a coin return it and if you are next in line you might still have a chance to buy it. A coin that has been paid for is marked “sold.” I might leave it out on the website for a few more days to brag or just because it was a cool coin and I think visitors to my website would like to see the photo.

Last but not least is an icon that shows if a coin has an image or not. Generally it takes a day or two for images to get done and they are all shot in house by my talented wife Mary Winter. None of the images are “juiced” or manipulated in Photoshop and I think they give an extremely good representation of what the coin will look like in hand. I will say this: most of my clients tell me that Mary’s images are among the best on the web and that if the coin looks good on the computer screen, it almost always looks even better in person.

I try to be as candid and transparent as possible with my descriptions. If a coin has a noticeable mark on the obverse near star three, I will mention this because I think it is important. My descriptions tend to focus on the appearance of a coin and since originality and color are so important to me, these tend to be described in greater detail than luster or strike.

The bottom line is that I think I’ve created a website that is easy to use and that operates in the fashion that I would like the “ideal site” to if I were a collector. I am always looking to fine tune or improve my site and would welcome your creative input.