The best thing you can do as a beginning collector is hook up with someone who is already involved in numismatics as a dealer or collector. A good advisor can demonstrate to you the fine points of coin collecting and show you coins that you may not otherwise see. Many old-time collectors have plenty of great stories about the coins they’ve owned, the coins they regret not buying, the wonderful people they’ve met along the way, and their experiences at coin shows and in coin shops. What most old-time collectors don’t have is someone willing to sit down and listen to them; so your desire to find out more may be rewarded with some eager mentoring.
Where can you meet other numismatists?
Coin clubs: Attend local coin club meetings to get together with other collectors in your area.
Coin shops: Visit all the coin dealers in your area at least once to see how they deal with you on a personal level. Stick with the ones you like.
Coin shows: Take a day off to go to local coin shows. Meet new collectors and dealers from outside your area, and choose from lots of interesting coins. Don’t forget to bring your kids.
Educational seminars: Most major coin shows host educational seminars, presented by expert numismatists, on a wide range of subjects. You can find out about pioneer gold, U.S. fiscal paper, Civil War tokens, the history of the U.S. Mint, and much more. Use the question-and-answer period to get to know the experts and to pick their brains.
The American Numismatic Association’s Summer Seminar: Attend the American Numismatic Association’s Summer Seminar at its headquarters in Colorado Springs. Each year, the ANA offers week-long courses on a variety of useful subjects; past courses have included “Grading U.S. Coins,” “Coin Photography,” “Detection of Counterfeit and Altered U.S. Coins,” “Rarities from Shipwrecks,” among others. Class sizes are limited and attendees have full access to the instructors. You can’t get any closer to the experts than this!
Specialty clubs: Join a specialty club. Meet collectors who share your collecting interest by joining specialty clubs, such as the Bust Half Nut Club (www.busthalfprices.com/bhnc.php), the Early American Coppers Club (www.eacs.org), the Colonial Coin Collectors Club (www.colonialcoins.org), and many others. Also, be sure to attend their annual meetings (usually in conjunction with the ANA’s annual convention).
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Many coin dealers and most collectors are extremely helpful people who are willing to answer your questions. In our opinion, there’s no such thing as a stupid question in numismatics — we were all beginners at one time. That said, don’t expect to walk up to a coin dealer at a busy show and strike up a conversation, either — a busy dealer can’t drop everything he’s doing at a coin show to answer an intricate question. Be considerate of the dealer’s time.
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