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How I Blew My Free Appraisal

By Doug Winter RareGoldcoins.com
CoinWeek Content Partner ………

One of the oddest things about being a coin dealer are the almost daily phone calls I get from people who demand free information. Typically, these calls are from non-collectors who have found my name on the internet and have chosen me to help them determine the value of the coin they just found in the attic/coin they bought from on Ebay/coin they inherited from their Aunt Marge in Whitefish/etc.

So, what’s “odd” about these calls? It isn’t the fact that I get them regularly; all coin dealers do. It’s how unbelievably rude most of the callers are and how they feel that just because I’m listed on the internet, that I am obliged to help them.

(As an aside, the last time I tried to call Steve Cohen and ask him for stock picking advice for the upcoming year, I didn’t get very far but, hey, maybe it was the way I asked….)

Let me run you through a typical call:

Phone rings.

Me: This is Doug Winter, how can I help you?

Caller: (Doesn’t give me his name, just brusquely goes right into the question). I have an 1849 Pacific $5.00 gold piece, what’s it worth?

Me: That’s an exceedingly rare and often counterfeited coin.

Caller: No, its real gold. It’s been in my family for XXX years. (More than 10 but less than 100…)

Me: That’s great. Why don’t you send me a photo?

Caller: I don’t need to send you a photo because its real gold. What’s it worth?

Me: *Sigh….* Since you already know what it’s worth perhaps you should take it to a dealer who is smarter than me.

Caller hangs up. Calls back thirty seconds later. I don’t take the call, recognizing his number on Caller ID. He leaves a message. I listen to it. Its not pretty. After he curses me out, tells me that not only is he never going to do business with me, he’s going to “tell everyone on the Internet” not to do business with me. I’m crook. I’m rude. I “blew it” because I missed the chance to buy his coin.

What caused this phone conversation to go so horribly wrong? I’d like to think it was because he was surly, self-absorbed and arrogant, but perhaps the reason was simpler than than this.

I was brought up by Mom who taught me to be polite. I say please and thank you, I hold doors open for women, I help old people cross the street. Maybe I’m old-fashioned but I believe that when you are calling someone you don’t know for a potential favor on the phone there is a certain basic etiquette that you follow. Some suggestions for a fruitful call, as follows:

  • Introduce yourself. Tell me your your name. And not just your first name, unless you are Madonna, Prince or Ichiro. You don’t have to tell me your life story but can I at least know who I’m talking to?
  • Politely tell me the intent of your call. Tell me that you inherited some silver dollars and that you are interested in selling them.
  • Show me enough respect to do five minutes of background checking on your coin(s). I can’t tell you the number of times someone calls me and tells me that they have a coin for sale but they don’t know or forgot the date. I haven’t yet mastered the art of seeing through your phone (or computer screen) and manually retrieving the date of the coin that you “forgot.”
  • As your family doctor will happily remind you, no professional is obligated to spend five minutes with an anonymous, rude jerk.

OK, I know that I’m sounding like your grandma here but I’m kind of wondering how people suddenly became so rude. I’m guessing its a function of email and social media where all sorts of formerly face-to-face interactions are now done anonymously. I get the fact that a guy calling me with a coin doesn’t want to tell me his name and home address for security reasons. I also get the fact that if I don’t treat this guy like he’s Mrs Norweb, he is going to write a review of DWN on Yelp or a message board and tell everyone how rude, insensitive and jerky I am. At some point, the proverbial twain must meet…

So, Mr. Pacific $5.00, I’m sorry I didn’t offer you $250,000 sight-unseen for your amazing rarity, even though you wouldn’t tell me your name and you already knew that the coin was real. I blew it.

Doug Winter
Doug Winterhttps://www.raregoldcoins.com
Doug Winter founded Douglas Winter Numismatics (DWN) in 1985. The nationally renowned firm specializes in buying and selling rare United States gold coins. He has written over a dozen books, including the standard references on Charlotte, Dahlonega, and New Orleans gold coinage, and Type 1 Liberty Head Double Eagles. Douglas has also contributed to the A Guidebook of United States Coins, Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of United States and Colonial Coins, Q. David Bowers’ Encyclopedia of United States Silver Dollars, and Andrew Pollock’s United States Pattern and Related Issues. He is a member of the PNG, the ANA, the ANS, the NLG, CAC, PCGS, and NGC - among other professional affiliations. Contact Doug Winter at [email protected].

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  1. Doug,

    I have to tell you honestly that being around coins can bring out the best and the worst in the range of human personalities. Entitlement, self-esteem without requisite justification, rudeness, surliness, paranoia, survivalist tendencies, all of the above are what get me ready to give up on this hobby several times per year. But the absolute worst is coin people who think they have half a clue about modern economics.

  2. Hello Mr. Winter,

    Yesterday people were hard down to earth people. Nowaday people are self-made with no brain (not earth people but air people). I worked with the public for a few decades and learn from the best no brainers. They are still around. I “Thank” them for the lesson.

  3. This happens to me all the time, but with autographs and paintings. Once, when I owned an art gallery in New Hope, PA, a guy blew through the door with his Mercedes still running in the parking lot.He unceremoniously dumped two Jefferson documents on my desk and brusquely asked me the value. I sized him up as a Doctor–“Well, Doc, I said, “It will cost you $60 each for a verbal appraisal”. He was shocked- “I’m an eye doctor, he said, “and I don’t charge that much for an initial visit (This was ca 1975)”. I answered swiftly, “Well, my education cost more than yours…” He walked out in a huff and I was glad.


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