By Peter Mosiondz, Jr.
In a previous article on the subject of dealing with dealers we touched upon some of the do’s and don’ts applicable chiefly to those dealers with whom we have personal contact.
Purchasing coins through the mail and on the internet provide additional challenges worthy of discussion.
Readers of Canadian Coin News have a distinct advantage when ordering coins from one of their advertisers. Any dealer who hopes to place an advertisement in these pages must pass muster. Their backgrounds and credit-worthiness are diligently investigated by the paper’s fine staff to ensure that all dealings with their readers will be highly satisfactory. Anyone deciding not to engage in reputable business transactions will no longer appear in these pages.
There are two primary ways to conduct business through the mail.
● Responding to a dealer’s advertisement offering specific coins for sale at fixed prices.
● Requesting the dealer’s fixed price list.
Regardless of the method you choose, Rule Number One is to read and understand the seller’s conditions and terms of sale. Does the vendor have a return privilege? If so, how much time do you have to decide whether or not you want to add the coins to your collection?
Most, if not all, dealers will clearly state that any coin removed from their holder is not returnable under any circumstances. Be sure to carefully examine the obverse and reverse to make sure that the coin is right for you. Is this a fair condition? Yes. It protects the dealer from the sleight-of-hand artist who decides to switch his inferior coin with the nicer example that the dealer sent to him, thus returning the poorer example. This condition of sale protects the seller.
Rule Number Two is to read and understand the dealer’s grading standards and interpretations. If not listed, make an inquiry. A short statement such as “all coins are graded according to Charlton standards” places a clear picture in the collector’s mind as to how the coin will look upon receipt. Every collector owns a Charlton catalogue – right? If not, what are you waiting for?
An important thing to look for in a dealer’s ad or price list is membership in professional organization such as CAND (Canadian Association of Numismatic Dealers) to give one example. Dealers belonging to this fine organization must adhere to a very strict code of ethics. Any unsatisfactory dealing by one of its members is not looked upon lightly. Rest assured that CAND will make things right. Look for other numismatic memberships and for the dealer’s length of time in business. Call it kicking the tires if you will but it is important to know your dealer.
Just as with the store or show dealer, it is important to give your want list to the mail order or web dealer; for the same reasons as stated previously in the dealing with a dealer article. And, be sure to keep your want list updated. The dealer does not want to track down and offer a coin from your list only to be told that you had already acquired it elsewhere.
Does the dealer guarantee the genuineness of the coins being offered for sale? This added care and concern on the dealer’s part offers greater security for the collector.
How does the dealer treat credit card transactions? Is there an extra fee imposed if paying by credit card? If there is no fee on the sales transaction will a small fee be assessed to your credit memo if you should return the coin? The reasoning for imposing a fee some call it a restocking fee is clear enough. The dealer pays a merchant commission on every sales transaction. He does not have this commission reimbursed by the bank when he processes your credit card return and credit memo.
To repeat once again, because it is vitally important, read and understand the seller’s conditions and terms of sale.
With regards to internet sales, many of these sites are operated by long-standing dealers; dealers you encounter within these pages. Others are collectors and dealers of every size and scope and from all over the globe. Every precaution that we mentioned previously, and then some, pertains to this type of dealing with unfamiliar names. One point to investigate right away is the return privilege. Next ask if the coin that is pictured will be the same coin that will be received. Some web vendors are known to use a generic photo, naturally looking so much nicer than the coin actually being offered for sale or auction. Make certain that you view both the obverse and the reverse.
Even if the scanned coin is the same one that you will be receiving, it doesn’t hurt to ask a few questions. I remember the time when I became very excited about some gorgeous “blue toning” on a commemorative coin. The coin was found on a major dealer’s web site, one of the biggest names in the hobby. Guess what I received; a fully brilliant coin devoid of even the slightest bit of tone. I checked the identifying number on the coin’s holder. It matched up to the offered coin. A call confirmed my suspicion. The company’s representative said that the firm has had trouble from time to time scanning certain coins that ended up having bluish toning that wasn’t actually present. I should have asked if the coin I was looking at would be the coin received, toning and all. The company agreed to my return. The lesson learned was to ask questions.
The best advice I can offer when dealing with web dealers is to really know the dealer. Admittedly this is hard to do with smaller dealers or even many collectors who sell on the internet. Some sellers use cute “handles” instead of their real names. “Coin Pro Joe” may be a pro at that, but it might be as a welder. You should have little, if any, difficulties dealing with established sellers on the web.
Be especially wary and forewarned about some of the internet auction sites. We do not include the auction listings made by these pages advertisers. Here again we are referring to the unknowns of the World Wide Web. Counterfeit, altered and doctored coins do abound to trap the unwary. Worse yet, there is little, if any, buyer protection guidelines in place.
As we’ve said before and will continue to proclaim, there is no Santa Claus in numismatics.
Yours truly has collected since 1954. Some of you weren’t even born then. I can tell you with certainty that, in all these years, my most pleasurable dealings and my best purchases were made through the auspices of well established dealers with sound reputations.
Until next time, stay well and enjoy your hobby.