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US Coins: Collecting is a Marathon

Be willing to learn, set your pace and stay focused on the goal


By Jim Bisognani – NGC Weekly Market Report …..
As I sit down to my computer this morning, the running of the 123rd Boston Marathon is underway. Such fond memories for me, as I had the great honor to run that hallowed course eight times in my “prime” running life.

I am so thankful for all of the friendships and competitive camaraderie forged over the years on the local and regional running circuit. Whether the race was a 5K, 10K, half marathon, etc., there were always so many familiar faces at the starting line.

A similar observation can be made for those frequenting the numismatic show circuit. Many dealers and collectors you may encounter on the bourse have been fixtures for decades. We have become so accustomed to the faces of our numismatic brothers and sisters in attendance. They are our longstanding professional friends as well as competition, there to conduct sales and to secure new inventory on the bourse as well as at auction.

Learn From the Best

For new collectors, the world of numismatics is indeed a marathon. So much to learn and so very many coins. Where to start your collecting journey is really up to the individual.

First, I suggest that if you are new to the hobby, seek out a mentor. Attend local shows in your area. You can look at all of the “pretty shiny” coins on websites of prominent dealers, yet those images are quite pale in comparison to the real first-hand experience at shows.

Newcomers, Don’t Break Stride

The new band of Coindexters is the future of this evolving numismatic enterprise and the world’s greatest hobby, and they may take any lane on the track that suits their respective budgets. Many will perhaps start with type coins, as that is usually the most economical route to get a great sampling of either US or world coins. Some newbies will evolve into prominent collectors and dealers, too.

In road running, most of us are only trying to improve on our personal bests; we are always challenging ourselves. The same can be said about the average coin collector. We all try to perform due diligence and try to locate (and buy) the best we can afford. Then, our goal is to incrementally take steps to improve as opportunities and finances allow. Most of us will never be a Louis Eliasberg or (four-time Boston Marathon winner) Bill Rodgers, but we will all share the common bond with the elites.

A Longtime Interest

My co-worker and fellow price guide analyst Kevin Stoutjesdyk is of the younger breed of numismatist. Hailing from Michigan, Kevin got his indoctrination into numismatics at an early age, as coins and the business of numismatics ran in the family.

“I was always around it,” he says. “So I guess my grandfather and my uncle both influenced that. I think there almost has to be a gene for it, admiration for history.”

The young man didn’t really do a lot of collecting to begin with, as he was working shows for his family since he was 11 or 12 years of age.

“I was always working as a dealer. I basically ran our company’s table!”

His grandfather’s company, Creek Coin in Swartz Creek, Michigan, now specializes in exonumia.

“We kind of got out of US a couple of years ago. We just found that there’s a lot more variety in this field and there wasn’t as much competition. The history was more interesting behind more of the stuff.”

Starting Slow with Mercury

As for Kevin’s personal collecting interests, he just started a Mercury dime collection a couple of months ago. His goal is to shoot for nice BU and Full Band later-date commoners to start, and then as he works his way back, just get clean problem-free circ examples of the semi-keys and keys.

I asked if there was anything particular about the Mercury dime series that was intriguing.

“I think it was a decent set to start with because there are so many of them that are common and relatively affordable. There are some big hitters as you go back, but I think, for the most part, it is a great beginner set.”

Another reason Kevin gave for choosing the Mercs is that he happened to have a large Capital Plastics case to house and display the entire Mercury dime set, hopefully, someday.

When I asked Kevin what his dream coin would be, he replied without hesitation: a Proof Twenty Cent Piece.

“I think the eagle on the reverse is one of my most favorite eagles, at least on a US coin.”

My friend also imparted some sage advice for the younger would-be numismatists:

“Talk to as many dealers as you can. Nine times out of 10, a dealer is more than willing to teach as much as they can.”

Just like in running, take it slow and steady with your collection, and you will get to your desired location. Hey, of my eight Boston Marathons, the 100th running in 1996 was my favorite. I had hyperextended my right knee and couldn’t really walk in the days leading up to that race. I had to start slow and steady and never broke stride. And I got my prize!

Until next time, happy collecting!

* * *

Jim Bisognani is an NGC Price Guide Analyst having previously served for many years as an analyst and writer for another major price guide. He has written extensively on US coin market trends and values.

Jim Bisognani
Jim Bisognani
Jim Bisognani has written extensively on US coin market trends and values and was the market analyst and writer for a major pricing guide for many years. He currently resides in Southern California and frequently attends major coin shows and auctions.

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