Earlier this week I read Top 10 “Coin Dealer Ethics” by Susan Headley of About.com. The article is a compilation of the ten most incredible stories she has collected about the less-than-ethical behavior of some coin dealers.

The same day, noted numismatic researcher and author Roger Burdette posted a note on the Collectors’ Society forums that read:

Coin-business people are often the newcomer’s earliest contact with the hobby. That is the best, and often only, chance to create a positive impression of coin collecting. When coin-businesses project an attitude of integrity, honesty, veracity and patience the “newby” is more likely to find the hobby appealing.

With millions of people casually collecting state quarters and other circulating novelties, the typical coin show bourse is still the same-old-same-old. So many dealers exhibit callous, impatient and careless attitudes that I can’t blame new potential collectors when they switch to beanie babies or ceramic insulators.

[I spent about &frac12 hour at the recent Baltimore show. As I was leaving I saw the perfect turn-off to coin collecting. A teen approached a dealer’s table with a folder of state quarters, and asked what they were worth. The dealer glanced at the cover and said “Junk, Nothin’“ and turned away. The teen walked out, his hopes clearly deflated. Is this how “first contact” is handled in our hobby? ]

As with every story, there are two sides.

Those of us who enjoy this hobby wants to encourage others to join us and have as wonderful experiences as we have. We talk about these wonderful shows with rows of tables with dealers selling almost every type of coin known in the collecting world. When these new collectors find their way to Baltimore for their first show, its size can be intimidating.

On the other hand, the dealer is a business person. Dealers on the bourse floor are trying to earn a living—which may not be easy in these economic times. They earn that living by selling what they think their buyers want. When walking the bourse floor, if all the dealers seem to be selling similar merchandise, it is because the dealers are showing what they think will sell. If you are not interested in what they are selling, someone is and they would rather talk with those who are willing to buy the merchandise. Even though we think of it as a hobby, it is the dealer’s livelihood.

This does not mean that the dealer should take advantage of a novice or non-collector. It also does not mean that a dealer should be rude to the teenager with a 50 State Quarters album. After all, that young person could be a future client or decide to avoid your offering in the future.

We may not be able to send every dealer to charm school, but we can help those new, novice, and non-collectors survive the bourse floor. A thought I had was that local clubs could sponsor “Numismatic Ambassadors.” The Numismatic Ambassador would be available at the shows to answer the questions of the new or novice collector. Ambassadors would be at a table just outside or near the entry as well as walking the floor wearing something to identify them to those looking for help. At American Numismatic Association shows, the host clubs can work with the ANA to supply Numismatic Ambassadors supplemented by other members.

If you are in a club and there is a show in your area, suggest that the club work with the show organizers to provide Numismatic Ambassadors for the show. Convince the show organizers to advertise that the Numismatic Ambassadors will be available to help the inexperienced collector and who is sponsoring the program. This will help the show organizer attract more people. It will also allow the club to meet new people and possibly sign up new members.

What do you think?

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