Where do you go to buy the best examples of the dates you're looking for?
My first love is small cents, particular the Lincoln Cent Proofs from 1909 to present. Not to say that I don't have a wide range of other coin varities, but those copper/nickel coins really do it for me.
I have been an amateur collector for about 20 years. I started my collection by purchasing only raw coins at Flea Markets, by looking thru the change of anyone that would let me and just about anywhere else I could find a coin with little effort. Of course I was always sure to check for those rare error coins...
Today I buy most of my coins. These coins are slabbed examples, always the best I can afford at the moment. Most of my purchases today are slabbed by NGC with a few PCGS examples thrown in. Personally, I have found that NGC coins are better fits for my tastes (and for my wallet!). I am rather proud of the slabbed coins I have accumulated and registered with the Collector's Society (numbers 13, 16, and 17 for three of the Lincoln Proof sets).
But where do most of the thousands of "Average Joe" collectors like myself find/buy there certified coins, especially those really hard-to-find key dates. For me, my main source is eBay. I have found a couple of coins that I purchased on Amazon. I have tried auctions from time to time with little luck. I haven't yet ventured to the local coin stores or the pawn shops.
Other than these locations, what else is out there for us "non-professional" coin collectors?
As mentioned earlier, I've been around this obsession for a while. But what exactly is this "PQ" that so many sellers use to describe their coins?
BTW - I still have all of those beginner coins I collected, probably numbering around 3000 examples! Who can get rid of their roots?