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Anyone read the Forbes article on Heritage's Jim Halperin?

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I just finished reading the article in the Dec. 27th issue of Forbes. It was part of their annual "Collecting" issue, which covers everthing from coins to art to furniture to pez dispensers. For the coin segment, they did a profile of Jum Halperin, the co-founder of Heritage. I don't know the man personally, nor do I know a lot about his past, but I must admit the article didn't strike me as very flattering.


The theme seemed to be all the shady dealings by Halperin and within the coin market in general. It started when he was 13, and apparently ran into trouble with postal inspectors for taking out ads in magazines to solicit people to pay for joining a non-existent sales network. In exchange for dropping the charges, he had to return $100,000 in ill-gotten cash. Then off to Harvard where he started New England Rare Coin Galleries, which he grew and sold in 1982 (it subsequently went bust when the new owner was investigated by the FTC for fraud and misrepresentation in selling coins).


Next was the grading fiascos of the early days. He started his own grading company called the "Numismatic Certification Institute" and according to the article ran afoul of the FTC when they found that the company was inflating grades and selling the coins through a "Heritage-backed outfit" called "Certified Rare Coin Galleries." It seems interesting to me to read about these early controversies in grading which likely caused the generally suspect attitude of collectors back then (at least that is my recollection).


Now apparently the game is "Crackout" where Halperin and the folks at Heritage will play the crackout game in an effort to get the extra grade point and thus increase prices realized (which according to the article is the name of the game). The article portrayed the game similar to the way many collectors view it, not illegal or unethical, but maybe not totally right either. In any case, they question how a buyer would feel if they know that their 65 was a 64 yesterday. Finally, they had a sidebar on his collecting passion with is Mad Magazines! The only disturbing part about that was that the article mentioned Heritage employees including Halperin bidding on the auctions. Here's how Forbes put it:


"One way to make sure those babies keep rising in price: Halperin allows Heritage employees - himself included - to bid on items it auctions off. What seller wouldn't appreciate having a shill right there on the premises? Especially onewith deep pockets."


As I said before, I do not know Mr. Halperin, but I have done business with his company for a number of years. I've never been dissatisfied with any of my purchases, and I have no reason to think that will change. I guess I am more concerned about how articles like this portray all of us in the numismatic community to the rest of the investing world.

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I read part of the article online. It didn't leave me with a flattering picture of him. However, when I posted a comment a few years ago when they were running a promotion to get a free Redbook and it was the second year in a row I didn't get mine, he personally emailed me to help take care of it. Also, overall my dealings with Heritage have been good. It's easy to focus on a few negative aspects.


If Heritage took better pictures of toned coins for their internet images, I'd consider using them to sell my collection when the time comes. However, with their current images, which are frequently extremely poor in relation to the actual coin, I wouldn't consider it. Blah & white coins yes, but not toned where there is a large premium.


As for the crackout game, I've been told by a Heritage employee that they have someone who does nothing but examine coins for crackouts. Big deal. Most everyone would crack a coin out to upgrade if the money was worth it.


And if any buyer has a problem with their MS65 once being in an MS64 slab, then they should be a little more selective buying coins. The coin is likely either a liner or it was undergraded the first time.


As for the shill comment, Heritage makes no reservations about revealing that they are active bidders on the coins in their auctions. Last time this came up, I believe they stated that by law, they are prevented from knowing the bids of other bidders when they place their bids. I also believe they said that their bids are entered before any other bids are entered. Perhaps Jim Halperin can comment on this. He was logged in here earlier this week.

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Hi Jeff! Long time, no hear.


Some allegations about Jim Halperin surfaced during the pre-Heritage years. I can not personally comment on them, but I have done business with Heritage for many years. The only complaint that I have ever had with Heritage, is with the quality of their auction images. Additionally, several Texas, Florida and California dealers got slapped wrists by the FTC during this pre-TPG period.


There also were several so-called grading companies slabbing coins in the late '70's. None of which had their grading hold up to later PCGS, NGC and ANACS grades. Paramount comes to mind as one of the more egregious.

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Interesting to hear that Heritage still owns 25% of NGC. Several people have told me they sold their interest long ago...not that it matters.


Overall, an interesting read from Jim.

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