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Some thoughts about being “the old guy who seems to have everything”

13 posts in this topic

Back in the early 1970s my company transferred me from their Delaware plant to their headquarters, which was located in northern New Jersey. I had been collector since 1960 and had been paying more than face value for coins for over a decade, but I had never been involved with a coin club. It was there that I joined my first club, which over time led to membership in the New Jersey Numismatic Society. My association with those collectors was a real eye opener for me.


Before joining that organization I never realized how much the really dedicated collectors owned. The members of that club included (and please excuse my spellings) Herb Ocksner, Gilbert Steinberg, Herbert Silberman (one of the founders of the Early American Coppers club), Robert Shonfelder and Ernest Kucsh. All of these gentlemen have since passed on, and a couple of their collections were the leading consignments at auction sales that bore their names. But each of them in one way or another had an important influence on me as a collector. And I’m happy to say that I own a few pieces that were once in some of their collections.


Each meeting at the New Jersey Society featured a “show and tell” time in which each collector would bring something in that interested them. It was not unusual to see early gold coins, a 1793 Chain Cent or two and some very rare and interesting U.S. tokens.


Upon seeing some of these pieces I’d really get discouraged. How could I possibly ever build a collection that contained such wonderful items? Most all of them were well beyond my collector budget, and I really didn’t know where I could find such coins.


Around 1978 I came to the conclusion that my job in New Jersey was going nowhere if I didn’t get an MBA. I left that company, lived the life of an impoverished student and crammed 24 credits into two semesters to earn the degree ASAP. Upon graduation I got much better paying job in Boston, and as my income grew my collection took off. During the 1980s I purchased what is now the core of my collection over time. It took almost 20 years, but eventually I got to where I am today.


How did I do it?


Part of it was that I was not constantly trading coins back and forth. Even when prices were going up, I never was lured into selling for a short term profit. The only time I broke that pattern was when I sold a 1909 Proof set to raise money for the down payment on my first house.


Second, I often went against the grain. I almost never bought coins that were “hot.” I bought the stuff that was at least somewhat out of favor. For example I really got hooked on early U.S. coins. A couple dealers told me I was crazy because “That stuff would never go up very quickly and other coins would.” Still I let my collector instincts influence my purchasing decisions combined with a frugal, but not cheap approach to the market. Using that approach there was relatively little material that I sold because I got bored with it.


Finally I did collect with a purpose. My primary interest was type coins and only a very few date and mint mark sets. I would make lists of coins I wanted and would check them off as I located them. One time I ran across a list I had made years before. I was amazed to find I had purchased all the coins on that list, including some “dream pieces” like a 1799 $10 gold piece, over the intervening years.


And yes, like a lot of collectors I got lucky sometimes and ended up with some coins that I never dreamed I’d owned because I had enough cash and was in the right place at the right time.


So that’s how I got to be “the old guy with a lot of stuff.” It took some planning, dedication and some luck, but it’s been a fun ride, I hope I’ve got enough years left to complete some other goals that are still on my drawing board.

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Bill Jones, you have always portrayed yourself to me as a humble collector, much like the Kung Fu master who can never really show all of his hidden talents.


You have reached the pinnacle of perusing your dreams and by sharing those instances along the road with us, you are planting the seeds for future generations.


The seeds you are planting here are like this small fragile pine cone from the giant Red Wood Sequoia. If these seeds are nurtured correctly, they will eventually grow into yet another magnificent tree, where yet more seeds will be propagated and the sequence of life goes on.


You sir, are a Sequoia in the Numismatic community, standing tall and magnificent, dropping seeds so that others can grow.


There is much to be learned.


Thank you Bill Jones

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This is a fantastic post, Bill, and one that can truly help folks keep in mind a longterm perspective while also avoiding the trap of becoming easily discouraged. thumbsup2.gif

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Thanks Bill for the post.


Now that you've told us how to become a good collector can you tell us how not to get old?





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As others have said, thanks for the story and the information contained therein, a very good post with excellent points communicated based on your experiences.



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Great story and thanks for sharing. I have tried to maintain a focus (collecting with a purpose) but now that I'm down to needing just a couple coins to complete my set, I have gone months without buying anything. At those times I get antsy and start to think about buying something else instead of maintaining my funds for the coins I need. I have to keep reminding myself that if I spend my coin money on something else, I'll never get the coins I need.


I know I'll be very glad I kept my focus when I get my set finished but in the meantime... ooh, it can be tough.

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Thanks Bill, that was a great inspiration, as I have been just the opposite. I would buy stuff to make a profit and for the most part I have sold alot of what I had before I started buying to sell. I didn't make any money and now I don't have a whole lot of coins either. (Sobbing) It's time to get back on track.

Thanks thumbsup2.gif

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