I'm often asked if I have a job available. This question usually is posed by someone who would like to turn their hobby into an occupation. It's an appropriate question as many dealers and others involved in the business began as coin collectors.
From my perspective, the most practical job opportunities are available to those who can bring important non-numismatic skills to the coin business. Here are a few actual examples.
The People Person
I know of a retired real estate agent who now works part time in a busy coin shop. He could no longer continue with real estate sales due to mobility problems. He approached the shop owner with a list of tasks he could perform. The shop needed a through cleaning and improvement of the displays. Coins needed to be taken from shopworn containers and placed in new ones. The entire inventory could use a review and better organization. The books and supplies section had been neglected. He could help get new purchases prepared for sale. With him available to mind the store, the owner would have some time to run errands or maybe even take a day off. The potential employee suggested they give the arrangement a month long trial with him receiving compensation in the form of a store credit.
The shop owner couldn't resist the pleasant fellow's sales pitch-nor could the customers. The former real estate agent's pervious experience in dealing with all kinds of people was perfectly suited to his new job as coin shop counterman. Sales and repeat business increased. Without having to wait on every customer, the shop owner could spend valuable time buying coins and doing business with dealers. It soon proved to be a great arrangement for all concerned.
The Service Provider
I was immediately impressed when a young fellow sent me a business proposal. While providing printed samples of his work and suggesting I review some of his current listings, he explained why it would be beneficial for me to turn over my electronic coin sales to his supervision and maintenance. Regardless of value, he would create the listing, manage the sale and see to the fulfillment for X dollars per lot. He further went on to explain concerns about security would be limited because every coin would be documented and these items would be insured while in his possession. What sold me on the deal was his willingness to test the quality of his services on a limited basis. If he didn't immediately save or make me money there would be no reason to continue. I quickly reached the conclusion that aside from making a decent hourly wage this guy really enjoyed working with coins all day long while gaining lots of market knowledge and experience in the process. It soon proved to be a win-win arrangement.
I was attending my bourse table at a major coin show when a pleasant looking woman approached my table with a copy of my printed want list in hand. I offered a positive response when she asked if all the needs were valid. Business had been brisk and there was no time for me to leave the table and do some necessary shopping. A half hour later she was back to show me four coins that were on my want list. The grades were right and I made the purchase. Several hours later, she was back again. This time she had one coin to offer at my buy price and another that she hoped I could stretch a bit to buy. Again we did business. Several times during the following day, I was pleased to write her checks. The show had been great for selling and thanks to my spontaneous “helper” I'd been able to make some decent buys without ever leaving the table.
Near the end of the show I called “Coin Lady” over to my table. After three days of intense activity she looked tired but happy. After a few minutes of conversation, my suspicions were confirmed. During the event, she had been working the bourse floor trying to match lots of right coins to los of right buyers. This can be difficult work and requires a multitude of skills. Still, there is nothing quite like the satisfaction gained from attending a coin show with zero inventory and leaving with the same plus the couple thousand dollars or so you earned via no risk buying and selling. In my opinion, this is coin dealing at it's highest level.
The Numi Nerd
I once received a letter from a fine numismatist. This gentleman has forgotten more about coins than I will ever know. He is also an excellent writer. He suggested we work together to produce a new series of reference books. With all due respect, he could also dramatically improve the descriptions that appeared in my price list. I responded to his letter with a telephone call and we arranged a breakfast meeting at an upcoming coin show.
I wasn't looking forward to the meeting because I would need to explain to this accomplished numismatist that his considerable knowledge and associated skills were probably of value to only a select few rare coin firms in North America. I would need to tell him that for most coin dealers it's far more important to know how to buy and sell than it is to know about what it is you are buying or selling. If you can't get it bought or don't get it sold the numismatic importance of any object means nothing. As a merchant, I need to be most concerned about what other buyers and sellers know about the material I'm offering for sale. My favorite coin is the last one I sold for a profit.
I've mentioned the above to suggest my experience has been that those who are most successful at buying and selling coins for a profit possess abilities that are often common among those who would have done well at any enterprise. I can teach a person how to grade coins. I can provide reference materials that will list current coin values. There is a big difference between enjoying coins and enjoying the process of buying and selling them.