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Green Coins & Puppies

Tom Becker

I purchased a nice collection of ancient Roman coins and offered them as single items in my price list. The first person to call bought seven of the twelve. The buyer just happened to be the person who sold me the collection! He sheepishly explained that soon after depositing my check he seriously regretted selling his treasures. He'd thought about calling and canceling the transaction but that wasn't something a real estate broker could bring himself to do. A deal was a deal. The thought of making a large profit on the sale had gotten the best of him. He had no problem with paying me a profit to retrieve the coins he had sold me two weeks before.

At first, I was annoyed. I wouldn't feel right asking a “service charge” to return the seller's coins. He had immediately said yes to my offer. We were both big boys. As he'd stated, a deal is a deal. I was tempted to suggest I return the entire collection with the understanding that we not attempt to do business in the future. Then I remembered I wasn't doing business with another dealer. This fellow had spent years building his collection. I came up with a plan. Aside from the ancients, the collector had lots of other coins. I suggested what might work best for both of us was for him to review everything in his collection and to send me material he really didn't care that much about. He could take his time. I'd return the seven coins he regretted selling. I further explained that to me coins are merchandise. As it turned out, I ended up swapping seven neat coins for forty pounds of stuff. At least I made a profit.

I've mentioned this experience to suggest dealers and collectors can and should think of coins in different ways. As a dealer, it's not productive for me to get emotionally attached to a piece of inventory any more than it would be wise for a pet store owner to fall in love with the puppies. As a collector of coins you are allowed the luxury of loving these objects. It's a proper response that shouldn't be missed.

To often, collectors can become caught up in the wheeling and dealing of the marketplace and lose track of why they were initially attracted to the hobby. I remember pestering a collector in an attempt to get him to sell me his choice 1861 New Brunswick half cent. He reached into his pocket and pulled out several hundred dollar bills. He then made a statement I've remembered for many years, “ Compared to my coin, this stuff is common. There are millions of hundred dollar bills. I've never seen a better example of my coin.”

I often encourage collectors to think twice before making any purchase. It's just as important to seriously consider the implications before parting with a coin you really enjoy.


Tom Becker is a regular contributor to the Canadian Coin Reference Site, you can direct your questions directly to Tom easily by E-mail: or visit Tom's website @


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