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Itís Mainly a Hobby to Me
By Robert R. Van Ryzin, Coins Magazine
February 05, 2014

This article was originally printed in Coins Magazine.
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I recently talked to a friend I haven’t seen in several years. He suggested that, being “on the inside,” I must have profited greatly in the market. I haven’t, though I doubt he believed me.

I don’t buy coins or collectibles with the aim of making a profit. I did in the past, but nowadays I’m more of a collector. I don’t mind making a profit, like anyone else, but I buy items and collect them for the sake of collecting.

I think he thought that with precious metals having moved up in recent years, I bought and sold a lot of gold and silver at a profit. I did sell some silver and some gold, but I did that long before the market peak.

I can say that I’m happy I purchased an ultra high relief Saint-Gaudens one-ounce $20 piece when they were released in 2009. For much of the time since then the coin would melt for more than I paid for it.

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I’ve made some good buys in relation to items relating to the Comstock Lode in Nevada and, in particular, the Bank of California, a special interest of mine. Along the way, I happened to obtain a fiscal document from the 1860s that I didn’t know what was at the time of purchase. It was in a bulk lot that contained some mining-related items I wanted. It’s not mining-related, but it turned out to be quite rare, with only 20 to 25 examples known and a catalog value more than 10 times what I paid for the entire lot. But this great purchase was by chance, not by design.

Being in this hobby professionally certainly offers me a chance to follow the market closely, but I did that before I ever worked here. I’ve long been an advocate of the “buy the book before the coin” approach. Like the late Alan Herbert, a good friend and former work colleague of mine, used to stress, you should also make sure to read the book. Knowledge is the key to making wise choices in this hobby. Yes, you could get lucky now and then by making a purchase like the one I mentioned above, but without a good background it would likely be pure luck.

Frankly, with as many years as I have in this hobby, I was probably a bit overdue in that regard. But as a collector, you won’t find me boasting much about my the great deals I’ve made, because for the most part they’re great mainly to me, and that’s just fine.

Happy collecting.

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