Hot Topics

Journal entries from the founder of Legend Numismatics, Laura Sperber, help you stay current with the real happenings of numismatics.  A former ANA Board Member, Laura has handled close to $1 billion worth of rare coins to date and has assembled many of the greatest collections ever. Her views and opinions are as "inside" as you can get. Warning: ALL her Hot Topics articles are pretty blunt!

PASSIONATE LETTER FROM A COLLECTOR

We all wish coin doctoring  would stop. The damage it has done to coins is horrific and in our minds is criminal. I have for ever been what seems like a lone wolf in the effort to stop the bad guys and this destruction. All I  ever hear from other dealers: just don’t buy the coin. So WRONG! This is an issue that needs to be stopped today (we admit it is much less then it was a few years ago). Legend certainly tried hard to make this effort work. Maybe one day, one of the greatest harbors of coin Docs-the PNG (in my opinion) will care and they will start to punish their ilk (this is why I will not join PNG).

We were chatting with a good customer and friend about this topic. He was especially unhappy with coins he sees in an upcoming auction. I suggested he write a letter for Hot Topics. He did, I read it, and it made me tear up. I hope you enjoy this letter-and feel free to copy it.

Hot Topic – For The Love Of History

“History is the road map to a better tomorrow. Destroying it is getting rid of any chance of what not to do for future generations.”  Jason E Hodges

I am collector and visiting author to this rendition of Hot Topics.  I, like most of you likely visiting this site today, have a love and passion for numismatics and history.  I truly believe our noble hobby is the appreciation, preservation and caretaker of some the greatest legacies and rarities of our heritage as a country.  Nothing can be more exciting or rewarding if taken seriously.

Therefore, I am saddened and outright angered by those who would choose to willingly destroy incredible treasures for there own short term gain.  I am talking about those who artificially tone, clean, whizzed, tool, dip or manipulate a coins surface.  Most of us understand that decades ago in our profession dipping or cleaning coins was considered common practice and even encouraged in some cases.  Some of our most renowned collectors like Louis Eliasberg were even known to believe dipping or cleaning a coin’s surface to be a wise practice. I own one such coin myself and often find myself wondering what this beautiful specimen would be like with its original skin intact, but I digress.

I recently went through this year’s FUN Auction preview and was frankly astounded at how many coins up for sale had been altered, colored or improperly cleaned.  In my preferred coin collecting series I counted 22 of 74, almost one third, of all coins had been destroyed.  I am not talking about the ravages of history and wear, but rather human alterations done for some nefarious reason.  These are the coins that have been properly encased and labeled allowing a buyer or collector to make their selection with their eyes wide open.  Worse yet, are many more coins, that to a trained eye, are clearly retoned, cleaned, dipped and not labeled as such.  I counted in my series another 9 of the 74 that met these conditions bringing the total to just under half of the coins sadly having been destroyed by human intent.  I also saw entire collections submitted that almost every coin had been altered in some way.  

We could all just hang our heads and simply state Caveat Emptor or accept that this as just commonplace within our hobby.  I for one choose not to look the other way.   We need to root out this activity and those who choose to practice it.  Even if you don’t accept the high mantle of believing we are caretakers of history for just a little while, then surely we have some responsibility to protect new or unseasoned collectors who do not know better or are unable to identify this scourge activity.  Much has been written and discussed about where our hobby’s next generation of collectors will come from, what will inspire them, how will the torch be passed.  Every day that unscrupulous dealers or individuals continue to tone, dip or mess with our national treasures is another slow solemn piece of history lost and perhaps one possible new collector chased away by a lack of quality opportunities to begin a collection.  Imagine the outcry if someone broke into the hallowed halls of our beloved Smithsonian or Metropolitan Museum of Art and willfully destroyed sacred historical relics or pieces of art.  Yet, we collude with this same type of activity by simply looking the other way as heinous individuals within our hobby choose to demolish one by one the great and rare coins we so adore. It must stop and only those who love this hobby can stop it if we so choose to collectively lean hard against it.  

Our history is not obscure or unimportant.  We likely all joined this beloved hobby, or for some even this profession as a dealer, because of our excitement for and devotion to beautiful rare coins.  We have an obligation to history, fellow collectors and future generations of numismatists to do all we can to preserve it. History matters and ensuring we are good stewards of historical rare coins helps us preserve our past and allows for a greater influence over our future. 

Signed,
For The Love Of History
Again, myself and Legend thanks our friend for taking the time out to share his thoughts about all this.  We know he is not alone in his thoughts. We only wish more people would speak up so we can keep the pressure on. One day we will fully rid the system of the rats and cheaters. One day.

Reply to Article

test site