Read The Fine Print
by Gary Eggleston
You could be new to
collecting coins or a veteran collector in search of
that special coin. You come across a dealer's
advertisement in a weekly issue of Coin World or a
similar publication that may hold the key to adding
to your collection.
However, in order to arrive at a competent decision,
you have to know not only what the dealer's
advertisement specifically outlines, but what it may
not state in the allotted ad space. It's important to
confer with the dealer who placed the ad for
First, there are two principal varieties of dealer
advertisements in hobby publications - classified
ads, which often appear in the back of a publication,
as in the case of Coin World, and display ads, which
are larger, descriptive ads that may appear with or
without coin photos and are distributed throughout
Most advertisements will include appropriate contact
information such as the name of the company, mailing
address, telephone and fax numbers, maybe an e-mail
address, and if there is an online Web site, the site
A dealer's advertisement may also list professional
numismatic associations, often reflected by inclusion
of the respective associations' logos, such as those
for the American Numismatic Association and
Professional Numismatists Guild.
Advertisements may be placed to offer products for
sale, but many also include solicitations to buy
material from collectors. Advertisements typically
not only include a description of the item being
offered, but also may include a photo. It's important
to note that if a specific coin is being offered, the
photo should be of the exact coin you will receive
following payment for the particular item.
However, a dealer's advertisement may offer generic
coins as singles or in multiple lots, such as bullion
coins or a Proof set. The photo used may just be to
show the design or packaging option and likely will
not be the exact item offered. It's crucial that you
check with the dealer for clarification if there is
any question about the coins being depicted.
Grading and pricing
The description for a coin usually will not only
include the price being asked, but also the coin's
grade. To economize on space, the grade generally
will be reflected as an abbreviation, such as F-12,
meaning Fine 12; EF-45, meaning Extremely Fine 45;
MS-65, for Mint State 65; and so on.
If the coin has been graded by an independent,
third-party grading service, that fact will be
disclosed in the ad, often in the form of an acronym,
instead of the full company name being spelled out,
i.e., NGC MS-65, meaning the coin has been graded
Mint State 65 in the opinion of the graders at
Numismatic Guaranty Corporation of America. Some
dealers offer only coins that have been graded by a
third-party grading service. Others may offer only
"raw" coins, where the grade assigned is in the
opinion of the dealer. Some dealers offer both raw
and certified coins.
The ads that include raw coins with a grade may state
what standards were utilized when assigning the
grade, be it the use of a grading guide such as
Photograde by James Ruddy or the ANA Grading Guide,
or the dealer's own interpretation of industry
standards. That interpretation may differ from dealer
to dealer, so it's important to check with the dealer
for verification and clarification.
Additional adjectival descriptions such as "premium
quality" are the opinion of the respective dealer,
and premium quality in one dealer's ad may not match
that description in another dealer's advertisement.
Again, clarify such descriptors with the dealer. If
there is no other indication of the grading service,
it can be assumed that the grade stated is that
assigned by the dealer; however, it's best to confirm
that with the company. Coin World advertising policy
requires advertisers to state in their ads what
grading system they follow. Be sure to look for this
Of course, it would be beneficial for a collector to
be acquainted with the various grading systems and
guides followed in today's marketplace. While pricing
is generally straightforward - a coin's price is what
it stated in the advertisement - exceptions exist.
Some advertisements, particularly those for
exceedingly rare coins where the acquisition price is
deeper than most collectors' pockets, may state the
asking price for a particular coin is "P.O.R.," or
"Price on Request." The "Price on Request" tag is
often placed on such coins to attract only those
seriously interested in possibly acquiring them and
having the financial wherewithal to buy such a coin.
Perhaps the biggest disclaimer placed in many ads is
that which states: "All prices subject to change."
Because of the time factor between when a publication
is printed and mailed and when it eventually reaches
a subscriber, the prices for some items may change
according to demand and market volatility. This is
particularly true with bullion items whose values
often change on a daily basis based on the intrinsic
value of the metal the items contain.
Similar information may be outlined in dealer's ads
soliciting to buy numismatic material.
It is crucial a buyer understand a dealer's return
privileges, other policies and guarantees before
making his or her purchase. A number of dealers will
incorporate their entire list of company policies
detailing shipping and handling costs, guarantees of
authenticity, grading standards, return privileges,
sales tax requirements and methods of payment
Shipping costs may be reflected as a flat fee or as a
progressive fee based on the total cost of the order.
Sometimes such fees are waived if the total value of
the order exceeds a certain level. Some ads will
state an unconditional guarantee of a coin's
authenticity and allow for its return to the dealer
in such cases.
Return privileges vary between dealers and the
conditions under which a coin may be returned may
differ. The dealer ad will often state the length of
time in which a collector may return the coins for a
refund. But it's necessary to determine with the
dealer whether that return privilege means for any
It's also important to know whether removal from the
original holder in which the coin is shipped negates
that return privilege.
It usually does, to protect the dealer from an
unscrupulous buyer who "switches" a coin and then
attempts to return a different coin than the one
purchased. Dealers living in states where sales taxes
are collected on coins and other numismatic sales
will state the rate in the ads and to whom the tax
applies - usually collectors who reside in the same
state as the dealer from whom they are ordering.
Dealer ads will also often include the methods of
payment that they will accept, such as credit cards
and which ones, personal checks and money orders. The
ad may also specify to where the dealer may or may
not be able to ship items.
Understanding a dealer's terms will help to better
ensure a smoother transaction for all parties
involved and increase the possibility of return
business for the dealer by the collector.