Ten Things to Do Before and While You Visit a Coin Shop

April 22, 2013

We've just returned from a multi-day coin hunting trip that involved visiting multiple coin shops in search of that elusive gem or spectacular error. We make this sort of trip three or four times a year and try to be as prepared as possible to maximise both our enjoyment and the quality of our finds. We thought it might be worth talking quickly about the 10 things that we (and you) should do before you visit a coin shop and what you should do when you are in there. Here they are.

Don't Search Hungry (or Thirsty)

We've spent nearly 4 hours in some coin stores and it's important that you focus on what you're there to do. So make sure you eat properly before you start your search and make sure you take a drink. But please be careful with it and again be polite and thoughtful. Some dealers won't take too kindly to you leaving an open can of drink sitting on their counter. Consider taking bottled water that you can open, drink, and then put back in your bag. Be careful about eating in coin stores, some shops will not allow it. Also if going for your backpack of handbag whilst viewing coins then be sure to be visually open about it so it doesn't appear deceptive. Some coins shops will watch over your browsing and others who know you might attend to other things. Remember you're likely on candid camera!

Take Your Supplies

Make sure you've packed what you need for the visit. This includes your loupe, your coin catalogue, spare coin holders such as SAFLIPS, notepad and pencil, your want list, and a drink. Modern technology allows for a couple of other tools that can be very useful too. We've taken an iPad with Internet access along with us from time to time so we can look at auction records for obscure world coins. We've also done searches for coin varieties which are not typically listed in catalogues. Having access to the Internet like this has proven to be extremely useful and if you can do it we highly recommend it.

Know What You're Looking For

Coin collectors tend to have eclectic tastes and collecting habits. Some collect by date, some by type, and some just a coin because it appeals them in some undefinable way. If you have troubles controlling your spending then it's always best to go into a coin shop with a definite idea in mind. This could be as focussed as "Australian 1928 Shillings", a less restrictive "QE2 Pennies", or a quite broad "UNC or better Australian Pre-Decimals". Whatever your focus is, whether narrow or broad it should be something you think about BEFORE you set foot in a coin shop.

Set Your Budget

It seems obvious but you should know how much you can afford to spend before you start looking at coins. Set yourself and budget and stick to it. There's nothing harder than looking at a desirable coin you know you can't afford and wanting it anyway. But do yourself, your family, and your wallet a favour and only spend what you can afford.

Be Polite. Be Polite. Be Polite.

This is possibly the single most important tip we have. Building a relationship with a dealer is one of the most important things you can do and the first step to this is being polite. Introduce yourself when you arrive and if you've travelled to see their shop let them know! Make sure you leave counter space while you look, don't degrade or downplay their coins. If they show you a coin and you don't like it, a polite no thanks is much better than "oh it has so many problems and it's been cleaned and it's over-graded". Ask politely to see various types of coins and make sure to say thank you for their help and don't haggle too strongly over prices until you know that coin dealer well. And of course. Be. Polite.

Prioritise Your Search

If, like us, you have broad collecting interests then you're going to want to look at a lot of coins. Potentially thousands. There's no point pretending you can give each and every coin the same attention because the longer you look the more fatigued you get and the more mistakes you're likely to make. So, prioritise your search to look at the most important, most costly, or most desirable coins first. Leave the less important stuff till later in the search when your back is hurting and your eyes are getting tired. When we look for coins we always look at Australian Pre-Decimal coins and error coins early on because these are the coins we want the most. What's your priority?

Don't Be Scared to Put a Coin on Hold

Sometimes you'll come across a coin that piques your interest and you won't know whether to buy it or not. Perhaps it's some high grade world coin you're not familiar with, or a peculiar "error" that you need to look into further, or a strange variety you've never seen before. If you've been friendly with the staff in the coin shop they shouldn't have a problem with you asking to put the coin to one side for a day or two so you can look into it further. Make sure you take detailed notes on the coin and be sure to ring the shop and tell them to return the coin to stock if you decide you don't want it.

Be Prepared to Take a Break

We're all human and a few hours of peering closely at tiny coins wears us out. Don't be scared to ask the coin dealer to put your potential purchases to one side while you take a break. Go for a walk around the block, get a coffee, or go eat lunch. Then head back in and start looking again with a rejuvenated set of eyes.

Re-Check Your Finds BEFORE Settling Paying

It's been a slog but you've found a great coin shop with staff who were prepared to let you turn the shop upside down and look at every coin in the place. And you've got a pile of coins in front of you that you're going to buy. Take a breath and before you settle up look carefully at each coin again. Examine each for problems and for things you may have missed the first time you looked a them. Many times we've both fallen in love with a coin and then an hour or two later when the romance has cooled and we're evaluating our possible purchases we've looked at it again and noticed hairlines, or ugly spots. So check your potential purchases again BEFORE paying and put aside anything you're unhappy with.

Work Out What you Owe BEFORE Asking for a Final Figure

Most coin dealers will work with you on price, especially if you're making a decent sized purchase or paying in cash. You should know what you're going to be paying for your stack of finds BEFORE the dealer gives you a figure and should work out what counter-offer you're going to make if the dealer asks for full retail. Of course BE POLITE when making a counter-offer. There is, of course, one other reason to know what you're going to spend and that's to ensure you don't blow your budget.

Posted by mnemtsas at April 22, 2013 8:46 AM
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