Q. What’s the Difference in a Coin Dealer and a Numismatist?

October 26, 2019

A. One of them makes a profit.

Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration. We know some talented numismatists who are quite successful coin dealers as well. And we grudgingly admit that we like to turn a few bucks as well.

But we are in this as much for the knowledge as for the bucks–and certainly prefer knowledge over a fast buck! A perfect example of the difference is our British Monarchy seven-piece silver medals set produced—sometime between 1936 and 1952, we guess—by the longstanding medalists John Pinches Ltd of London. We could have sold that set months ago, but we wanted to take the time to research the medals, the maker and designers, examine and describe them in detail, and ascertain if any of them are listed in Christopher Eimer’s excellent British Commemorative Medals and Their Values reference. (They’re not, but some similar medals are, and man, is that a gorgeous book with all the full-color plates!)

Another example of the difference comes to mind. We made a fairly random purchase off of eBay about 18 months ago, of a gorgeously toned, late-19th-century Mint State Mexico 8 reales coin (basically a Mexican silver dollar). That led us to meet a nice dealer from whom we bought another two dozen splendid Mexico 8 reales, all Mint State (including one incredible MS66 coin). They were not cheap—but they gave us a reason and the opportunity to buy the marvelous Resplandores reference by Dunigan and Parker, the hard-to-find two-volume Whitman Encyclopedia of Mexican Money, and the even-more-elusive Guide Book of Mexican Coins 1822–Date by Buttrey and Hubbard. And to learn something of the history of the 14 mints and dozens of assayers who left their hallmarks on these coins. It was time very well spent, when you can handle and learn about coins like this.

Back to the British medals set: A coin dealer would have taken the first decent offer. But a numismatist is someone passionate about coins, medals, exonumia, Conder tokens, Hard Times gewgaws, 8 reales, gold sovereigns, or what have you—someone who invests the time to not only love, but to learn as much as possible about the material.

Moral: Learn to love your coins. And love your coins, to learn them.

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