By Ron Stefik
Consider this “horror story” of what can best be called unethical treatment of uninformed public members selling to advertised – and often travelling – “professional buyers” of coins, gold and silver.
An elderly woman, obviously in poor health, slowly approaches a table where two men are seated.
“I saw your ad in the paper and brought in some coins that we have had for many years,” she says. “A few extra dollars would certainly help with the rent this month.”
The men lean forward in anticipation. Among the bag of loose Canadian silver coins is a 50-cent piece with a date of 1921.
“We are willing to buy all these coins from you and will pay you six times the face value. For a 50-cent coin, that is three dollars,” states one of the men in a voice that sounds as though he is doing her a favour.
No law has been broken. There is no requirement that a “gold and silver buyer” pay based on a percentage of current bullion price, let alone the numismatic value.
With it being “seller beware,” is it the job of the news media to help educate the public about selling their coins and banknotes? Newspapers profit from selling advertising and distributing flyers, so this might not be something they investigate on their own.
Coin clubs are non-profit organizations with mandates to preserve and educate. When the club I belong to hosts its annual show, the free public evaluation table is very popular. Using our specialized knowledge to provide unbiased advice is a great way for clubs to serve their communities.
Do clubs also have a place to actively speak out, educating the public, especially regarding “limited time opportunity” buyers? The opportunity is for the buyer. Think about submitting a short article to your local newspaper – common advice is to seek at least two offers before selling.
If your club is like mine, when contacted, we will provide guidance on preservation (and to those seeking to sell, options on how they can ensure a reasonable price is realized).
In one case last year, we were contacted by a local resident who owned an Australian “holey dollar” with a written family history of ownership. He was advised on suitable auction venues and a likely estimate, and he planned to use the funds from the sale to help finance the education of his grandchildren.
A good deal done.
Ron Stefik is the vice-president of the Victoria Numismatic Society.