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Author Topic: Common Mistakes for Beginners  (Read 53666 times)

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Offline Lucas H

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Common Mistakes for Beginners
« on: August 26, 2011, 05:43:18 pm »
As this thread is for beginners, I thought some of the experienced collectors could share some mistakes they made as beginners or common mistakes they see beginners make.  I think my biggest two mistakes were:

1.  Trying to get a bunch of lower grade coins instead of a fewer nicer coins, and
2.  Buying from popular auction sites (ebay) before having a clue what I was doing.

To help our other new collectors, and new collectors to come, please list your first mistakes or common mistakes you see beginners make.  Nothing like learning from the mistakes of others.  If we come up with a meaningful list, this might make a good thread to stick near the top of "for the New Ancient Coin Collector."

Offline Aarmale

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Re: Common Mistakes for Beginners
« Reply #1 on: August 26, 2011, 05:51:09 pm »
Perhaps it should be mentioned that a common mistake for beginners who clean ancients is to strip all the patina to bare metal.  This makes the coin look unattractive and will reduce the cost.
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Offline rover1.3

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Re: Common Mistakes for Beginners
« Reply #2 on: August 26, 2011, 06:01:33 pm »
A common mistake is to copy-paste reference numbers found in the various databases, or in the collections of others, usually on reference works they do not own.
In the vast majority of cases, these reference numbers are inaccurate , because they only refer to a similar variety. This mistake usually leads to a chain disaster, because another inexperienced collector will copy-paste this wrongly given reference number for his own similar variety, and the same mistake is done again, and again, having as a result a plethora of wrongly referenced, misattributed coins.

Best regards,

rover
  

Offline areich

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Re: Common Mistakes for Beginners
« Reply #3 on: August 26, 2011, 06:28:23 pm »
I'll second what Rover said, the mistake in that is thinking that you need a reference number to be a collector.
A reference to a catalog you do not own is useless and will likely be wrong. Trust (almost) no one, don't copy references you can't check. There are a lot of coin sellers (and of course collectors) that also just copy and paste references and know little, sometimes nothing about the coins they sell. I once bought a Provincial coin from Phrygia from a known seller that was described as a sestertius of Livia, with a very obscure sounding reference. If you're a new collector you might think, 'here's a seller that has an extensive library and really makes an effort' when in reality he didn't have a clue.

Sure, the majority of dealers are not like this one but I try to list only references I have checked myself or people I trust have checked for me, when I put others in my gallery I enclose them in brackets, to check later when I have the book in question.

If you're a new collector learn to describe the coins as precisely as you can, identify emperor, mint, legends, bust, reverse type etc. You don't need a reference number at this point.

Of course there are numerous other mistakes but use your brain and some common sense when shopping and you'll do ok.
Andreas Reich

Offline Syltorian

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Re: Common Mistakes for Beginners
« Reply #4 on: August 27, 2011, 05:09:38 am »
- Don't assume a coin is from Julius Caesar just because the name "CAESAR" appears on it (not a mistake I have seen from beginners, but a ploy I've seen from some sellers).
- Don't buy coins from ancient sites as a tourist. They a) are most likely fake and b) might offer you a visit in the local jail. Possibly even both.



Offline Robert_Brenchley

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Re: Common Mistakes for Beginners
« Reply #5 on: August 27, 2011, 04:10:32 pm »
Get some books. More general ones to start with, until you know where your interest is going to be. Get both coin identification books and history; most of the interest is in understanding the coins and the historical background, rather than mere possession.
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Offline Bacchus

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Re: Common Mistakes for Beginners
« Reply #6 on: August 27, 2011, 04:43:07 pm »
Don't show your burgeoning collection to friends and family thinking they will be as impressed and interested as you are -- they won't be -- and their lack of enthusiasm will wear you down.  Stick to online communities of the enlightened or better still a local club if there is one.

Offline casata137ec

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Re: Common Mistakes for Beginners
« Reply #7 on: August 28, 2011, 08:43:41 pm »
One common mistake that I see (and used to make often) is getting too involved in rarity ratings. Especially RIC ratings. These books were complied long before Eastern Europe opened up. That r5 horseman now may have 200 brothers running around on the various sales sites.

Chris
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Re: Common Mistakes for Beginners
« Reply #8 on: August 28, 2011, 09:44:50 pm »
It is possible to buy coins on sites  like eBay, but a beginner can get into serious trouble. A seller with a thousand positive feedbacks and no negatives is not a sure thing as to authenticity of any coins. Check our fake seller lists here. Buy from Forvm.
finally, if the deal seems too good to be true...you know the rest.

Offline nogoodnicksleft

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Re: Common Mistakes for Beginners
« Reply #9 on: August 29, 2011, 02:31:51 am »
Quote
- Don't buy coins from ancient sites as a tourist. They a) are most likely fake and b) might offer you a visit in the local jail. Possibly even both.

To expand on this (as I discovered a few years back) some countries like Jordon have fairly strict laws with regards to the buying selling and exporting of antiquities so check your laws before buying any coins while as a tourist.

https://www.forumancientcoins.com/board/index.php?topic=58388.0

Offline SC

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Re: Common Mistakes for Beginners
« Reply #10 on: August 29, 2011, 05:10:33 am »
Many excellent pieces of advice.  Especially regarding books - I literally get 10 times the enjoyment out of my collection by being able to read about both the coinage and the history as by just possessing the coins.

I would add one: "Don't specialize too early."

That may seem at odds with people who say to focus, which I'll admit is important, but by not specializing too narrowly too early you will keep many roads open for the future. 

Some of my first puchases were lots - both uncleaned and just plain unattributed - from the so-called "Holy Land" region.  I was interested in Roman Imperial coins and these lots seemed like a good deal.  However, they included Greek cities, Seleucid, Ptolemaic, Judaean, Nabataean, Roman Provincial, Byzantine and Islamic (itself comprising a whole host of different types - Umayyad, Abbasid, Fatimid, Ayyubid, Turkoman, Ottoman, etc).  I now have separate collections of each of these types of coinage and own several books on each of these types of coinage as well.  While my main area of interest in late Roman bronze my overall enjoyment of the hobby has been increased greatly when I received these "extra" coins in lots.

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Offline Andrew McCabe

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Re: Common Mistakes for Beginners
« Reply #11 on: August 29, 2011, 05:24:07 am »
I'll second what Rover said, the mistake in that is thinking that you need a reference number to be a collector.
A reference to a catalog you do not own is useless and will likely be wrong. Trust (almost) no one, don't copy references you can't check. There are a lot of coin sellers (and of course collectors) that also just copy and paste references and know little, sometimes nothing about the coins they sell.

yes yes yes yes yes!!!! wise words andreas.

A reference to a book you yourself own  (e.g. "type is like Sear RCV 1234 but with head left rather than right, and with legend ending COS III rather than COS II") is of far greater numismatic value and demonstrates more serious numismatic study on your part than a copy-pasted reference, likely wrong, to a book you don't own and don't understand, and that your source may also not have owned or understood.

So you should refer to your own books, or to internet references which you can yourself check, e.g. "exact same type as acsearch.....".

This rigour, of referencing catalogues or internet sources which you actually have access to, forces you to LOOK and STUDY your coin and to note similarities and differences with your own reference sources. Eventually you may buy RIC. Then you will enjoy the pleasure from scratch of referencing a new book, which you can check yourself. But you may also decide you never need it.

Offline Andrew McCabe

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Re: Common Mistakes for Beginners
« Reply #12 on: August 29, 2011, 05:30:33 am »
I would add one: "Don't specialize too early."

That may seem at odds with people who say to focus, which I'll admit is important, but by not specializing too narrowly too early you will keep many roads open for the future. 


Spend the early collecting years in understanding what you like. Buy the best quality you can afford from a range of areas that interest you. There are no rules to start with. There is merit in assembling a collection of nice coins that ranges from Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Mediaeval, Renaissance, Enlightenment, and Modern eras, slowly and carefully, and then allowing the coins you have chosen to steer you down a collecting path for decades to come. You can still keep your representative collection. Just understand that whilst a representative collection of everything from Greek to Modern is a lovely thing, if it grows in size without any specialisation it can become a mish-mash. So there comes a time to stop a general collection and pursue a specific path.

Offline crawforde

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Re: Common Mistakes for Beginners
« Reply #13 on: August 29, 2011, 09:33:11 am »


Spend the early collecting years in understanding what you like. Buy the best quality you can afford from a range of areas that interest you. There are no rules to start with. There is merit in assembling a collection of nice coins that ranges from Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Mediaeval, Renaissance, Enlightenment, and Modern eras, slowly and carefully, and then allowing the coins you have chosen to steer you down a collecting path for decades to come.[/quote]

Great post, and what you say is probably true for most collectors of Ancient coins.  I will disagree on a small point, at the beginning, Quality (and Rarity) may not have nearly the importance they may acquire later on. 
At the beginning the most important aspects affecting my purchasing decisions were historical interest, and identifiability. 
For example, my first ancient coin purchases were Roman Republican denarii.  Then I picked up a couple Greek bronzes, after that interest kept moving east, no depth (except in Chinese), but plenty of breadth.  I did enjoy buying unattributed and/or uncleaned lots, the identification process is an enjoyable learning process that will push you into buying the reference books you need at the moment.  After a while focus just happens. 
Do NOT buy unattributed lots (or anything) at eBay until you are very familiar with a series, FORVM often has nice bulk lots for good prices, and you know they are genuine. 
Purchase individual identified Good Quality coins from a good source when you begin to focus, or when something pretty catches your eye.  Eventually you may notice that the last 5 or 10 purchases in a row were all in the same area.  Now, improve your library and prepare to dig deep :).
In the end the shallow representative collection can still bring enjoyment and historical perspective.
 I like to play a coin related game with my kids, we "buy" some "silk or tea" with a Chinese coin during a specific time period, then "trade and sell it " across the continent and into Europe (many possible routes) until we end up with a Roman coin in our hands.  Looking at the changes in fabric, designs, etc. and talking about them is fun.  We all learn a lot doing this. 
Numismatics is a deep field there is no end to what one do, just stay with what gives you joy.

Offline SkySoldier

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Re: Common Mistakes for Beginners
« Reply #14 on: August 29, 2011, 11:04:45 am »
When I started 20 years ago, I bought what interested me and used dealers I saw in Coins magazine or in The Celator.  I've never been a big Ebay fan, unless I've researched the seller, or see him on this board.  I was burned on Ebay but fortunately, it was under $100. 

I didn't start specializing until about five years ago.  I've also found that reading the books first (RIC, Sear, etc.) gives me a better feel for what I want and in which direction I want to go.  I really like Vagi's work because of the historical summaries of the emperors, which whets my appetite (until I get sticker shock).  Also, A.H.M. Jones' work on the later empire was a good read and an education on Diocletian's overhaul of the monetary system.  Hendy's works are also great for context as well.

In the end, even while I'm browsing within my specialty (Probus), I tend to buy what I like, especially provincials, and I've never been disappointed. 

Offline pitbull

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Re: Common Mistakes for Beginners
« Reply #15 on: August 29, 2011, 04:56:54 pm »
Not following the ongoing discussion of fakes/forgeries on the authentication/ fakes site here at Forum

I have learned a great deal about what to look for on coins to evaluate if the are authentic,  fakes or re engraved  for example

One can see The multiple types of junk that is waiting on ebay to deceive people such as them

That one can check the recorded fakes on file here etc. before buying

One can learn a lot about coins from various discussions such as over cleaning and corrosion real versus applied patina.

There are  daily pieces of information there for the taking.

I will add the many other sub sites here if time permits.  also provide a great deal of useful info.

It is impossible to stay here for long as a beginner and not pick up useful or interesting information

Gary

Offline Robert_Brenchley

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Re: Common Mistakes for Beginners
« Reply #16 on: September 01, 2011, 05:02:23 pm »
I've lost count of the number of times I've seen beginners post fakes of expensive coins here. My advice would always to start with the cheaper coins - the Constantines, perhaps, or Gallienus and Claudius Gothicus. That way you can learn, there's a great deal of interest to be found, and if you do go wrong, you haven't wasted too much money.
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Offline SkySoldier

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Re: Common Mistakes for Beginners
« Reply #17 on: September 04, 2011, 02:24:56 pm »
This is probably a mistake not limited to just beginners:  In relation to finding information, people are becoming more accustomed to "Googling" a topic and coming up with instant, superficial answers.  While the convenience is nice, our hobby has limited in-depth information on-line.

Entering a term in the search function of this board yields a gold mine of results; years of accumulated knowledge and wisdom from very experienced collectors and numismatists becomes quickly available.  This board, and the internet in general, is also a good starting point for bibliographic research. 

In the end, nothing beats knowing how to use footnotes and bibliographies for your own research, and attaining an easy familiarity with the literature found in journals and monographs.  A quick look at any of the RIC volumes we all use will yield a very useful bibliography for futher research.

Folks are too impatient for tedious research, and want their answers short, sweet, and right now.

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Re: Common Mistakes for Beginners
« Reply #18 on: September 04, 2011, 03:58:38 pm »
Wikipedia is a good source to get the real sources!

Offline rasiel

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Re: Common Mistakes for Beginners
« Reply #19 on: September 08, 2011, 01:25:04 am »
I have to disagree with a lot of the sentiments expressed so far. Just my opinion, of course, but I would say the only real mistake the beginning collector makes is losing interest because he/she rushed into a purchase that turned out to be a fake coin or one that was overpriced. If/when this is discovered there's a good chance that they'll be soured to the hobby from that point forward. This isn't exclusive to ancient coins as a hobby, it can and does happen every day buyers buying anything. No one likes to be taken advantage of and the one getting burned may lick his wounds by writing off that hobby/pursuit/interest as a market full of dishonest people and go on to the next thing.

So the only real mistake is not informing yourself beforehand sufficiently to avoid getting taken.

There's nothing wrong that I can see with buying the cheapest you can find on ebay. I did when I started out and the coins of course were junk but it fueled my interest anyway. So if it hadn't been for those scrappy $5 coins I likely would have never gone on to spend thousands later.

There's nothing wrong with going "ID crazy" either. To see this as an error is to misunderstand the psyche of a large segment of collectors. The reference id by itself may be meaningless but it serves a deep-rooted desire to "complete a set".

Likewise I see nothing wrong with specializing too soon or not gaining expert-level knowledge of the subject before buying your first coin. If you think about it, the more you impress on the beginner to do things some "right" way the more likely he'll just be turned off altogether. Collecting should be fun and rules are the very antithesis of fun. So I say buy whatever looks cool and you can afford but maybe learn just enough common sense to avoid getting robbed or stuck with a fake.

Ras

Offline mwilson603

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Re: Common Mistakes for Beginners
« Reply #20 on: September 08, 2011, 07:13:35 am »
Collecting should be fun and rules are the very antithesis of fun.

Sorry Ras, I don't agree with the statement.  As an example, in my younger days I used to play Pool at a high level, nearly playing for the English national team.  I thoroughly enjoyed my time doing it, and found it a lot of fun.  Although there were definitely rules surrounding how the game was played, and they never detracted from the element of fun.  In fact, without the rules the game would have been unplayable.
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Offline Dk0311USMC

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Re: Common Mistakes for Beginners
« Reply #21 on: September 08, 2011, 11:32:25 pm »
I have been collecting for just a few years now. The very first coins I bought were a handful of uncleaned LRBs.  In retrospect, my first batch were mostly slugs with poor details on a few, but I was very excited to have something dating from the Roman empire in my hand, seeing any details emerge.   I started grabbing random Roman coins where I could and researched who and what they were. That lasted for a little while, and I continued to buy uncleaned LRBs.

I guess you can say that I have refined my collecting, but you might not see it by looking at my collection.   I have lots of Romans, Greeks, some Byzantines and other random coins from Edward I, and  George III of England to Peter the Great of Russia.  Basically now I like to think of myself as a collector of history through coins. Any historical figure or historical time I am interested in, I try and get a coin of that person or from a region during a significant time.

 I have refined my Romans now to just collecting Emperors who are of particular interest to me. Emperors who I either like personally or that presided over the empire during interesting times.  That also includes the Byzantine empire, as it basically became a continuation of the Roman empire.  I do still enjoy cleaning coins sometimes, so I usually try to limit that to buying lots of uncleaned Large bronzes (usually first and early 2nd century) and I have a bit of a weakness for cleaning Greek coins.  I love the variety, and love finding out where the greek coins originated from.  Its always fun to find a batch dating back earlier than others. I also have a collection of biblical coins.  That collection can be also chalked up to wanting to collect coins from significant times people and places. I would probably collect antiquities if I had a place to put them, or could afford them.

So in a nut shell I feel like I am a collector of history through coins. Any notable figure that interests me that I can get a coin of, I probably will seek out eventually, as well with places and times that are of interest to me.   With that said.... I was in Venice on my honeymoon 5 years ago, and I just remembered that I am still on the look out for a medieval venetian coin, preferably with St. Marks lion on it!

Offline areich

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Re: Common Mistakes for Beginners
« Reply #22 on: September 09, 2011, 04:16:33 am »
I do agree with Ras and I think I've said it myself a couple of times. If you're new to collecting it is an exciting time and you should buy what you like (and can afford) and see where it takes you. If you use some common sense it's really not that hard. I went years before I bought my first fakes and in those circumstances they could have fooled a more experienced collector as well. Of course I did overpay for some of the common Late Romans I bought early on but not grossly so.

Collecting ancient coins is a fun hobby that can keep you occupied for decades but nothing can match the excitement of first starting out, when everything is new and you shouldn't ruin that by rules or listening to the advice of 'serious' and 'experienced' collectors.
Of course if you don't have much common sense and like to buy your coins from shady bazaars, online or offline, then maybe this approach is not for you. This is not aimed at anyone in particular.  :)
Andreas Reich

Offline mwilson603

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Re: Common Mistakes for Beginners
« Reply #23 on: September 09, 2011, 08:39:57 am »
Ras stated that "rules are the antithesis of fun".  That is why I disagreed.  It's all well and good saying go forth and buy whatever as you are a new collector, but there have to be some rules.  Whether the rules you impose on yourself are "don't spend more than $x" on a single purchase (as Andreas alluded to in his post), or "don't clean uncleaned coins with a sledge hammer" doesn't matter.  These types of rules shouldn't be the "antithesis of fun", but merely help maintain the element of fun for the new collector whilst they find their own direction.
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Offline areich

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Re: Common Mistakes for Beginners
« Reply #24 on: September 09, 2011, 12:13:37 pm »
Of course I had rules, very strict ones even. One of them, and I followed it for a few years, was 'don't buy from shady Ebay sellers' and my definition of 'shady' included sellers who couldn't spell properly. I'm no longer as strict now that I am more confident in my own abilities to spot fakes.
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