I am a more or less steady reader of the New York Times and have been ever since I was in college. Today most of the articles of interest are on the Internet and I can capture them there. However, each Friday, Saturday and Sunday I buy hard copies so I can work at the crossword puzzles. If you are into crosswords you probably know that the Friday puzzle is fairly difficult compared to earlier in the week, and Saturday is most challenging of all. Then comes the large Sunday crossword, which is about medium skill, sometimes challenging, but usually fairly easy to do. In last Sunday’s New York Times there was a special section called “Collectibles: Historical Items from the New York Times Store. Bring History Home!” It is interesting that America’s highly regarded newspaper is going into retailing collectibles.

The problem is, of course, that when readership is in the millions — or whatever it is — finding enough collectibles to fill a substantial number of orders is almost impossible unless the collectibles are common. The Times seems to have achieved a mix. Scattered in the offering are some items that are either one of a kind or probably only exist by the dozens or hundreds, such as a Mickey Mantle autographed baseball for $995, an American Express stock certificate signed by James C. Fargo at $995, and a few other things. Most are items that could be acquired in unlimited quantities and really are not collectibles at all, but are items made in quantity. For example, for $249 you can get “Stadium infield dirt from all 30 ball parks in collector’s box.” This could be very useful, as if you tire of it you can always put it in your garden! Whether it is a “collectible” or not is debatable. Ditto for modern ship models. They might be collectible some day, but are they true collectibles now? Who knows?

In numismatics we have a pair of 1913 Buffalo nickels made into cuff links for $99.95. I would think that while the nickels themselves might be collectible no matter what the grade, as cuff links they would not be collectible. The same could be said for a “spectacular money clip that features a genuine John F. Kennedy half dollar minted from 1971 to present,” for $29.95. On the front page is another numismatic offer: “Morgan silver dollar set 1878 to 1881, San Francisco Mint.” The description: “These brilliant Uncirculated silver dollars were produced from Nevada’s famous Comstock Lode. Comes with a 32-page Times booklet on the Old West.” The price is $525. The New York Times might be interested in knowing that the value of Morgan dollars depends on their grades, and that if they are MS-60 they are vastly overpriced. On the other hand, if they are Gems they might be reasonable. Perhaps the accuracy in reporting the news championed by the publication might also be extended to descriptions of rare coins. However, who knows? For $525 someone might be getting a good deal or might be vastly overpaying. As to the booklet on the Wild West, interesting enough, but why not give a Whitman or other book specifically on Morgan dollars to get a collector started?

I am not meaning to be critical, but just to observe that one of America’s leading newspapers is devoting a special section to collectibles. Indeed, collectibles of all kinds have become the rage. In today’s faceless Internet society, not to mention life in which products and services are all alike in many instances, collectibles offer the chance to build a unique display. If I were to give ten people each a check for $1,000 and ask them to look through the Guide Book to select items of interest or, for that matter, to look on our website and make purchases, no two collections formed would be the same. In fact, it might be that no two of the collections even have the same variety. Indeed, collectibles are distinctive.

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