Numismatists 10 Commandments

For this week’s blog I turn the microphone over to Albert H. Wick who wrote this in 1948 for The Numismatist. Much of it still rings true today, 65 years later:


A Numismatist’s Ten Commandments:


(1) Become a Numismatist: If you have that interest and desire to collect coins, then become a real numismatist. Join a local coin club, to trade and meet friends interested in the same hobby. Become a member of the American Numismatic Association, and receive The Numismatist, monthly. It knows all and tells all.


(2) Be a Numismatist: A numismatist is a specialist in the science of coins and medals. To be a specialist you must know something on the subject, and to know something you have to study. Read, study, get every available information on coins, so that you may know all about your coins, their history, data, statistics, values and prices, past, present and future. Then when the opportunity presents itself you will have something to say. When you are offered a coin at a price, you will know its true value.


(3) Be a Practical Numismatist: At some moment you will decide which coins most interest you. Specialize in them. Complete their series in the best condition available. Those less desirable coins will be replaced in better condition at your first opportunity. When you have completed a series, start another. Many a collector has started with ‘cents.’ Don’t be a junk collector, beware of stragglers, coins which do not fit into your collection. Remember you are a numismatist.


(4) Respect Your Coins: Keep them properly in an album, or in cases, in an envelope, wrapped in cellophane or tarnish proof paper. Always handle a coin by its edge and not its surface. When you acquire a coin, put it in a new envelope, properly marked and catalogued. Save the old envelope for future reference. Never clean a Proof or Uncirculated coin. A circulated coin properly cleaned may fit better in your collection, and is sometimes permissible, but remember that you have fine old coins in your collection today, because the other fellow, a hundred years ago, properly took care of his, and you have a similar duty to perform.


(5) Respect Your Collection: Don’t envy the big collector. He was small once too, but has been at it a little longer than you have. Only the plutocrat can collect all the Proof sets. You may be getting more pleasure out of your circulated Indians than he is from his patterns. And besides, they are easier to get. Keep at it long enough and you will have a big collection.


(6) Respect Your Hobby: Don’t get excited, don’t rush. You are in it from now on. Select your coins carefully and wisely. You need not fill that board overnight. When you bid on auction, don’t bid them all low, in hopes of catching a sleeper, and end up with none at all. Get a coin as reasonable as possible, but respect the other fellow too. To acquire a good numismatic treatise, will give you as much pleasure as adding a new coin.


(7) Respect Your Fellow Numismatist: Either have a good word for the other collector, or say nothing at all. Don’t talk scandal, or knock the other man’s collection, that only belittles you and gives him free publicity. He collects what he wants; you collect what you like.


(8) Deal With a Numismatist: Become acquainted with reputable dealers through your club meetings, or by mail. By following the other club meetings throughout the country, found recorded monthly in The Numismatist, and in its advertising pages, you will learn the names of those prominent. Write them, know them. They may specialize in coins you are collecting, and can help you. You will find them fair.


(9) Help Other Numismatists: Learn all you can about coins, so that you can talk intelligently about them to others. If you know something of value, tell your friends at the club. Write The Numismatist and give your views; they gladly express theirs. Any help you can give to a new or prospective collector will repay you many times in added pleasure. A kind word or deed pays compound interest. Bring new members into your club. Do everything you know will be an uplift to the honorable hobby of numismatics.


(10) Be a Good Numismatist: Be fair, be honest, be patient. If you find yourself in the position of selling coins, do not take unfair advantage of your buyer. You’re not trading horses. State truthfully what you know or believe about the condition of the coin. To overcharge may mean the loss of both a friend and customer. If you are buying, don’t expect it for nothing, explaining that it isn’t rare or worth much, only to find, after it becomes yours, that it’s ‘exceedingly rare,’ ‘worth plenty,’ and soak it to the next one. If you are buying or selling from a dealer, bear in mind that he must have a certain, fair margin between buying and selling to work on, so be reasonable, fair, and considerate. What is still better, be wise as to the true value of the coin in question by knowledge. By knowing through study of facts, statistics, and prices exactly what a coin is and has been priced by dealers over a period of years, you are in a position to know its fair value. In short, be a numismatist. 

Albert H. Wick

January 1948

Join our mailing list

Don't miss an auction!

Subscribe to our newsletter.


Contact Us

West Coast Office • (800) 458-4646

Midwest Office • (800) 817-2646

East Coast Office • (800) 566-2580

[email protected]

Hong Kong, China Office • +852 2117 1191

[email protected]

Global locations

Additional representatives
available worldwide.

* Walk-ins welcome

Follow Us

Subscribe to
Our Newsletter

We are sorry, an unexpected error occurred!
Please enter a valid email address

I'm Interested In...

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Stack's Bowers Galleries e-newsletter.