Len Augsburger published this review in today's February 2015 issue of The E-Gobrecht, the electronic newsletter of the
Liberty Seated Collectors Club. We're republishing it here with permission. Thanks! -Editor
month we review Robert W. Shippee’s Pleasure & Profit: 100 Lessons for Building and Selling a Collection of Rare Coins, recently published
by our good friends at Whitman. Let’s start with the cover price. This full-color book, 316 pages on glossy stock, is priced at a mere $9.95, and
honestly I don’t know how the Whitman guys do it. Let’s just say it’s a good deal, and let the readers enjoy.
Shippee formed a collection of U.S. type coins beginning around 1995, and sold it in 2007. Shippee evaluates the purchase and sale of each coin in
the collection (over a hundred), and is brutally honest about both mistakes and successes. I found it most refreshing as a collector’s view of the
market. Let’s face it, most so-called “market information” comes straight from dealers, who are incentivized to create any action at all, either on
the buy or sell side. Also, dealers don’t like painting a poor picture of the market, and so most of them don’t – depressing your customers is poor
business. Conversely, if you are selling coins, it is always a great time for your customers to buy them.
Dealers have another problem – much of their business is confidential, or it is proprietary information that they don’t want to share with
competitors. This limits their ability to be completely forthright, even they want to be. Coins are not like stocks – while auction prices are
public, much of the trade remains private. Shippee is unencumbered by these limitations – he tells you what he paid, what he sold it for, and his
opinion of why the coin “worked” or didn’t work.
Some examples taken from the Seated coins while give an idea of what the author is trying to do. An 1885 Proof half in PCGS PR66, held for nine
years, sold for the exact same as the purchase price. Shippee explains “I was seeking extra points for my PCGS registry set…It wasn’t exactly ugly,
but it had no pizzazz….Be sure you actually like the coins you buy.” An obvious lesson – don’t be a slave to the numbers on the slabs.
The 1849 dollar in MS64 was more of a success story. In this case, Shippee found an attractive coin in an auction, submitted a reasonable bid, and
the coin slipped through for much less than his maximum bid. The lesson here is to look for nice coins, bid reasonably, and good success will
occasionally follow. In this case, he purchased the coin for $9,200 and sold for $27,600, perhaps to a buyer thinking the coin would upgrade. The
book is full of such advice, and somehow it becomes more visceral when we are talking about actual coins bought and sold. One can pontificate on the
overall market direction, but you make or lose money on individual coins, and this book analyzes over a hundred such deals.
I have only one quibble with the book, and that is that Shippee sold his collection in 2007 into an extraordinarily strong market. While he freely
admits this, I think the point is not emphasized enough. His total investment in the collection was about $1 million, and the 2007 sale (which netted
$1.5 million), while a credit to his market timing, doesn’t reflect the recent ups and downs of the market. I doubt this book would have been written
if the financial return had not been so strong.
Readers may also find Shippee’s views on golf, interwoven throughout the book, not really applicable to the matter at hand. Personally I enjoyed
that part of it (each chapter starts off with a rather amusing golf joke), but being the sort of person who would buy a new television just to watch
the Masters via the latest technology, I am more amenable to such things. I thought on the whole the golf angle worked, and give kudos to Whitman for
being bold enough to allow just the right amount of whimsy into a numismatic volume.
For more information on the Liberty Seated Collectors Club, see:
Wayne Homren, Editor
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