When Cherrypickin’….Use Courtesy and Respect!

By J. T. Stanton Many years ago, a dealer friend of mine indicated he would never allow anyone to cherrypick his stock, other than a few select people. Fortunately, Bill Fivaz (my friend and co-author in the Cherrypickers’ Guide) and I were among that select group, for reasons he went on to state. He did have a legitimate complaint regarding most of those who wanted to cherrypick his inventory for varieties.

His experiences are not unlike those of many other dealers. All too often those who typically are most interested in cherrypickin’ varieties totally disregard the dealer’s other and potentially more profitable customers. Many cherrypickers will take up space, time, and often walk away without a single purchase. Is that right? Is that fair to the dealer? There can only be one answer.

This topic came up during one of the ANA Summer Seminar classes I was instructing on Mint Errors and Varieties. As we talked about the art of cherrypickin’, I made the statement that courtesy, respect, and even common sense must be used at all times. Some may wonder exactly what I meant by that statement

Before I get directly into the courtesy aspect of this article, I would like to remind you that there is nothing wrong with cherrypickin’. We use our knowledge just as another dealer or collector would use their knowledge to buy the best coin possible for the money. A dealer who is trying to by an1892-S Barber quarter in fine condition for a client will usually cherrypick to get the best coin possible for the money. Many dealers, who have excellent grading skills, will often cherrypick coins that may be undergraded, thereby making a nice profit on the purchase. The art of cherrypickin’ has been occurring for decades in our hobby.

But when the term “cherrypick” is used today, most hobbyists naturally think of those who search for the varieties among the stock of normal coins. Those of us involved with varieties have studied long and hard for the knowledge we have. However, to make the most of this knowledge, we must use some common sense, and we must always respect any dealers’ main objective – to make a profit. They are at shows and in the coin business to make money to support their families. This is their livelihood, and we must respect their time and space at all times. If you don’t feel that can be done, don’t consider cherrypickin’ for varieties. Those of us who do respect a dealer’s time and space do not want a few inconsiderate people to ruin things for the rest of us.

There are a few “courtesy” pointers that I’d like you to burn into your mind. Remember that you are very likely a small customer for them. They can almost certainly make more money from another customer in a tenth the time they may spend with you. Remember that you need the dealers for cherrypickin’ – they could live quite well, thank you, without you!

If you have spotted a dealer whose stock you would like to search, and if that dealer is busy, simply go to another dealer for a while. If you are seated at a dealer’s table looking over their stock, and they start to get busy, let them know that you realize you’re taking up their space and time, in a respectful way, and that you will come back when they aren’t as busy. I promise the dealer will remember your courtesy and respect, and you’re more likely welcomed back when time permits.

I’ve often had a dealer ask what I’m looking for. I’ll generally tell them that I’m looking for various varieties, and that will usually suffice. Don’t lie. Never lie! But you don’t have to tell everything. However, if the dealer persists, I’ll usually tell them about a few of the more scarce varieties, and explain that there is a market for those varieties. Remember most dealers could care less about the varieties that aren’t listed in the “Redbook.” They will usually say fine, and you can continue looking.

However, the best case scenario is that you can teach this dealer something about varieties, and as you become better known to this dealer, and he or she to you, they may start to look for some of the varieties for you, and even save varieties they might find for you. Sure, you’ll pay a little more than the price of the normal coin for them, but far less than the actual value of the variety. In short, you’ve added a pair of eyes to your cherrypickin’, you’ll get a new supply for varieties and at prices that will enable you a nice profit. I even have dealers tell me to make the price, and I’ve had dealers ask for only the value of the normal coin.

I have a habit of something that I think is extremely important. If I’m at a dealer’s table, and if for some reason I need to reach into my pocket, briefcase, or lap, I’ll plainly open my hands above the table, turn them over and rub them together, then do what I need to do. I rarely say anything, and I won’t make a big deal of it, but I make sure it’s obvious. Why? The dealer will know for sure that you are not palming a coin. I do this with dealers I know well and dealers I don’t know. It’s now a habit. One dealer I know well actually told me one time I didn’t need to do that, he trusted me completely, but I simply explained it was a habit. He did respect that, and I’m sure he understood. The main point here is to never give any dealer any opportunity to even think you are doing something wrong. I’ve seen people who hold a want list or magnifier in their laps, then take the coin below the table’s surface, out of view of the dealer. That is very wrong, whether cherrypickin’ or not, and will often cause a dealer not to welcome you back. Always think of how you would want a customer to act if you were the dealer, and always be respectful. And be respectful even if the dealer may seem rude.

There are some other points to cover as well. Do not ever let a dealer feel cheated when you buy a coin, or you’ll never be welcomed back. Never brag about what you’ve purchased from a dealer if there is any way possible that can get back to the dealer. Always be polite and courteous, and being friendly never hurts either. Try to put yourself into their shoes once in a while. Usually, their main objective is to sell coins they have for a profit. Many dealers specialize in certain areas, and usually leave other areas to dealers with other specialties. We are the ones who know varieties best, and so they will usually leave this area for us.

One last tip; as a rule if I find a super variety for the price of a regular coin, and for some reason I don’t want the dealer to key in on that one coin, I will buy a few other coins at the same time to draw less attention to the coin that I really want. These coins will be coins I know I can get back a large percentage of my money quickly. Who cares? You’ll make a bundle on that nice cherry! Buy a couple of coins with firm markets, such as an MS63 Morgan, or a couple of proof sets.

Above all, always use courtesy and respect in all your dealings, never lie, and always act in a professional manner. You’ll make some friends along the way, and I will guarantee you’ll come out ahead in the long run!


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