James “Jim” Bucki has been a coin collector for over 30 years and specializes in modern U.S. coins, paper money and foreign type coins. His professional numismatic writing accomplishments including being the “Collector Tech” columnist for the ANA’s monthly magazine “The Numismatist,” a contributing writer for national coin collecting magazines and author/webmaster for the local coin club. He is well versed in all areas of numismatics, ranging from beginner to intermediate to advance. As a part time coin dealer he understands the coin collecting market and the subtle nuances of buying and selling coins. For Jim’s complete biography, click here.
Coin Update: When did you take over for Susan Headley who had been doing the About.com Coins column for several years?
JB: I took over for Susan Headley at the beginning of September 2011. I do not know why Susan left or where she went, but I wish her the best of luck.
Coin Update: How did you get the assignment from about.com? Were you recommended, did you apply with others, or by some other route?
JB: Prior to becoming the Guide for Coins at about.com, I was the Guide for Operation Technology. In fact, it was Susan Headley that encouraged me to apply for the Operations Technology position with about.com. My background and formal education is in computer systems and management of computer systems. I’ve always enjoyed writing and was willing to share my knowledge and experience with about.com readers. As for how many other people applied for the position, that is confidential knowledge that about.com does not share.
Coin Update: What are your duties associated with this assignment? I know you do articles and keep a blog, but can you give the audience an idea of how you go about your responsibilities–a taste of what it is like to be a numismatic writer?
JB: About.com is not my first numismatic writing experience. I am the current “Collector Tech” columnist for the ANA’s monthly magazine The Numismatist. Given my background in computers and technology coupled with my passion for numismatics this was a perfect fit. This all precipitated from attending the ANA summer seminars in 2010 where I bumped into Barbara Gregory the editor-in-chief. The rest is history.
Numismatics is not just a hobby for me, but it is a passion. I love sharing information and knowledge about the hobby with anybody that is willing to learn. Patty Finner, former Vice President at the ANA, got me started by teaching the Coin Collecting Merit Badge to the Boy Scouts in our area. We now do two Coin Collecting Merit Badge Workshops every year in connection with our local coin clubs shows.
For current news articles I subscribed to many RSS feeds that keep me abreast of what is going on in the numismatic world. I then further research the topics to ensure their accuracy and integrity and then pass that on to my readers via my blog on my homepage. Additionally, I am going to start attending national coin shows to get a pulse for what is going on in the hobby.
When it comes to writing longer feature length articles, I try to think of topics that would help people further their interest in, and deepen their knowledge of, coin collecting. For example, being the Scouting and Youth Activities Coordinator for our local coin club, has enlightened me that there are more “accumulators” of coins than there are “collectors” of coins. Therefore, I intend at the beginning of my tenure as the coins guide to focus on helping people set collecting goals, acquire coins to meet these goals and organize and store their coins in a meaningful way that will maximize their enjoyment of their coin collection.
I also plan on expanding on other topics within coin collecting such as specialization, errors and varieties, world coins, and ancient coins.
Coin Update: What coins do you collect, specifically, and which types and denominations are among your favorites?
JB: I currently like collecting modern US coins and commemoratives. I enjoyed digging through dealer stock to find the best examples for each of my collections (some people refer to this as cherry picking). I really like the Jefferson nickel series and consider myself a specialist. My proof Jefferson nickel registry set has won several awards from PCGS.
I am also working on a world type coin collection. To me, a “world type coin collection” is obtaining uncirculated examples of several coins (not every type ever minted by that country) for each of the over 200 modern countries that exist in the world.
Being a man of modest financial means (i.e. six children, with two in college) I can still have as much fun and enjoyment out of collecting coins that the guy who’s striving to collect a complete set of $20 gold double Eagles.
Coin Update: How can coin clubs, sites, blogs, associations and publications engage youth so as to generate enough collectors for the future?
JB: This is a topic that is very near and dear to my heart. When I was a kid, 40 some years ago, you just hung around coin shops and coin shows to learn about coin collecting. Also, when we wanted to play football or hockey, we just gathered up a bunch of kids in the neighborhood and played football or hockey in the street. Nowadays, parents want organized activities for their children, be it football or soccer or book club at the library, it must be organized.
Five months ago I started a Young Numismatists club that meets at every coin show. The activity is organized with “coin digs,” prizes and a short lesson on a different aspect of coin collecting. We currently have over 25 kids that come to almost every meeting. In fact it’s becoming an issue as to where we put these kids at our local coin shows (what a nice problem to have).
Being a teacher by trade, organizing and running this sort of event comes naturally to me. One methodology that we use in computers to educate a wide variety of people is what is called train-the-trainer. You can buy courses that come prepackaged with manuals, activities and books for the students. If one of the national organizations could create a train-the-trainer kit that local clubs could purchase at a minimal cost (or even free) and provide training to a coin dealer or hobby enthusiasts, this could get people across the country to create organized coin collecting activities for kids.
Coin Update: What are the biggest challenges or detriments the hobby may be facing today? Opportunities?
JB: One of the biggest challenges facing the hobby today is the proliferation of counterfeit coins coming from overseas. This is compounded by the fact that many of these coins can be sold anonymously through Internet auction sites and other online venues. These sort of unscrupulous people prey upon the unknowledgeable and this gives the hobby of coin collecting a bad name. All because somebody purchase something that was “too good to be true.”
The biggest opportunity that the coin collecting hobby has in front of it is the use of technology. This includes the Internet, mobile computing devices (such as smart phones) and social networks. We can choose to wait and let these opportunities with technology pass us by, or we can embrace them, guide them and use them to promote the hobby of Kings. By the way, if you haven’t noticed, kids are really into technology. If we want to get kids involved in coin collecting, we better “get with it!”
Coin Update: What are your favorite coin designs and by which designers and why?
JB: The Victoria gold Proof 5 Pound 1839 Una and the Lion coin and the St. Gaudens $20 double eagle. Both coins tell a dramatic story of leadership and liberty. The designs are simple and yet breathtaking when you carefully study them. I don’t own either of these coins, but they make great screensavers for my computer.
My favorite coin designer is John Mercanti former Chief Engraver at the US Mint. I got to spend some time with him last summer at the ANA summer seminars. We mostly talked about how technology has changed the minting of coins from when he started with the US mint with the plaster models and Janvier Reducing Lathe to the computer-controlled machinery that cuts the dies today.
Coin Update: In addition to writing for about.com., what other coin related activities to you do to keep sharp or engaged in the hobby?
JB: As mentioned above, I am the Scouting and Youth Activities Coordinator for our local coin club. My younger children are taking an interest in the hobby but they will probably follow the path of my older children and put it aside for a few years. This usually happens when they are bit by the fumes: car fumes, perfumes or locker room fumes (i.e. buy a car, get a girlfriend, or start playing sports). But my hope is that just like me, I checked out for a few years to play sports and go to college, and then eventually returned to the hobby when I was older and had time and some money.
Coin Update: Susan Headley did a nice job investigating counterfeit coins and being a consumer advocate. Will you carry on those traditions, or do you have other interesting ideas about how the column and blog should proceed?
JB: The consumer advocate part of the coins.about.com site is a pivotal part that must be maintained. A lot of this depends upon feedback from faithful readers that will contribute to the site. Additionally, the best consumer is an educated consumer. In other words, that the more people understand about coin collecting and how the hobby works, the better they will be able to make purchasing decisions and not get ripped off by the con artists that are out there. As we say in computer science, our toughest job is to protect users from themselves.
Coin Update: What grading companies do you patronize and why? Which do you avoid and why?
JB: I personally favor PCGS, although I also submit coins to NGC and ANACS also. These are the ones that I feel are the most trustworthy because when the big-ticket items come to market, they are usually in one of these holders. I know there are people that play the crack-out game to resubmit coins for a better grade. With that aside, I believe that PCGS is the most consistent third party grading company on the market today. ANACS on the other hand, provides a better variety and error attribution service than the other two. NGC on the other hand, won’t bodybag or “genuinize” your coin if there is a problem with your coin without offering their opinion on the grade.
Coin Update: Do you think the Internet is reducing patrons of onsite coin shows, as some believe they might be?
JB: I haven’t read any data on this topic so therefore I cannot commentate using facts. If you’re asking my opinion, which everyone has one, is that technology will only be a detriment to the hobby if we let it. If we embrace it, study it, and implement it, then it could be the driving force that will bring this hobby to a new generation. So let’s step out on a limb, and try something new to see if it works. “Technology. It’s going to be big!”
Coin Update: Any views about buying coins from eBay or Proxibid?
JB: I buy and sell coins on eBay all the time. Of course I have been burned, but those lessons are the best teachers in life. I hope to pass most of these lessons onto the readers in my coins.about.com column so they will not make the same mistakes. The most basic advice I could give is “if it’s too good to be true, it usually is” and “follow your gut, if it doesn’t feel right, run away.”
Coin Update: Anything else you’d like to add?
JB: If we don’t change the way we do things, we will go the same way as the VFW and American Legion by losing many members every year. So encourage the young people, let them try new things (without being negative or being a naysayer), maybe even let them fail because we all have failed in our lives and the older you are, the more failures you have under your belt. Eventually the young people will learn, especially from their mistakes, and they will turn into the future leaders of this hobby, but without them the hobby will die a slow and painful death. So stop reminiscing about the good-old-days and start creating the good-old-days that today’s youth will look back on 60 years from now.
Coin Update: THANKS!
JB: You’re welcome!