A QUESTION I can count on hearing from stamp and coin collectors everywhere I go is, "Can you recommend a reputable dealer who will pay a fair price for my collection?"

One woman wrote asking how she should go about selling the antique doorknobs she'd gathered over the years. I told her I wasn't able to "handle" that type of collectible. A-hem. (Sorry.)

Anyway, I don't direct sellers of stamps or coins to specific buyers because there's no way to know the reputation or ethics of every dealer. I am, however, intrigued by the prevalent concern about "being taken." It sometimes seems as if everyone who writes has, at one time or another, felt as though they've been "taken" by a stamp or coin dealer. I certainly don't blame people for being cautious.

One group actively addressing the problem of coin dealer ethics and guidelines is the Washington-based Industry Council for Tangible Assets (ICTA). Recently, they announced plans to conduct a study exploring the development of a national certification program for numismatics dealers.

I recently spoke with ICTA chief Howard Segermark about this project. "We're taking a look at a leadership role in industry self-regulation," he said. "The coin industry will best be served if self- enforcing standards can be developed from within, rather than sitting back and waiting for the federal government to step in and regulate for us."

I agree. With over $5 billion spent annually in the coin industry, numismatics is far from a (sorry again) nickel-and-dime operation. Although many numismatists are comfortable and confident when they buy and sell coins, countless less-experienced coin investors and collectors could benefit substantially from such a plan.

ICTA project director Trish Butler said the program proposal "may also recommend an elaboration of ICTA's educational program, {including} an aggressive program of consumer education."

I feel any guidelines would be best structured by the collectors, whose interest and money are what keep these hobbies going. I would be interested in hearing your ideas, recommendations or comments.

Mail to Peter Rexford should be sent c/o Weekend, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington DC 20071.