I remember when I had to search for months, even years to find a few coins I needed for my sets. I would comb through the retail catalogs of a couple of the larger coin dealers, attend local coin conventions, drive across town and hit all of the good coin shops, and even telephone some trusted dealers back east on occasion. Coin collecting was at times a frustrating hobby for the less patient.
Enter the computer era. In less than five years, the Internet has rocketed from a source of shared information that computer users could access at the unbelievable speed of 14,400 bytes per second, to a stylized hub of millions of commercial, information, entertainment, and self-expression web sites accessible at speeds that leave a vacuum trail. With sites like eBay, Coin Universe, and online coin dealers and auction houses, I'm able to peruse the ether for any coin or collectible I might be looking for. Often, an included digital photo of the item will help me to decide. The methods are not fool-proof, but they extend convenience to the point where the risk might be worthwhile.
Although it may take a long time to assemble a collection, nothing is better than picking up a coin or collectible in your hand and studying it carefully before buying it. But for the web-savvy collector, hidden treasures are much easier found in the surf....