One thing that seems to be happening all across American business
is change. Nothing is standing still. The status quo doesn’t count.
While you cannot eat (but can order) a hamburger or sandwich on
the Internet or sleep in a hotel room in cyberspace (but you can
reserve a room), it has been the greatest force in reducing
merchandising shops and storefronts the world has ever known. If as a
young dealer I went to New York City, the Yellow Pages would have
listed many dozens of dealers. It would have taken about three days to
“do” them all. Today, I dare say that a day would suffice. Today
nearly all the shops are gone, replaced by Internet sellers.
Auction houses have seen a transition as well. At Stack’s Bowers
Galleries as well as with our esteemed competitors, a handful of
people might attend a sale in person, while countless thousands
“attend” on the Internet. Twenty years ago a typical auction gallery
was often packed wall-to-wall and the auction house often needed to
set up extra chairs. No World Wide Web was in general use.
Since the founding of Professional Coin Grading Service in 1986,
more than 100 commercial grading systems have been established. Now,
it is PCGS and Numismatic Guaranty Corp., a duopoly, plus some
leftovers for everyone else. Perhaps the confusion of having too many
services available has prompted this consolidation. Against the real
competition of cyberspace, innovation is essential for the continued
existence of any bricks-and-mortar business, whether a store or a
publishing business. I won’t mention the sorry state of the U.S.
Postal Service’s thousands of offices.
Happily, the Internet has not replaced everything. The Guide
Book of United States Coins has grown in circulation in recent
times, perhaps because it is easier to go to this single source than
to look up prices on 10,001 assorted Internet sites.
I like to think that Coin World, dominant among the
weekly numismatic publications, will be around for a long time, for it
continually produces new ideas — such as the special monthly issue you
are reading now.
Both Coin World and A Guide Book of United States
Coins are available on iPads, Kindles, Nooks and the like.
However, I for one hope that printed hard copies are around for a
long time to come. Hmm.
Q. David Bowers is chairman emeritus of Stack’s Bowers Galleries
and numismatic director of Whitman Publishing LLC. He can be reached
at his private email, firstname.lastname@example.org,
or at Q. David Bowers, LLC, Box 1804, Wolfeboro, NH 03894.