Breaking down 'the 5-year wall' cultivating new collectors

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Published : 05/14/13
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Our hobby has gone through dramatic changes in the past 75 years. But, as hobby stalwarts Ken Bressett and Clifford Mishler noted during their May 4 presentations at St. Louis’ Newman Money Museum in honor of the 75th anniversary of the Missouri Numismatic Society, an event co-hosted by the Central States Numismatic Society, one pattern has persisted.

Collectors have an instinct to collect and whether it is a new collector or one re-entering the hobby after a break, after a few years a person either dives deeper into collecting and continues his or her journey, or leaves the hobby.

Bressett called it “the five-year wall,” that time during which a casual interest in coin collecting gets nurtured and develops or dies out.

How does our hobby break that five-year wall?

Mishler acknowledged that in entering and staying in the hobby, “we all come into it and exercise it from different perspectives.” He added that young males stay involved in the hobby after being introduced to it at a young age, until they pick up the scent of two things: gasoline and perfume. Today’s noisy distractions that can keep a young person from enjoying our generally quiet, contemplative hobby are too numerous to mention.

As a person who has stayed in the hobby since I was 8 years old, with only a few relatively short breaks for school, I credit a few different factors. First are parents who have to support a child’s interest in this hobby by taking him or her to coin shops and local coin shows. Next are local coin shops that still serve as the entry point for many collectors. Also important are publications that educate collectors on what there is to collect and how to buy coins. Finally, organizations at all levels help connect collectors, whether it be geographically or through collecting specialties.

In my part of the presentation at St. Louis, I related that my initial foray into coins was a rather lonely pursuit. That all changed — five years later — when I went to my first American Numismatic Association Summer Seminar as a 13-year-old and met other young collectors, many of whom I still call friends today. For me, the connection with other young collectors is what kept me involved with the hobby and helped me transition to a career in numismatics.

There’s no single answer to what keeps a young person in the hobby and keeps new collectors from hitting “the five-year wall.” But, keeping this conversation going is something that is essential for the maintenance and growth of our hobby. ■

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