I have always enjoyed studying the rare coin market. While I have
done a lot of research in historical files, I have had first-hand
experience ever since I became a rare coin dealer, part-time at first
in 1953, as I was in high school. In the early 1960s I published the
first-ever study on coin market price cycles.
Today, the rare coin market for federal coins is stronger than I
have ever seen it. The market for tokens, medals and obsolete paper
bills is also super-active. Offhand, this might seem rather strange
when history is considered.
The greatest boom the coin market has ever seen began in 1960.
Coin World was launched as the first weekly publication in
the field. To that point, the popular monthly journals such as The
Numismatic Scrapbook Magazine, Numismatic News and The Numismatist
were the best sources for current information. J. Oliver Amos, in
charge of the Sidney Printing & Publishing Co., had been inspired
by the success of Linn’s Stamp Weekly, which he printed on contract.
Discussions were held about his starting and owning a weekly in some
other field. The final topics were antiques, bowling and coins — after
many discussions within the Amos organization and also interviews with
leaders in various hobby fields, coins won.
In my conversations with Mr. Amos, I was skeptical that enough
news would be found for rare coins. J. Oliver, as many called him,
liked me a lot and even offered me the editorship of Coin
World after its first editor, Dick Johnson, resigned. I declined
as I enjoyed coin dealing so much. A temporary editor, Margo Russell,
was put in place until the right person could be found. Margo went on
to serve for nearly a quarter century, with great distinction, and
earned just about every numismatic award ever given.
Coin World took off like a skyrocket. Within a short time
the circulation increased to an amazing 150,000 copies! This helped
spread the word and excitement.
The other factor was the 1960 Lincoln, Small Date cent. These were
publicized as being much harder to find than the Large Date design. A
market was made in rolls and bags of Small Date cents by Jonah
Shapiro, of Syracuse, N.Y., and Harry J. Forman in Philadelphia. A $50
face-value bag was sold for $12,000! Excitement knew no bounds,
national newspapers and magazines picked up the story as did the
Within a few years as many as 6,000 coin shops were in business
across America, according to an estimate given to me by Chet Krause.
Coin shows, clubs, and auctions multiplied. Then in 1965, crash!
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.