In the Aug. 26 column, I began a series on the rare coin market
based on my own observations as a rare coin dealer since 1953
(part-time at first as I was in school) and my study of numismatic
history. Beyond that, finance (my university degree) and economics
have been two of my favorite subjects.
Today, the market is stronger than I have ever seen it. And yet,
the number of coin shops is only a small fraction of the estimated
6,000 or so active during the boom of the early 1960s (discussed last
week) and the circulation of Coin World is down sharply as
well, victims of the 1965 market crash. Coin show attendance is down
By all logic, today all coins should be bargain-priced compared to
back then! But they are not.
Other hobbies have also slumped or completely disappeared over the
years. In the 1960s, many shops opened up with slot-car racing tracks
and displays of slot cars for sale. Fewer such shops exist today,
though the hobby remains strong. A couple decades ago “pogs” (circular
poker-chip-like discs) were forecast to challenge coins and stamps as
collectibles. Who cares today?
Similarly, in the 1980s, sports cards were the hottest of tickets.
Millions collected them and thousands of shops opened across the
country. Prices skyrocketed. If one sports card was great to buy, then
a box with hundreds of the same variety was even better to own. Then,
crash! Most of the shops are gone. The hobby of sports cards
continues, but the excitement is missing.
Several factors arose or expanded to “save” the rare coin market
from this common fate. Today far fewer collectors and coin shops
exist, and yet all is well in the marketplace.
Problems are elsewhere — such as a sharp falling-off of membership
in the American Numismatic Association (the ANA had just 20,273
eligible voters in the recent 2013 biennial election for officers, as
compared to 29,299 two years ago), fewer coin clubs than before, and
fewer conventions, with even these having reduced attendance. These
negatives have not had a measurable effect on the market! Why?
Next week: The first of multiple factors that have made this
success possible. Stay tuned!
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, email@example.com,
or at Q. David Bowers LLC, Box 1804, Wolfeboro, NH 03894.