What makes a market active?

Many factors contribute today
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Published : 10/01/13
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What makes the market so active, so widespread and so appealing to millions of enthusiasts worldwide?

Certification of coins, especially by Professional Coin Grading Service and Numismatic Guaranty Corp., has added a comfort level for many buyers who otherwise would need to study about coin grades, counterfeits and the like. It also makes life easier for dealers, in that few people complain about what a certification service says about the grade. Earlier, endless debate ensued when individual sellers assigned grades.

Precious metals are another arrow in the quiver of market success. With all of the worldwide political unrest and economic changes, many people of means desire to have part of their investment in gold and silver. And, what better way is there to do it than buying some of the U.S. Mint’s American Eagle silver and gold bullion coins?

Each has 1 troy ounce of metal. These are available in Mint State or (for a premium) Proof finishes. The spread between buying and selling is low. The U.S. Mint imprimatur is a guarantee against lightweight or counterfeit coins.

Another arrow is the Internet. From the comfort of your favorite armchair you can press a few keys and bid in real time in a coin auction, or check price quotes, or shop around to your heart’s content. There is a caveat, however, in that a large number of uncertified coins are fakes — and a false coin is not a bargain at any price.

“Choice Uncirculated” is apt to have little meaning if a coin is not certified. If you bid or buy online, stick to certified coins offered by professional numismatists whose reputation you can check.

Clubs and societies are yet another “arrow.” Belonging to an active society that holds yearly meetings, publishes newsletters or magazines, and provides current news and information can be exciting. Among such groups are Early American Coppers, the Liberty Seated Collectors Club, the Colonial Coin Collectors Club and a few others. Waiting in the wings, hopefully, are some societies that don’t do much with the Internet and suffer accordingly (at least that’s my opinion).

The American Numismatic Association, founded in 1891, is the world’s largest “coin club.” Its journal, The Numismatist, is chock full of information. The American Numismatic Society, founded in 1858, is a more scholarly organization and is more devoted to ancient and classical coins than to the word “American” in its name; it is a great organization and is well worth investigating.

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,

qdbarchive@metrocast.net, or at
Q. David Bowers LLC, Box 1804,
Wolfeboro, NH 03894.

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