Longtime dealer observes huge differences in numismatic hobby in more than 50 years

The Joys of Collecting column from the Nov. 3, 2014, issue of Coin World
By , Coin World
Published : 10/21/14
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If you are a longtime reader of this column, you know that I am a traditionalist.

If you’ve been around since 1961, you have seen the column ever since then, first under the name of “Numismatic Depth Study.” By then, I had been in the hobby since 1952 and dealing since 1953, starting in a small way.

In 1961, my business with James F. Ruddy as my partner announced annual sales of $1 million, the first coin company ever to achieve this level. In 2014, if Stack’s Bowers Galleries sells a single coin for $1 million, there may be applause, but then the auctioneer moves on to another lot.

Five decades after

Numismatics was a hobby, the art and science of collecting coins, tokens, medals and paper money, back then. Today, it is an industry. To me, numismatics is still an art, while to me an industry is a chocolate factory or a deep-pit mine in Arizona.

Before I continue, I love numismatics and 2014 has been very enjoyable. There are huge differences, however.

2014: To deal in rare coins you need coins encapsulated by Professional Coin Grading Service or Numismatic Guaranty Corp., or one or two others. You need a list of prices. You need some capital. That’s it!

1961: To deal in rare coins you needed to know how to grade them. There were no agreed-upon grading standards or services, and one person’s Uncirculated might be another’s nicked-up About Uncirculated.

2014: No knowledge is necessary!

1961: You needed to know how to identify counterfeits. In one well-known instance, John Ford made the rounds of a large national convention and found that more than 50 percent of the 1916-D Winged Liberty Head dimes on hand had added Mint marks. There were no authentication services.

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