Pondering the future of our hobby: Monday Morning Brief, Oct. 17, 2016

Published : 10/17/16
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A recent presentation to a coin club in Ohio gave Senior Editor Jeff Starck an opportunity to contemplate how demographics, economics and social changes might affect the hobby that we love.

Will debt-burdened, stuff-eschewing Generation Xers and Millennials follow the traditional path to collecting, or are we at a turning point in numismatics?

Full video transcript:

Good morning, welcome to the Monday Morning Brief. I’m Jeff Starck of Coin World.

I recently spoke to a coin club in central Ohio, and had a grand time discussing the state of the hobby, and particularly its future. But there was something troubling about that evening, too, and this was the absence of folks under the age of AARP eligibility. If you’re like me, you love this hobby – and since you’re watching this you probably do. But I wonder about the hobby’s future amid a rapidly changing society.

We hear about the new sharing economy that is developing, as people don’t own music or movies, and in some cases cars or houses – just using rental services.

It’s easy to wonder whether this emphasis on experiences above things will affect our cherished hobby, as people might be less interested in owning coins themselves.

Instead, maybe they would rather visit the mint where those coins were made, and perhaps even strike their own coin. That’s something you can do at the Royal Mint’s new visitor’s experience, which opened earlier this year.

Gromit at Royal Mint Experience   Royal Mint Experience tour open at massive facility in Wales : Given the size of the visitors’ car park, the Royal Mint is expecting this to become a major tourist attraction, not just for numismatists, but for anyone interested in history or who simply wants an insight into one of the country’s oldest institutions. 

In my informal discussion with regional sellers of antiques, they stressed that the market is increasingly emphasizing the functionality of pieces, as upcycling and farmhouse-chic trends are more important than collector plates and tacky tchotchkes.

Another factor that seems likely to play out is the crushing weight of debt burdening my generation. People my age and younger, as a group, are saddled by student loan debt. Because of this, they’re delaying home ownership and marriage, which has been the traditional path to middle class membership.

We know that the coin-collecting trajectory relies on introducing the hobby early, with people returning to it later in life, as family responsibilities and career stability offer a firm foundation for collecting.

But with the burden of debt delaying financial freedom, it’s easy to wonder if there will ever be a time when State quarter dollar collectors come back to the fold. Will they even be able to afford to do so if they want to experience the joy of their youthful hobby? The fact that coins, paper money, and bullion offer a store of wealth, never mind profit potential, might be the most exciting selling point for newcomers. They’ve seen financial havoc affect their parents and themselves three times in 10 years, and the security offered in numismatics might be a catalyzing factor.

I hope that themed bullion coins like the Royal Canadian Mint’s animals or Superman, and the Perth Mint’s sharks and Star Trek silver coins will help develop a new generation of collectors.

I don’t mean to sound pessimistic. I love this hobby, and I’m bullish about it – but I welcome your thoughts on how to make it more relevant, and rewarding, for a new group of collectors. That’s a challenge that Coin World takes seriously.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter, find us at Facebook, online at CoinWorld.com, and of course in print in your mailbox. For Coin World, I’m Jeff Starck – happy collecting. 

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