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Steve Roach

The Art of Collecting

Steve Roach

Steve Roach, Coin World’s editor-at-large, has been deeply involved with numismatics for more than 20 years, starting as a young coin collector in Michigan. Two years spent as a coin grader, nearly three years at a major coin wholesaler and a stint as a paintings specialist at an international auction house have given Steve a rich understanding of the hobby, its market and the unique personalities and exceptional objects that make collecting meaningful. He joined Coin World in 2006 as a columnist, and has served as associate editor and editor-in-chief. He received his bachelor of arts degree from the University of Michigan, a juris doctorate from the Ohio State University and is a Certified Member of the International Society of Appraisers.

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Archive for 'September 2014'

    Visit a coin show: see coins, meet people, learn and have fun

    September 26, 2014 4:24 PM by

    It seems that many collectors today are content having a virtual experience with their coin collecting. 

    They buy and sell coins online, socialize with collectors online and get their information online. These collectors are likely not maximizing their collecting experience.

    Going to a coin show is a refreshing break from the routine. Many of us spend our days in front of a computer screen, and what’s great about coin collecting are the tangible aspects: putting a coin into a Whitman board, holding a coin by its edge, examining one slabbed coin against another one to figure out which one is better for the grade. 

    I continue to be inspired by local, state and regional organizations expanding their shows to attract new audiences.

    Many show organizers are taking proactive steps to keep their shows relevant through advertising, expanded marketing and by letting people beyond their membership know that a show is happening. 

    But once you get someone in the door, how do you turn that person into a collector? 

    The best shows are realizing that mere attendance numbers don’t tell a full story of a show’s success. Great dealers offering a range of material, a warm welcome when newcomers enter, and rich educational programs and exhibits, all combine to create an environment that is conducive to cultivating a new collector. 

    Our Guest Commentary this week shows how the Michigan State Numismatic Society is keeping its fall show, which has traditionally anchored the show schedule over Thanksgiving weekend, relevant. 

    It’s neither cheap nor easy.

    The $5 million rarities that are on loan from the American Numismatic Association (a 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent piece and an 1804 Draped Bust silver dollar) bring in curious visitors, but also cost a club thousands of dollars in transportation and security fees. 

    Advertising is expensive. Prizes for educational exhibitors can be pricey. Renting a venue costs money (and renting a nice one costs more). 

    These expenses add up, but smart clubs consider them investments, as a thriving coin show is a key factor to keeping local and state coin clubs — and our hobby — relevant. 

    Entering our hobby through the side entrance

    September 19, 2014 1:11 PM by
    What do you hope to get from collecting? 

    Is it a connection to history?

    Perhaps it is because you enjoy objects?

    Or, are you in it for potential profits?

    Those who put together the best collections — and have the most fun doing it — put these three elements together. 

    Collecting doesn’t have to be expensive. This month’s world coins feature by Rita Laws highlights sets of Canadian and Mexican coins that can be put together inexpensively. Our venerable columnist Q. David Bowers points out that thousands of varieties of copper tokens, fractional currency notes, Confederate notes, encased postage stamps and more issued during the Civil War can be purchased at reasonable prices.

    He has a great point: some collecting areas are ripe for discoveries. Take carved coins that combine art and numismatics. Artists today are taking as a model the traditional “Hobo nickels” that were first carved as the Indian Head 5-cent piece, 1913 to 1938, was circulating. These artists are applying their creativity to create small sculptures on a variety of different coins. Depending on the skill involved in the carving, carved coins can be found for as little as $5 or $10, while the most skilled pieces can be priced in the hundreds or even thousands of dollars. 

    Nor does coin collecting have to be dull.

    Our October cover feature ties coin collecting in with the macabre as depicted on coins, medals and paper money. Skeletons, skulls and the like. Rita extends the seasonal theme in her monthly column “Going Topical” where she looks at creepy, crawly critters depicted on coins. 

    Our interview subject this month, Thomas Hockenhull of the British Museum said that he entered his role as curator of modern coins “through the side entrance,” meaning he didn’t initially set out to be a numismatic curator. Instead, his interest in coins and paper money grew over time.

    Our paper money editor, Michele Orzano, pointed out in a conversation as we were editing the issue that, in his answers, he gave great advice that’s applicable to situations beyond numismatics. Keep your eyes open, be flexible, and opportunities appear. 

    Estate planning not a sexy part of collecting, but necessary

    September 15, 2014 10:06 AM by

    To most collectors, buying coins is fun. 

    Owning coins can be even more rewarding. 

    Even selling coins can be a boost to the spirit, especially when you’re using the money to buy new coins. 

    But estate planning for your coin collection, well, that’s not as fun.

    However, it is necessary. 

    When I speak on estate planning for coin collections to coin collecting audiences, I tell the audience: You know what’s in your coin collection. But does your significant other? Do your kids? Does your estate planner? 

    When I speak on estate planning for coin collections to attorneys and estate planners, I remind them that a coin collection can be a hard-to-value asset that could make up a significant amount of a client’s total net worth. 

    A hard fact is that most people don’t like to think about what happens to their things after they are gone. This includes their coin collections. 

    The first step toward some preliminary estate planning for a collection doesn’t have to be complex. It can be as basic as an inventory that lists enough information for a non-numismatist to locate and identify items and for a numismatist to provide a value on them. 

    Photographs help, as does a list of trusted resources that non-collecting heirs might turn to for guidance. 

    The second edition of Cash in Your Coins: Selling the Rare Coins You’ve Inherited, the useful book by Coin World’s longtime editor Beth Deisher, has just been published by Whitman Publishing. The cover says it all, defining it as “the book that belongs in every collector’s safe deposit box.” 

    It’s one of those rare numismatic books that offers something for multiple audiences. For noncollectors, it provides a basic guide to identification of items, determining value and how one should go about selling a coin collection. 

    For collectors, her book provides a primer on collection management including how to write an effective inventory, rare coin appraisals and managing an unfortunate truth: taxes.

    This week we’re sharing part of Beth’s chapter on taxes because it has important information that is relevant to many of our readers. 

    She writes: “As a collector, neither you nor your heirs should pay more than is legally required. To ensure that you and your heirs don’t overpay requires action now, not later (after you depart planet Earth). Awareness and good planning are the keys to peace of mind for you and protection for your heirs.”

    Collections should be thought of as investments and cared for as such. With some planning, a collection can create a legacy that may provide for one’s loved ones. 

    But absent a thoughtful plan, a collection may end up being sold for a fraction of its value, or worse, may simply disappear. 

    Local leadership serves valid purpose in regional groups

    September 5, 2014 3:43 PM by

    ​As some regional and state organizations reach a national audience with their coin shows, should they be required to extend opportunities for leadership beyond their stated geographic region? 

    For example, the Central States Numismatic Society covers a 13-state region. Its annual spring convention is a major show and its associated auctions are among the largest coin auctions held during the year.

    The CSNS bylaws stipulate that all officers and governors must be at least 18 years old and reside in the Central States region. The bylaws further limits the number of elected officials from any one state to keep things balanced. 
    These types of restrictions serve a valid purpose of keeping resources in the region that the members live in. It also presumably keeps travel expenses down, providing more money for educational opportunities that can extend throughout the region by involvement with local clubs and seminars, and beyond the region through the group’s publication. 
    Those who are challenging groups like CSNS and Florida United Numismatists to expand to become national organizations cite that the majority of revenue comes from their conventions and auctions, which are populated in large part by dealers and auction houses who may live outside of the region defined by the group’s geographic definition. 
    The hobby has multiple national organizations. Regional and state groups have a useful and relevant purpose in the hobby: to promote education, camaraderie and collecting with people who live in geographic proximity to one another. 
    Limiting leadership to those who live in the region is neither arbitrary nor capricious. Rather, limiting leadership to those individuals who maintain a meaningful presence in the state seems to serve a valid purpose that ultimately benefits the group’s membership.
    To require state and regional groups to expand to include leaders from outside of their region seems to punish organizations that develop successful programs that extend beyond the region, while adding little benefit to the membership that the group ultimately serves.