How do you keep a hobby vibrant and fresh? The subject was tackled in
a recent issue of The Wall Street Journal, where James R.
Hagerty talked about the issues the model train collecting community
has had in the past decade as today’s collectors stop participating in
the hobby with nobody to replace them.
The parallels between model trains and coin collecting were striking.
Both hobbies are generally practiced by people when they are young
and then picked up by these same people in later adulthood.
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Both teach valuable skills. In creating model railroads, people
learn about carpentry, electricity, painting skills, and the history
and development of trains and railroads, while coin collecting engages
an interest in history, economics, organization, and the practice of
sharpening observational skills.
But, sadly, as Hagerty pointed out, “Once thought of as every boy’s
dream toy, model trains have become a domain mainly for old men. At
clubs devoted to the hobby, members below 60 years old are the young
bucks.” Ever been to a coin club lately? The same is true for many
coin clubs around the country.
Sure, the friendly fictional steam locomotive Thomas the Tank
remains popular, but train aficionados are concerned that young people
aren’t taking up model railroading as a lifetime hobby.
Those promoting the train hobby point to rapidly changing
technology, where computerized controls are common and users can
download train sounds. Model train manufacturer stalwart Lionel
continues to adapt its products to the interests of young people,
creating tracks more like roller-coasters, and futuristic trains.
Howard Hitchcock, chief executive of Lionel, said, “We have to come up
with things that jazz up the kids of today.”
Mints around the world are trying to create innovative coins at
various price levels to capture the interests of young people and new
buyers, incorporating clever designs, popular subjects and minting
innovations to attract new buyers. Only time will tell if these
efforts succeed in sparking a long-term interest in coin collecting.
How will young people be introduced to coin collecting today to
protect the value of rare coin investments? After all, a coin is only
worth what someone is willing to pay for it, and for a market to be
viable, there has to be a broad mix of buyers and sellers.