The prophet whose coin investing advice was not great
- Published: Sep 30, 2016, 4 AM
Last month, we discussed the first book written about speculating in — as opposed to collecting — U.S. coins, A Guide to Coin Investment (published in 1957), and its estimable author, Dr. Robert Bilinski. This month we meet the man once described as Bilinski’s “evil twin,” the author of The Profit March series on coin investment, the Barnumesque George Haylings.
Mr. Haylings left Detroit for California during the Great Depression, and shivered through two years living in a tent until he discovered, as one of his book titles put it, 125 Ways to Make Money with Your Typewriter. Haylings turned out a series of how-to-earn-a-quick-buck books, including two with chapters advising readers to invest in coins: Hidden Dollars (1947) and Vacations Unlimited (1952). By 1960, the long postwar bull market in coins inspired Haylings to write The Profit March of Your Coins from 1935 to 1968.
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Dr. Bilinski had extensively researched the coin market and used data to make conservative projections of future price performance. Haylings’ methods combined hype, uncritical extrapolation of past results, and wildly optimistic predictions. There were a million coin collectors in 1954, 3 million in 1960, and would be 5 million in 1966. In the go-go coin market of the early 1960s, Haylings looked like a prophet.
In 1964 he wrote The Profit March of Your Coin Investment, 1935–1971, twice as long as his first Profit March, and 10 times as enthusiastic about speculating in coins: “… the most astounding investment to be found on earth today!” Now he predicted that soon there would be 20 million coin collectors!
Haylings crowed that rare coin prices had risen “… over the past 29 years, with all indications that the same relentless increase in prices will go right on for the next 29 years.” The stretch from 1964 to 1993, however, proved a roller coaster for the rare coin market, with three boom periods and three busts, starting with a market meltdown in 1966.
This explains why so many of Hayling’s 1964 profit predictions for 1971 were laughably lousy. Four examples:
1942-S Lincoln cent — Haylings’ prediction: $2,315 per roll. Actual: $125.
1937 Proof set — Haylings’ prediction: $1,390. Actual: $350.
1952-D Jefferson 5-cent coin — “The sleeper of all time, in my opinion.” Haylings’ prediction: $2,175 per roll. Actual (still sleeping): $87.
1950-D 5-cent coin — “The king of all rolls! Number one on the ‘top’ list! Without a doubt the gilt-edged security in the coin investment field. I am predicting that the price will be $10,000 per roll … in 1971, 157 times the 1954 price!” Actual: less than $50 per roll. Did Haylings eventually feel guilty for calling it “gilt-edged”?
He wrote another Profit March book in 1964, focusing on Indian Head 5-cent coins and small cents. Eventually, however, readers realized that profits were marching to Mr. Haylings, but not to them, and demand for his investment guides evaporated.
The Profit March series still provides unintentionally hilarious reading. Haylings’ pie-in-the-sky predictions offer endless chuckles, but don’t overlook his coin care suggestions. In the last-named book, he recommends tumbling Uncirculated coins in powdered stearic acid and rubbing them with a chamois cloth before putting them into a plastic storage tube. Kids: DO NOT try this at home!
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