US Coins

Hobby? Industry? or ...

U.S. Mint Director Jay Johnson, necessarily an industrialist, but who enjoyed the numismatic hobby as well, is shown here with an 1804 Draped Bust silver dollar that once appeared in a November 2001 auction by Bowers and Merena Galleries.

Image courtesy of Q. David Bowers.

If you are a constant reader of my column, you know that I enjoy what I do.

I think numismatics is the world’s greatest hobby, and I love being a part of it. And, collecting coins, tokens, medals and paper money is indeed a hobby. I know that the word “industry” has taken hold, and perhaps it is more classy and serious than hobby.

To me, an industry is a business that manufactures or otherwise produces things — the automobile industry, the agricultural industry, the fishing industry. I am not sure I could have fun being an “industrialist.”

Many other branches of activity are best called an art, a profession, a hobby or some other term. A question of semantics often, as definitions can be scarce.

I do not believe that surgeons belong to the medical industry, but are part of the medical arts and profession, these words often being interchangeable.

On the other hand, Johnson & Johnson, maker of pills, plasters and potions, is indeed a part of the medical industry.

Perhaps if numismatics is called an industry long enough it will be defined as one. After all, we have the Industry Council for Tangible Assets, which, I suppose, to someone lobbying for a change in legislation sounds more important than the Hobby Council for Tangible Assets.

I guess the two can go together. As a writer I consider myself part of the profession or art of journalism. On the other hand, Whitman Publishing LLC and Amos Press (Coin World’s parent company) are indeed members of the publishing industry. I hasten to say that the U.S. Mint is indeed a coin industry as are counterfeiting shops in China. And the “coin doctors” we all read about are perhaps industrialists too!

Perhaps a hobbyist does not pay much attention to making a profit, but concentrates on the art, history and romance of numismatics. Such a person may spend long evening hours simply reading about an interesting item. Of course, making a profit upon selling one’s collection is desirable — but for skilled hobbyists this often happens without even trying!

Perhaps a numismatic industrialist concentrates on making a profit and cares little about the other part.

Q. David Bowers is chairman emeritus of Stack’s Bowers Galleries and numismatic director of Whitman Publishing LLC. He can be reached at his private email,, or at Q. David Bowers, LLC, Box 1804, Wolfeboro, NH 03894.

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