US Coins

Internet or no Internet

A long line of people wait for the doors to open at the March 2007 Whitman Coins & Collectibles Expo in Baltimore. Attendance at conventions across America is down from what it was a generation ago.

Image courtesy of Q. David Bowers.

Three weeks ago in this space, I discussed the observable reality of the downsizing of convention attendance and also in-person attendance at coin auctions.

The pivotal factor is the Internet. Today in 2013 you can sit in your living room and “attend” shows and bid in auctions. In many ways, coin buying is more convenient than ever. However, is something lost if you are exclusively a stay-at-home?

This prompted a number of nice emails (more Internet being in charge) on the subject.

Charles Sullivan, a dedicated, sophisticated old-time collector with multiple specialties wrote to say:

“Hi Dave. I enjoyed your Coin World article about evolution in the coin industry.

“One habit I have gotten into is NOT buying any coin, slabbed or raw, without a good set of pictures online. I rarely return stuff now. So I disregard all of the written fluff and focus solely on the images. A coin with poor photography? I pass right on by.

“Nor do I attend coin shows much. As you said, the variety offered on the web is infinitely more appealing. Plus the prices tend to be better since I can do a lot more comparison shopping in real time, not easy to do on the bourse floor.”

Alan V. Weinberg, a friend ever since he was going school 50-plus years ago and was a frequent correspondent back then, had this to say:

“The Internet bidding ‘improvement’ over personal attendance at a show and auction could eventually turn around to ‘bite the hobby in the [deleted].’

“Your and my fondest moments have been not on the Internet, but attending shows and auctions. Examining coins tokens and medals, learning from handling the items, mixing with and educating and receiving education from others at shows, studying the bidding techniques of those at auctions, enjoying the ‘high’ of attending and competing in an auction, treasuring your annotated copy of a great auction [catalog] (as are my Garretts, Norwebs, Eliasbergs, Fords, etc.) and reliving that experience thumbing thru the catalogue decades later.

“Nuf sed. Preaching to the choir.”

A slightly different view is taken by Clara C.:

“I have been forming a collection of tokens given to laborers and pickers in coal mines and turpentine forests in the South and harvesters of bananas, coffee, and other products in Central and South America.

“As these tokens have little value — many sell for only a few dollars each up to a few tens of dollars — there are not many to be found at conventions anyway. The Internet has made buying a pleasure, including from a lot of sellers in Latin America. I enjoy the coin shows I have attended, but were it not for the Internet I would not have much of a collection of these.”

Next week: More on this hot topic, including a letter from Ray Williams that is almost a column in itself. In the meantime, attend a coin show!

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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