Three trends shaping the hobby today

Coin World Senior Editor Jeff Starck discusses three trends that are shaping the hobby today, noting how market fragmentation and customization have collided due to technology, and educational opportunities are ever expanding to make this a great time to be a collector.

Monday Morning Brief, July 10, 2017

One of the pleasures of doing this job in representing Coin World is going and speaking to coin clubs in Ohio, as I did recently to the Cincinnati Numismatic Associations during their annual exposition in Sharonville, a suburb of Cincinnati.

I got to talk about three trends that have been shaping the hobby, and that I see will continue to shape the hobby in years to come.

The first of thos,e really, is fragmentation. I'm taking the idea that is presented in the book The Long Tail, the idea that digital commerce will allow for much larger sales in a longer form, in that you can offer many more items and you don't have to sell that many of each to still make a profit.

We think of how the U.S. Mint used to have just a few products every year decades ago, and they sold lots of them — just volume, volume, volume. And say, mathematically, that they were looking for a level of 100,000 units being sold and they only had two products. Well, they could reach that with 50,000 of each.

Now, you have much lower mintages but a much higher number of items being released. And that's not true just for the U.S., but for the Royal Canadian Mint, and the British Royal Mint, and all these world mints — Perth Mint and others.

The volume that’s coming out, of low mintage stuff, in aggregate, is higher than it used to be with just a few items that they were selling a lot of. And this allows the Mints to target different audiences, whether that’s in a bullion sense, where they’re doing low mintage — and in the case of Canada, 1 million is low — low mintage bullion, with licensed themes, or with animals. When you are selling 30 and 40 million ounces of silver, whether that’s American Eagles or te Maple Leaf, in a year, 1 million is fairly low.

Other boutique bullion issues might only have a mintage limit of 50,000, like the Pobjoy Mint’s recent Reverse Proof JFK coin from — I think — the British Virgin Islands.

So this fragmentation of the market allows for a broader reach into niches that previously would not have been possible to target, and overall boosts sales across the numismatic spectrum.

Another thing that we see, and that plays off the fragmentation, is customization.

You have individuals who are able to contract with private mints to issue their own coins, as far as develope their own coin programs. You have, in the last year or so, silver art bar collectors and minters have been flourishing, taking designs that might only have a limited reach in audience, but they are creating that audience through social media and getting instant sellouts. And these pieces are pricing up into the after-market because of this customization.

Part of the reason that customization is possible is because of the way technology has changed in minting. So, whereas in the old manner, you had to hand create all the pieces for the designs, now you can do digital sculpting and the turn-around time is much quicker.

The final thought that really is shaping the hobby, and has, is education. Of course one of the biggies in that area is the Newman Numismatic Portal, which is doing a fantastic work to digitize all sorts of data, research into the hobby.

But you have small publishers, you are able to do small print runs of very specialized topics. And of course Whitman has developed the "Mega Red" in the last few years, which is just this voluminous piece, this enormous volume.

And this is only good for the hobby, as more people have more information, to inform their decisions and ignite their collecting passions.

And, of course, Coin World will be there, telling you all about, and trying to spread the hobby, as I got to do in Cincinnati. And we'll look forward to a bright future for the hobby and see where the path takes us.

For your Monday Morning Brief, I’m Jeff Starck, Coin World.

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