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Coin collecting hobby alive, well in USA

I found Tim Day’s Sept. 22 “Viewpoint” predicting doom and gloom for coin collecting to be of interest, perhaps about 10 to 15 years behind the times, but of interest.

There were three particular points he made I’d like to address here, all of which I’ve heard before.

His first statement of interest is, “When you try to sell your coins back to the dealer community, all of a sudden your treasures are now common junk.”

What did you buy as a treasure that is now common junk? If you purchased common-date nicely circulated pre-1964 Washington quarters expect to get melt for them when you resell them in today’s market. The only way you are going to get more is for a complete set including the key dates. These coins haven’t magically become rare with age.

Everybody wants their coins to be worth a fortune, but nobody wants to pay a fortune to obtain the high end material that commands a collector rather than an intrinsic premium. If you were buying common date coins you have exactly that, common date coins. If you purchased a true rarity such as a 1916-D Mercury dime now you are in the rare coin market, not the bullion coin market. Expect that your common silver Roosevelt dimes will likely be melted if sold to a dealer.

Understand what you have. Don’t blame the dealer. Nobody can help you educate yourself so you will learn to buy correctly. I hear sour grapes all the time from people who didn’t understand what they were buying, then became infuriated when they went to sell and learned the perceived value simply wasn’t there.

While Day is criticizing coin dealers for not offering him the value he perceives his coins to be worth, he should try selling his paper money collection and see if anybody will give him his perceived value for it. My guess is Day is likely uninitiated in paper money rarity and values as well. I would anticipate he is due for a second rude awakening. Rare is rare. Bullion is bullion. Common doesn’t magically become rare later.

It takes money to make money. If you want coins that appreciate in value either speculate in coins of bullion related value or purchase coins with a proven track record of value based on scarcity. If you expect something for nothing, buy a lottery ticket.

Day’s statement that in 1971 “times were simple and the Mint produced two neat sets per year. Now the Mint produces so much over-priced crap no one can afford to purchase all the issues” is naïve.
Times weren’t simple in 1971. Yes, the Mint offers more products now, but take a look at what you can purchase a 1971 proof or mint set for today compared to what each cost straight from the Mint in 1971. The sets were expensive when purchased directly from the mint in 1971. By the time 1971 proof and mint sets were in the secondary market the following year the sets were selling at lower than issue prices. From a financial viewpoint, proof and mint sets are rarely a good investment. They are more typically either an entry level collectible or something people purchase as gifts for others. The majority of proof sets, mint sets, and modern commemoratives sell at lower than issue prices once they get into the secondary market due to a lack of secondary demand.

The third statement of interest is Day’s comparison of coin collecting to stamp collecting. Where has Day been for the past half century or more? Stamp dealers have been purchasing sheets of unused but very common commemorative stamps below face value, then using them for postage since at least the 1950s. This is nothing new. Yes, stamp collecting appears to be declining as a hobby. Few people use stamps rather than meters to pay postage, and personal letters have been replaced by the telephone and the internet.

Coin collecting, on the other hand, got a tremendous boost 10 years ago when the U.S. Mint decided to issue the statehood quarter series, followed by circulating commemorative nickels and now circulating commemorative 1-cent coins. Coin collecting in the United States has had the rebirth Day insists hasn’t happened.Coin collecting hasn’t needed a rebirth elsewhere as the hobby of kings continues to flourish even in the former Soviet nations.

Regarding bank notes, there are now increasing numbers of circulating commemorative bank notes being issued worldwide. You think, Mr. Day, U.S.  bank note collecting is the future of the numismatic hobby? Where are the circulating commemorative U.S. bank notes that will draw new collectors into that portion of our hobby? All I see as a dealer are vast numbers of Joseph Barr $1 Federal Reserve notes and $2 notes with stamps and postmarks from 1976 that the general public is hoarding, dreaming these items will become rare later.

Are coins in everyday use in the United States? You betcha. Look at the ever-increasing mintage numbers coming from the U.S. Mint. Do you think kids will collect circulating commemorative quarters or $5 Federal Reserve notes by signature differences?

Richard Giedroyc of Sidney, Ohio,  is a professional numismatist and writer.
Viewpoint is a forum for the expression of opinion on a variety of numismatic subjects. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of Numismatic News.

Clarification:
The U.S. Mint says its average profit is 19.7 percent on collectible coins and 1.7 percent on bullion issues. A higher number was cited for the latter in a Sept. 29 Viewpoint.

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