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Look to FUN to chart future hobby course

This is a special issue for the Florida United Numismatists convention. The show is slated for Jan. 8-11, 2009.

A great deal rests on this convention every year. Strong business yields weeks of high levels of market activity. Weak business puts everyone into a funk. Average business always gets interpreted as good because who can resist the attractions of the climate and the rosy glow it puts on memories?

Coin collectors are naturally optimistic, but those in the business end of things are not fools. They juggle loans to finance inventory and try to sell coins to those who are known buyers of each specialty area and buy the right coins for their clients back home.

We have been spoiled in recent years because of the super hot market. FUN conventions have been like a foot race. Whoever can get to the right table waving the biggest check wins.

This year might be different. This December has been filled with apprehension. Business activity has slowed, some dealers are pulling in their horns and others are putting a brave face on things. Some might call it whistling past the graveyard.

The opposite impression was left on me in a phone call by Bob Campbell, a former ANA president, who runs a business in Salt Lake City. He is always interesting to talk to and always has something going on to talk about. He pointed out that bullion business has been a good support to activity overall, but he characterized this Christmas as twice as many invoices for less money as regular clients step aside to allow the seasonal buyers to get their holiday gifts. This is not unusual for the month, he explained. Many other shop owners experience the same pattern of business. There is nothing particularly noteworthy in it.

So it will be January, probably at the 2009 FUN convention, where the tone of business is established for the weeks and months to follow.

In the first six weeks or so of 2009 the hobby will see the introduction of the latest Presidential dollar, the Native American dollar, the District of Columbia quarter and four Lincoln cents. It is the cents that should excite many people.

The cents will be reasonably priced, so buyers might feel a little better about spending the money and joining in the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln in 1809.

On the opposite end of the pricing spectrum will be the Ultra High Relief Saint-Gaudens $20. Will collectors spring for what will be a pricey, though very beautiful, gold coin for their collections? Will the eBay posse saddle up and whip online buyers into a frenzy?

As you can see, though I can pinpoint the events that will influence the market’s direction, there is no assurance of which way they will go. That of itself is a change. Last year at this time I was expecting another good year, but one where the white heat of a booming market cooled some and my expectations 12 months ago of higher bullion prices were certainly fulfilled.

Though my level of certainty has declined, I do know that numismatics will be an interesting place to be in 2009.

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