Ian Laing has seen silver and gold prices rise and fall in his time.
The president of Canada?s Gatewest Coin Ltd. thinks the recent increase for both may soon come to an end. Gold was trading at $635 and silver at $12.50 as this was written.
?We?re getting near the peak as far as cycles are concerned,? said Laing.
He?s seen it happen before.
?I went through the first silver and gold rush from 1979 to 1982,? Laing said. ?I?ve been through all the ups and downs ever since.?
Laing?s numismatic career, on the other hand, has been a steady ascent. Born in 1950, Laing started collecting coins as a kid and to help pay for college, he worked as an independent dealer.
?I hung around coin stores, got friendly with a couple of people and started buying and selling the odd coin,? said Laing.
Getting started as a collector used to be easier, Lang remembers.
?Back in the 1950s you could still find silver coins and old coins in circulation,? Laing recalls. ?Then I went to college and got a degree in history and economics. In college, I dealt in coins. I did it as a source of extra income working with my regular jobs.?
After school, Laing wasted no time in joining the numismatic profession. He went into business with a friend in the early 1970s, starting Gatewest. In 1978, that friend left to specialize on the stamp business and Laing took over Gatewest.
In time, Gatewest, according to Laing, became the largest dealer of Canadian coins in the world.
Things have changed considerably in numismatics over that period.
?In the early 1970s, it was less about investment and more about collecting,? explains Laing. ?Silver and gold were just getting going as an investment as the U.S. government was pulling off its gold regulations. That really opened the door to gold in the U.S.?
Gatewest has gone through changes too. It recently established an auction Web site at auction.gatewestcoin.com.
?It?s well-designed and it?s functioning well,? said Laing. ?We established it for auction items we thought would do just as well there as on an auction site like eBay.?
Laing said Gatewest will continue to use eBay to sell some material. The company?s Canadian inventory, however, will be featured on its auction site.
?We?ve had lots of activity and no real snags,? said Laing.
While Laing does see differences between collectors in the U.S. and those from Canada, he has noticed that a lot of U.S. hobbyists collect Canadian coins.
?About 20 to 25 percent of our American customers collect Canadian coins or interesting world material,? said Laing. ?In Canada, however, people are a little more conservative about what they buy. Americans are more liberal. They?ll take a chance on buying something new.?
As for his own personal collecting interests, Laing says, ?I like things you can?t make a living at selling.? Specifically, he enjoys medieval and early modern European coins, especially hammered coins, medals and early gold.
?I guess I like more historically related material,? said Laing.
As for today?s market, Laing thinks the rising prices for numismatic items is being driven by the rising prices of precious metals and it affects public buying.
?I think the rising prices are leading people to buy sooner rather than later,? said Laing. ?Now, we?ve seen a strong coin market for the last three or four years and the paper money market has been strong for the past five or six. But it goes in cycles. It?ll hit a peak and then it?ll go into the doldrums.?
Despite the roller-coaster nature of the business, Gatewest has also been a profitable venture, according to Laing.
Besides making money, Gatewest has benefitted Laing in other ways.
?The nice thing about it is I?ve had a chance to have items go through my hands that I never would have had a chance to buy,? said Laing.