From the Jan. 13 Numismatic News E-Newsletter: Some now believe numismatics is only a rich man’s game. Do you agree? Here are some answers sent from our e-newsletter readers to Editor, Dave Harper.
I started collecting U.S. coins when I was 5 and continued collecting until I was 21. I traded them, was given them by family members, or I found them on my own. I had very little money to spend on coins at that age.
When I lived in New York City at age 21, sadly, I had to sell my collection. This was in 1969. I went to Stack’s and dealt with Stack himself. He spent what seemed to be a great deal of time with me, using just his eyes, then his loupe. In the end, Stack wrote me a check for almost $1,200 for coins I probably paid a total of $20 for, if that.
In 2005, I became a foreign coin collector. I have an inventory of every coin I have ever bought and sold. I average spending $17.50 a month on world coins, tokens and medals.
I give up other things in order to have money to buy coins. I don’t go to movies, or concerts, plays, or ball games. The money I save not doing those things, I spend on coins for my collection, which is wide and varied.
The key to making a profit by collecting coins, or, in using a coin collection as an investment for the future, can be described in just three words: read, study, learn.
And, because of those three things, for a “pauper,” I’m pretty rich, at least in knowledge and, who knows, someday, maybe in real life, too.
Evelyn Powers Bloomington, Ind.
Coin collecting is a hobby of kings and paupers nonetheless. Anyone can collect coins. It is just that some may be restricted to what coins that they may be able to buy. I’m a middle-class coin collector, and I may have few but some expensive coins in my collection. However, I don’t know where I can draw the line on whether I am collecting like a king. I surely by far cannot buy any of those coins that make the headlines, let’s say. Also, I am very restricted in general as well; I can only buy one more-expensive coin in a blue moon.
I would say that coin collecting is just a hobby, a worthy, meaningful and enriching hobby, but still just a hobby. If there is someone who is collecting only the cheapest and most easily available coins in the world, if that someone finds those coins meaningful, then he/she can still feel like a king or queen.
I would more so say that the hobby of kings is meant to be a great feeling enricher, and not so much what one can afford in order to be a coin collector.
Adam Baig Chicago, Ill.
I must disagree that coin collecting is a hobby of kings only. I do agree there are many with the income of kings who drive large sectors of the numismatic market; there are droves like myself that have a pauper’s purse.
I have been actively involved in numismatics for about 40 years. While I have always been an avid enthusiast, for me it has been that most of the time, primarily due to family obligations, I have been a low budget enthusiast. I feel confident to claim that I have gained as much, if not more, pleasure over the years scouring the dregs of the numismatic offerings, junk boxes, discount books and tables, etc, than those who drop a million bones or more on a single coin.
So what if I don’t get the recognition? I still have a ball with my $100 coin show budget. I do quite well in the bargain basement offerings, especially since I specialize in world coins and currency. I have found that it is much easier for me to score “treasures” than my counterparts who only chase U.S. coins. I can flip a few of these unknown treasures on eBay or other venues and sometimes recap my entire low budget coin show expenditures and essentially build my collection for little or no cost. Now that is enjoyment with a pauper’s pocketbook.
So let the kings of the hobby pay king’s ransoms for their coins, but I believe that it is the vast majority of the hobby who are the commoners that keep the hobby active.
Sean Moffatt Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
While a lot of press is given to very expensive coins, it is not representative of the hobby. There are still collectors of modest means who continue to buy coins. I do see more resistance to prices inflated by bullion increases. It is hard to find a newly issued silver crown for less than $50 wholesale, and people with limited budgets are being priced out of more of the market.
Al Beck Chico, Calif.
If you’re new to coin collecting the only thing you notice is the price of precious metals and some of the rare high end coins that gain attention.
This hobby is anything but only for the rich. I would guess most of us have started collecting by pocket change. The old coin in your every day change gets your attention and you start looking for more. After a while you read something about your coin or coins and you look harder for them and end up at a coin shop. This is like a buffet of all the coins you could wish for. After looking at coins and prices, you quickly determine what you can afford and what interests you. So now you have a choice, go for the more expensive ones or stick to what you can buy comfortably.
The average Joe can go on collecting a lot of coins and never pay high prices, but when his collection is large, then he has money. At least this is how I see it.
Mark Naffziger Woodruff. Wis.
It would appear to be getting to that point. Why doesn’t the U.S. Mint lower the mintages of the modern commemoratives allowing for the possibility of having these coins increase in value a little more rapidly? They are too common and the older ones are out of a lot of people’s budgets, especially in this economy.
James Taylor Monroe, Ga.
A hobby for kings or paupers? It can be both. Everyone in the hobby can afford only what their wallet allows. For myself, I’m in a stalled mode due to lack of work and dollars. My own tastes are of champagne working with a ginger ale pocketbook.
Gary Kess Escalon, Calif.
It is my opinion that the involvement of numismatics holds more pleasure to a person willing to study the artist and the true meaning of the symbolism within the content of a coin’s art. The history and socio-economic factors at the time of the coin’s striking far outweigh pure collecting for monetary gain. That said, a diamond in the rough is always a heartwarming experience.
G. Fiedorow East Maplewood, Minn.
Numismatics can be a rich man’s game, but not necessarily. For people who want to collect coins out of circulation, circulated coins where the design is still clear and circulated foreign coins, particularly the minor coins, a vast and interesting coin collection can be formed for relatively little money. For older coins particularly, circulated coins raise speculation as to who all those people were who long ago handled the coins enough to cause that wear and what their lives were like. Those coins can evoke consciousness of history.
R.W. Barker Midland, Mich.
In France, collecting is not a rich man’s game at all.
Michel Prieur France
First of all: numismatics is not only a rich man’s game. It’s a matter of choice and available money.
With no spare money, it will be difficult to invest in shares, precious metals, coins, or savings in a bank account.
With money, everyone is free to invest or to save. Shares are not popular now and will not be next year.
Gold, silver and platinum are a solid investment now. However, better to have bought them two, three, four, or more years ago. At present, prices are so high that when buying, a close look at political and economic developments worldwide is a must. Buying in time and selling in time. I just sold some silver and gold here, locally, two weeks ago, and was surprised by the great price I got.
Savings in a bank account? No thanks. The interest offered is lower than the annual inflation. And in case of bankruptcy of the bank, you risk to lose all or part of your money.
Martijn Wisman Amersfoort, the Netherlands
No, numismatics is not only a rich man’s game, the ability to collect coins is available to people of all economic abilities. Some of today’s biggest collectors got their start in collection from circulating pocket change. This is still very much possible. While the availability of silver and gold coins in pocket change is 99.9 percent nonexistent, good finds can still be found in circulation. There’s also inexpensive buys from dealers or at shows.
I for one have not adopted the coin certification craze that has become popular but is expensive. I’d rather put my hard earned money into collecting sets I like, filling the holes in the albums my dad left me and finding joy in discovering a new group of coins to collect and learn about.
Scott McGowan Chicago Ill.
Kings, princes and titans of the nations, industry or sport are almost the only ones to have the funds for extreme rarities.
But there is so much more to numismatics than those, that I cannot agree with the general premise. Exonumia, so-called dollars, cents, or maybe pfennigs, bullion, Christmas-themed items, animals, presidents and potentates are all among the hundreds of options. And numismatics is such a fun way to learn more history.
No, I must conclude that this is no longer a hobby just for kings (of whatever variety), but rather something almost anyone can pick up. And as we’ve all seen most people have a “stash” of special coins they have gathered.
Jim Lohn Address withheld
Since I am sometimes called “King Tut” and I collect coins and paper money, I would say yes, numismatics is the hobby of kings. But I am also a pauper and I still collect, therefore numismatics is also the hobby of paupers.
I also am a participant in another royal hobby: philately, or stamp collecting. Numismatics probably did start out as only for royalty a very long time past, but as coins became more abundant, the lower classes began to take up the hobby.
The only difference between a royal collector and a pauper collector is what they can afford to collect. Most certainly, a pauper can’t afford one of those 1 kilogram gold rounds a king or queen would be able to. Yet both can afford to purchase a common date Lincoln cent.
Numismatics is for all the people who like to collect coins, because there are no rules as to what to collect nor a minimum price set. It’s your collection, collect what you want to collect.
Bill Tuttle Cleveland, Ohio