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Bullion no longer just our secret

For many years the bullion coin business has been a profitable cash flow machine for the numismatic business. I remember the days of coin counting machines clanking away on the bourse floor. When bullion was frisky, conventions were noisy.

To some collectors, it's "in silver we trust."

All attention goes to bullion when the metal prices rise.

With silver tickling the $20 level, those memories came flooding back. Silver at this price is significant. Will the upcoming American Numismatic Association convention be a bullion carnival as the 2011 one was?

At first blush, I would answer this question with a strong affirmative. Surely higher bullion prices will help underpin the annual World’s Fair of Money.

But more and more bullion coin sellers leave no footprints in the traditional numismatic field. They will not be there. But you sure can see them on cable television and hear their advertisements on the radio.

Are we in danger of seeing the numismatic business becoming simply an offshoot of the bullion coin and bar business?

It is beginning to look that way if only because the bullion business seems to be growing rapidly and it has a higher profile due in no small measure to these ads.

Hard money pundits have earned their living for decades putting down Wall Street and talking up gold and silver. The concepts went hand in hand. We could wink to each other knowing that this investment area was our little secret unknown to the professionals and the so-called smart money.

In recent years, pundits continue to conjure up this cozy old portrayal of the bullion business even as the traditional Wall Street firms and investment gurus now recommend bullion investments. They bring with their recommendations billions of dollars of purchases.

Gold and silver exchange traded funds are huge in the stock market.

Bullion is now mainstream. The bullion pundits have won. The effort has taken a half century, give or take, to get us here, but it has arrived. It is hard to believe that gold was illegal to own before Dec. 31, 1974.

Coin collectors helped support the legislative effort to legalize it. It was one of our pet projects that moved alongside the day-to-day life of hobbyists. It ranks with collector successes in bringing back commemorative coins after a 28-year hiatus in 1982 and the introduction of new designs on circulating quarters in 1999. We felt good about these successes as they occurred. We should still feel good about them today.

But bullion as much as it still seems to be a part of the numismatic commercial framework has grown beyond coin collectors.

With gold and silver once again on the upswing, the trend cannot hurt organized numismatics, but we collectors will not be in the center ring of this particular circus as we once were.

That makes me a little bit sad. Knowing something that others either didn’t know or scoffed at was part of the fun of being actively involved in numismatics.

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News Express.
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