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Changes come through like buses

What are coin collectors thinking about this summer? Judging from the letters below, they are thinking about the same things they usual think about.

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There are new Mint products to weigh in on, errors to report, circulation finds, and activities at major coin shows.

In short, numismatics in summertime is still bustling with activity. But it can always be better.

Many of us remember what seemed to be better times. But were they?

I caught the tail end of the circulation finds era in the mid-1960s. Filling Whitman albums was great fun. I learned a lot. I became a life-long collector.

But who knew it would happen this way?

By the end of 1968, all you could find in change was three years’ worth of new clad coins. Everything else disappeared. Many collectors griped that collecting was over. Some left.

But collecting wasn’t over; it was just beginning. In the late 1960s, we became fixated on silver.

The silver coins that had disappeared had only whetted our appetites. Private firms began minting silver bars of every description. Collecting these developed into a craze through about 1974 when silver peaked at an “incredible” $6.70 an ounce.

Even as silver went on to new highs in future years, bar collecting never attained the same place in collector hearts, though the current silver rounds that are sold for every occasion are the direct descendants.

Some people left because they didn’t like a hobby that was dominated by bar collectors.

Then there was the silver boom that peaked at $50 in 1980. Once again, it was decried by many as creating impossible conditions for anyone to try to collect. Why, the most common silver half dollar had a $12.50 market value. Who could afford that, many complained?

Third-party grading arrived in the 1980s. Suddenly coins were traded in their millions encased in plastic. It was positive robbery, some complained, to have to pay to have coins authenticated and graded. It wasn’t like the good old days of Brown and Dunn. Some left.

Modern commeoratives arrived. Mint sellouts grabbed attention. Then they got cold.

The 1970s grading reforms that led to third-party grading ultimately led to the scramble to buy coins in Mint State-70 or Proof-70.

Thinking went from no coin will ever make -70 to tens of thousands of them. Some collectors complained and left.

But look at us. What hobby has so many interesting changes? They come through like a regular bus schedule.

We are always complaining. Some are always leaving, but when you look around, it is amazing how many of us coin collectors are still here.

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News. >> Subscribe today.

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