The Central States Numismatic Society convention held April 30-May 2 in Cincinnati, Ohio, might have earned a reputation it would rather not have. It might be the event where the coin market died after the long upcycle that began in the mid 1990s. I use the word “might,” because it is not clearcut and I was not present.
Numismatic News staff members who were on hand said the public traffic was absolutely dreadful. The number of papers that they gave away – not sold – but simply gave away dropped by so much that they had boxes left at our booth. Usually we run out of papers from half a day to a full day before an event closes. Even more to the point, we had sent fewer papers than we ordinarily would to an event of this stature.
Online comments also seem to reinforce this downbeat interpretation of what happened at the show.
This is not intended to be a criticism of the organizers. It isn’t. Central States hosts super annual events. What Central States cannot guarantee is an active coin market at the time each convention is held. Business fluctuates. Usually the fluctuation is not so severe as to earn a city an unfavorable reputation.
That unfortunately happened to Lincoln, Neb., in 1980. It might be able hand over the notoriety it has carried as the location of the CSNS show where the market died in 1980 after another incredible boom. Twenty-nine years is a long time to be known for this.
However, there is ambiguity. The market might not be ready to turn down so conclusively. There is still support. Let’s start with precious metals. In 1980 gold and silver were unquestionably in downtrends after the bubble burst in January of that year. That cannot be said of the gold and silver markets currently. The strongest statement that is justified by the facts is that gold and silver are in a pause.
As long as bullion holds up, numismatic cash flow will stay fairly strong.
In 1980 we did not have strong collector interest in current coin issues. While the Anthony dollar was in its second year, it had already lost its novelty and collectors were turning their back on it.
In 1980, there were no cent commemoratives to excite the large Lincoln cent collector base. There wasn’t even a commemorative program of any description such as the sellout 2009 Lincoln silver dollar. There was no Territorial quarter series to encourage a continuing interest in an otherwise dull Washington set.
And while they may sting, the current complaints about Mint delivery times and methods show a much stronger underlying interest in new collectible issues than was apparent in 1980.
Still, after 29 years, my memory can have its own quirks and failings, but what it tells me is that Cincinnati was simply a weak show and not a trend altering event of the kind that the 1980 event was. It looks to me like the city of Lincoln will have to hold onto its sour historical market reputation for a while longer.
That doesn’t mean the coin market is booming and that Cincinnati’s results don’t mean anything – they do. But the meaning is perhaps a flashing yellow light rather than a red.