Some days or weeks you would think that the only thing that mattered was the price of gold and silver. Certainly they are important. Prices of many coins are based almost completely on the prices of the metals they contain.
Collector enthusiasm often is helped by the knowledge that their holdings of precious metals are rising in value. Dealer cash flows, especially for shops, improve when there is a national focus on precious metals.
However, precious metals are not the be all and end all of collecting. Putting coin sets together is. That basic collector urge is still alive and well if my recent experiences mean anything.
I have had a refreshing number of phone calls and e-mails in the last few days that wanted to know such things as the profile of the average collector and shouldn’t information about state quarters be more prominently featured? I also talked about Mint First Day Covers. Another e-mailer wanted a back issue that covered a specific error. How about that?
These calls and e-mails help me keep my feet on the ground. They let me know what readers are thinking and doing. Most readers are thoughtful and very careful how they spend their money. They don’t get distracted from their own collecting goals by the headlines, but they like to stay informed.
It would appear I am not alone in not buying any gold coins this year. This isn’t to slam gold or to affect my news judgment about gold-related stories, but I simply made a decision that the precious metal was getting so pricey that I had better uses for my money chasing coins made of something else
Not that I was a big gold buyer anyway. Even at $250 an ounce, my collecting budget did not include much beyond the occasional gold commemorative coin.
That didn’t stop me from encouraging Russ Rulau from writing articles just after the beginning of the 21st century encouraging readers to acquire gold at its lowpoint in the form of collectible coins.
He had been editor of World Coin News from 1974-1984. At the peak of the market in 1979-1980, it was often joked that the paper was really World Gold News. Well, that was what was happening at the time. He was very knowledgeable about the subject. He still is.
If you experienced the last peak a generation ago, you remember the 13 percent inflation, 21 percent interest rates and lines around the block at coin shops of people anxious to sell their silverware, gold teeth and other suddenly valuable items.
There was a sense we were all deer caught in headlights. At the peak, any old silver half could be sold to a smelter for $12 and any silver quarter for $6. Because the smelters were so backed up, these prices were discounts from metallic values of $18 and $9, respectively.
I am happy to say that present precious metals prices are not causing the hobby to stop in its tracks as in did in 1980. I think it also is true that hobbyists are a little more cautious with their money than they were two or three years ago.
Caution is not a bad thing. It means money is being wisely spent and collectors are nothing if not wise.