This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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Seeing the hundreds of German collectors packed together like sardines at the opening of the World Money Fair in Berlin is an eye-opening experience. When was the last time you saw a significant crowd as the doors opened on a major U.S. show?
Even more interestingly, every single one of those German collectors paid 10 euros admission, or $13.60.
Yes and no.
I will not doubt German numismatic enthusiasm, but there is more at work. Special numismatic offerings made available only at the show have something to do with it.
I saw lines that stretched across the bourse floor as collectors scrambled to get in on the special deals.
Imagine if the U.S. Mint had decided to offer the 2010 America the Beautiful 5-ounce silver bullion coins for sale only at a major coin show. FUN? Long Beach? Pick one.
With only 33,000 sets available, there was no question that there was going to be a shortage mentality prevailing, but why not make something good out of it? Ask people to attend the show to get the coins.
I can tell you there is nothing like a crowd of people to get the adrenaline flowing. This creates a sense of success among the participants.
Empty bourse floors create an impression of failure even if an individual bourse dealer has a successful show. I cannot recount all of the times I have had a dealer at a slow show tell me that the show was terrible because there were few people in the aisles but then say his worked out OK because so-and-so showed up and bought some expensive coin. Success, but still complaining.
If the Mint did it right, shortages of supply would be transformed into images of success, of large crowds lining up to buy very desirable Mint products.
Buying a coin over the counter means that the purchasers cannot complain about long waits online or on the phone. They cannot complain about long delivery times. They probably won’t even complain about prices because there was someone behind them in line waving his credit card, anxious to get one of the sets before it sold out.
When silver American Eagles were in short supply in 2009, nobody ever complained to me that premiums were three times normal levels. Price wasn’t an issue. Readers were just complaining that they could not buy even more of the popular bullion coins at those very high prices. Crowd psychology does that to you. You want it because you see others want it.
The Mint needs to use psychology to put fun back into the hobby.
I will bet that not one of the German collectors went home to his spouse with his newly purchased pieces and complained about the crowd.
Instead, as he put his feet up, he felt a contented fatigue that he had beaten the crowd and gotten one of the new 2-euro coin sets before they ran out.