Computer games have skill levels that take the player higher and higher. Numismatics has something similar, but we are playing with real objects instead.
Where beginner coin collectors might spend $31.95 for a current year proof set, or a similar amount for a silver American Eagle bullion coin, other numismatic buyers who have risen in skill level over time will confidently spend $10 million to buy the 1794 silver dollar that was very likely the first one struck at the U.S. Mint.
But whereas gamers don’t gripe about the existence of skill levels that are higher than their current competency, some collectors do.
There must be something to aspire to, or life quickly gets stale.
Few of us can spend $10 million on a single coin, but longtime collectors whose confidence increases year by year and decade by decade assemble surprisingly valuable collections considering their financial means.
The John Jay Pittman collection that sold in the late 1990s for $30 million in round figures was assembled by an individual who ascended to a very high level of numismatic skill and he did it with an income that would hardly have predicted such an outcome.
Almost every successful collector follows a similar path, but even assembling a collection over a lifetime that is now worth $50,000 or $500,000 would be very gratifying, especially when considering the fact that both probably began with a Whitman Lincoln cent album and a determination to fill it.
It certainly isn’t the value of those initial Lincoln cents found in circulation that propels collection prices to levels with many zeroes, but it is an indispensable start.
What takes every collector higher is a willingness to learn,. The result is we can all rise very high if we keep at it. Who knows which buyer of a 2013 proof set today will in 10 or 20 years time be bidding to send the 1794 dollar to new record levels?
That’s a success story and every hobbyist should take heart from it.
What will the value be of the 2013 proof set in 10 or 20 years?
If you think less than issue price, your thoughts match mine.
Buzz blogger Dave Harper is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."