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Gold as a four-letter word

Americans have assets totaling almost $83 trillion as of the end of 2014, according to the Federal Reserve.

That figure rose by just over $4 trillion in 12 months, which is an increase of a little over 5 percent.

Obviously, the owners of gold bullion did not find the value of their holdings contributing to this increase in 2014.

The precious yellow metal’s value was roughly flat for the year.

While that particular data point might cause a momentary frown on the faces of those who think about it, a typical collector is more likely to feel good about the increased value of the house he lives in and the higher prices of the stocks in his retirement plan.

This represents something of a return to normality in the numismatic market when the decision to buy or sell a coin for a collection depends on both the perceived value of the coin in question and what kind of a strain its purchase will put on a personal budget.

In normal times, collectors don’t consider these factors to be a strain at all and they happily engage in the challenge of expanding their numismatic holdings by as much as their family commitments will allow.

It has been a long time since numismatics has experienced normal times.

It might seem kind of dull at first.

There is little collective excitement when I, or any other hobbyist, acquires a coin.

But when every collector is doing this simultaneously, the collective impact on dealer cash flow is strongly positive and it makes for better times for all of us as they happily go out to find other coins that we collectors might be interested in.

The positive effect of all of these buyers eventually works its way throughout the whole of the numismatic network and the little piece of that $83 trillion that is coin collections expands.

Collector prosperity might not make an interesting headline, or matter much to the future growth of that $83 trillion figure, but it is far more enjoyable than the times when fearful buyers are pushing up the price of gold as the value of our houses and retirement plans go the other way.

Far better numismatic times occur when gold is a four-letter word.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2014 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."