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It will be different

Freshly back in the office after a three-day weekend, the following email was at the top of my inbox.

It asks a question that has been on many minds, so I will throw it out here for consideration in today’s blog with my answer following:

“As many other collectors do, I conduct a lot of research regarding my collection or desired pieces. I have also collected a number of books which I also have read. I am seeing more and more of the prominent members of the numismatic field who are suggesting, in their writings, the world of coin collecting is ‘dying.’ And yet, we continue to see record sales, primarily for the exclusive grades and/or types of coins, along with auctions for many grades and types of coins.

“I have no intention of stopping my coin collection acquisitions (primarily slab coins), nor am I prepared to begin selling these coins at this time. Yet, I become a bit disillusioned when I frequently see many experts in this field suggesting the end of our passion is approaching.”

Here is my reply:

Coin collecting in the United States is aging and it is shrinking, but the active collectors are spending more money.

This process has been going on since 1964 when the number of collectors peaked and the circulation of the major numismatic periodicals peaked also.

The huge shakeout occurred in the late 1960s, but that is often overlooked.

Many of the current generation of collectors began with Whitman coin albums and built collections from circulation.

That is no longer the overwhelmingly most important avenue of entry.

We are returning to conditions that are similar to what prevailed before the Whitman album boomtime generation.

There are more and more younger people involved in numismatics as any walk down a bourse floor at a major show will prove, but the number retiring is larger still and will likely continue to be this way until the Baby Boomers pass from the scene.

It is fashionable these days to be pessimistic about everything. I don’t buy it. It sounds like you don’t either. Keep that attitude.

There will always be a numismatic hobby, but the next generation might be more interested in Morgan dollars or early coppers rather than 1909-S VDB Lincoln cent that was the lodestar of the Whitman album generation, myself included.

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

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