Coin collectors are mostly men, right?
That is conventional wisdom. That is the impression one gets looking around bourse floors at coin shows.
Mint information shared with participants at the Oct. 13 Numismatic Forum in Philadelphia showed there have been more women interested in numismatics than I could have guessed.
In a data rich presentation by Jon Cameron, Associate Director of Numismatics & Bullion, it was revealed that 24 percent of Mint customers in 2006 were women.
I have never seen a figure that high.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is by 2015 that percentage had shrunk to 13 percent, which is much more in line with the "Numismatic News" reader profiles.
Was there something special about coin collecting in 2006 that then ended?
A good guess would be the state quarter program.
Could it be that the wonderful state program helped repair the demographic gap between men and women in numismatics?
Without having data about Mint customers before 2006, there is no way to know how much of a aberration the 2006 figure might be.
Other demographic data contained no real surprises.
We collectors believe we are getting older on average.
Mint data shows that in 2006 29 percent of customers were 65 years old or older. In 2015 that number had jumped to 52 percent.
Conversely, 56 percent of customers were 45-64 years old in 2006. In 2015, that group had shrunk to 40 percent.
Those 18 to 44 years old were 15 percent of the Mint’s customers and just 8 percent today.
While the percentages changed, the bigger story is the customer base as a whole shrank by half, from roughly 1.2 million to just over 500,000.
Back in the 1980s the Mint had over 2 million on its mailing list, but there was no data offered as to whether these names were actually cash-paying customers on any regular basis.
The trend though, no matter what number you choose as a baseline is still relentlessly lower.
Those continuing as active customers are richer than they were in 2006.
In that year 26 percent had incomes over $100,000 while 36 percent had incomes above that number in 2015.
The numbers with incomes between $30,000 and $100,000 shrank.
One anomaly was individuals who earned less than $30,000 a year comprised 13 percent of the Mint’s customer base in 2006, but they increased to 16 percent by 2015.
Why as a percentage are there more customers at the lowest measured income level?
Perhaps they were just more loyal as other customers disappeared.
What is interesting about Mint data is it is reliable, but more importantly, dropping customer numbers and sales results cannot be blamed on changing technology.
The Mint is the source of all new coins. There is no new competitor selling its collector customers in an alternative manner.
If I say "Numismatic News" circulation is down from 2006, everyone will say, yes, it is the Internet.
There is no such technological factor to affect Mint sales data.
Nor did half of the Mint’s 2006 customer base decide to collect coins of Canada or some other country.
Mint data shows that we coin collectors have an impression of ourselves that is essentially accurate.
For the Mint, a conclusion that the data suggest is that rather than chasing youth, it looks like it should be chasing women customers where it has had marked success before.
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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