Skip to main content

New coin age coming

Has the American coin hobby become dangerously old?

That might be a dramatic way of expressing the question, but it is a worry of many active people in the hobby.

It is also a reason why many collectors support Young Numismatists programs with their time and their donations.

But is it true?

What is true is that readers of Numismatic News have gotten older during my career. The average age has risen from 51 or thereabouts to almost 60.

However, this advance has occurred over a period of 35 years, making it a slow change.

I had a telephone conversation yesterday that helps put the concern we all have into some perspective.

Peter Anthony, a columnist for World Coin News, had just returned from a coin show in Singapore where he gave a talk on his area of specialization, the very popular Chinese Panda series of coins.

He said both on the bourse floor and in the room where he gave his talk, people were noticeably younger than the average attendee at an American coin show.

He said there were large numbers of people in their 30s and 40s as well as families with children.

However, when it came time for questions and answers, one of the questions basically expressed the worry all American collectors have: who will buy my coins when the time comes to sell?

It seems premature to think that Asia has an aging collector problem. Certainly in comparison to the United States it will probably take them a couple of generations to reach the age demographic we have reached here in the United States already, especially if the change proceeds as slowly as has occurred in the United States.

Just as nature abhors a vacuum, so too does the coin market. Coins ultimately go to the people who have the money, energy and interest to acquire them.

If older American collectors are giving up and selling out or buying less, the flow of material will become quite obviously pointed to Asia.

But if that should become apparent, it will generate a reaction that counters it, because human nature is such that everybody wants to get in on something that others are quite obviously enjoying.

At least some American collectors seem to be enjoying their hobby less, pointing out why things were better years ago.

That might create a new generation of American collectors who want to collect the Asian way. It certainly will not inspire newcomers to try to recreate the past.

What is certain is that future generations of American collectors will not be bound by the methods and truisms of the circulation finds era.

Whether the next generation of American collectors takes its cue from Asia, Europe, Africa or South America, or from some new way of thinking in the United States itself, I cannot say.

What I can say is that the next generation of American collectors will not be copies of those of us who have gone before.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."