This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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In their sane and sober moments, most collectors want to share their hobby with others and do things to encourage others to join us in what is sometimes referred to as the hobby of kings.
It is a noble impulse.
This hobby has been good to me for nearly 50 years now and it definitely is worth sharing with others.
Suggestions often are made to the American Numismatic Association to create this or that program to attract newcomers, or hold some event or other during National Coin Week. Readers suggest other readers spend some old or odd coins in their daily routine like sowers throwing seeds on fertile fields.
Dateless Buffalo nickels, old Wheat cents, current half dollars, Ike dollars and $2 bills can be easily obtained. Cost is minimal. Who knows how people who have never seen an Ike dollar will react to getting one? If they call the police, we have a funny story that seems to occur about once a year, but for the most part recipients of these older or odder pieces that average Americans don’t see seem to want to keep what is being spent. That could be the beginning for someone in this great hobby.
All of this is the good side of the hobby. As I said, it is the noble side.
Then we have the spectacle of some hobbyists and the America the Beautiful 5-ounce bullion coins.
This program has not covered itself in glory. Trying to sell 33,000 sets of the coins has created one problem after another.
Many collectors who would like a set are frustrated by the problems in obtaining one and are livid about prices being charged in certain quarters after the coins have had their initial sale at the Mint-controlled low price. That’s understandable. It’s human.
But this is where all of numismatics’ noble work seems to be trampled into nothing.
Some publicly accuse the Mint of incompetence. The Mint could have let the Authorized Purchasers sell the sets in bulk for whatever price they could get as is the usual case with bullion coins, but the Mint did not. It mandated a price with a 10 percent profit margin over cost and a limit of one-per customer. This means that 33,000 initial buyers get a bargain. They can take their set and turn around and sell it online for a $1,500 profit.
That should mean at least 32,000 more buyers who got a profit that they would not otherwise have had a chance to make.
Frustrated would-be buyers are calling Authorized Purchasers and dealers further down the chain crooks. The reasoning is the higher the price the bigger the crook.
What do potential collectors see?
They see a Mint called incompetent, dealers called crooks, and people who call themselves collectors who simply want the windfall profit and express that desire in very ugly ways.
With behavior like this why bother with the noble programs at all? Noncollectors see the hobby for what it appears to be.
Are they wrong?