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Three major market segments now in boom

Numismatic News editor gives his impressions of the CICF show.

You could hear the buzz. In fact, you could hear it on the opening day of the show March 31 and on the second day of the show, April 1.

What the heck am I talking about? Well, this is a description of the bourse floor at the Chicago International Coin Fair held March 31-April 2 at the Crowne Plaza Chicago O?Hare.

Buzz is a good thing. Yes, I know that it is hobby jargon and not everybody knows what it means, so I will explain. Buzz is a word that is used to describe the loud noise generated by a room full of dealers and collectors who are doing business at the bourse tables as fast as they can.

Since the CICF event was held in a hotel ballroom, buzz is a fairly accurate term to describe the level of noise. At larger shows held in cavernous convention centers, such as those that host American Numismatic Association and the Florida United Numismatists, the noise indicating that good business is being done is closer to the roar of the sea.

However you describe it, the sound is something that most dealers want to hear. It is an audible confirmation that something significant is going on. It takes a large number of people to generate the sound. As a dealer, if you are having a good day, it merely confirms that you are part of something. If you are having a bad day, it is a check on your own experience. If you hear the buzz, others are probably having a good day even if you aren?t. Then you can take action if necessary to join right in.

After all, dealers are very adept at making lemonade from lemons. If selling is slow, use the time to run around the bourse floor looking to buy. If collectors are crowding your table and you are selling as fast as you can, you can mentally earmark methods you will have to employ to restock.

Since CICF is a world show featuring foreign coins dating from ancient times to the present, you might say that the last piece of the numismatic prosperity puzzle has dropped into place.

What do I mean? Well, as you might expect, numismatics is a big field. It contains subcategories. The paper money hobby has been getting ever stronger since the first large-head Federal Reserve Note, the $100, was introduced in March of 1996. It was the first area of numismatics to reach red-hot status after the slowdown of the 1990s.

The U.S. coin field bounced back second. It peaked in 1989, when the silver dollar boom ended, and then bottomed out in 1995 as the hobby complained about the hugely unpopular U.S. Olympic coin program. Then the turnaround began. It was slow at first. Some might even dispute my placing the bottom in 1995. However, it sped up at the turn of the millennium and we have been going to town ever since. The doubling in the price of gold and silver have helped.

As one dealer remarked in Chicago, the rising price of gold may or may not have caused an increase in the prices of world gold coins, but it sure has made them easier to sell.

The world field was the last piece of the puzzle to rev the engines. Why? I have my theories. One is that no matter what foreign country you point to, others can point to 200 other modern countries that might not be doing the same thing. This lack of a central focus in the field can hinder an overall impression.

A second reason may be the behavior of world mints. If U.S. collectors thought U.S. commemorative programs were bad before the two-program limit was imposed, the world field is an eye-opener. North Korea, Cuba, the Isle of Man and other countries have virtually no limit to the coins they will issue and try to sell to collectors. Some major world mints behave in a similarly unrestrained way. This disillusioned many collectors.

But now rising bullion prices allow modern issues to be scrapped at a profit. Bad memories fade and the basic collecting impulse takes over. Away we go.
The hobby now has all three areas hitting on all cylinders. It is probably safe to say these are boom times.