I finally got around to reading Dan Brown’s latest book, “Inferno.” I can’t claim to have read all of his previous work, but certainly I had read, “The Da Vinci Code,” as well as seen the movie.
So, this past May when I saw the new book sitting on a shelf in a book store at the O’Hare Airport in suburban Chicago, I bought it.
Despite my good intentions, it took me until September to actually find the time to sit down, open it and read it.
For those fans of impending apocalypse and villains chasing the heroes, it is a great book. I can see the movie in my mind’s eye already.
You probably wonder what this has to do with numismatics – as you should.
As I was relaxing with the book, it dawned on me that I had just experienced at the American Numismatic Association show something that some might consider to be a pending hobby apocalypse.
A dealer whom I have known for many years was telling me that he thought the period of numismatic history that has been defined and organized by those of us who cut our teeth in the circulation finds era was coming to an end. Had he let it go at that, I might simply have concluded that it was just his way of saying we wouldn’t be around forever.
But his point was deeper than that. He thinks that when we Baby Boomers go, we will take our way of collecting with us. That is, there will be no one behind us generationally speaking who will fill out albums of circulated cents through half dollars.
There will be few collectors who will pay a premium for any but the very best examples of modern coin series. My Lincoln cent album of cents from 1940 to date that I filled in the mid 1960s will be worth face value. Jefferson nickels, ditto.
Of course, coins made of copper and silver will have their metallic value – but if the scenario outlined by the dealer plays out, that’s all.
Copper, of course, could soar, but it will still be disappointing to know that the 1955-S cent that took me so long to find will always be worth just the copper in it.
This isn’t just a matter of changing collector numbers and tastes. It’s hard wired in the dealer community. As costs escalate over time, who will hold massive numbers of common dates in inventory for potential would-be collectors to purchase?
When I was a kid and got tired of not being able to find the three 1955 dimes in circulation, I simply ordered them from a dealer who listed the series by date and mint. Now they are just bullion. Few dealers bother to hold them in inventory unless they were part of a bag of bullion-valued coins.
Is that our future? Will it be just a few collectors going after the great rarities and bullion investors grabbing the precious metals with the rest of our treasured circulated coins going to the bank?
Is it curtains for our way of collecting?
In the book, the good guy comes through.
For organized numismatics, the villain might be on our tail. What will we do?
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