There is a key dynamic tension at work in numismatics.
Two opposing forces tug a coin collector one way or the other.
What could these possibly be?
The first force is a collector evaluation of some coin series as being too difficult/expensive to complete.
When a collector reaches this conclusion, he or she does not begin it.
They simply look for something else.
The second opposing force is when collectors evaluate a set and decide that it is too easy.
Again, they walk away.
There can be no sense of triumph in completing a set that virtually everyone can do with little effort.
If the tug of these two forces more or less balance, a collector happily chases his goals.
This is perhaps why Lincoln cents have been so popular for so many decades.
There are many common dates that can be easily acquired.
Getting these creates a sort of momentum.
Key dates are harder, but they are doable.
Few collectors I have known would simply begin collecting something by handing over $1,600 to start.
But many very happily spend that amount to acquire the last coin they need in a set.
In this case, I am looking at the Coin Market price of an MS-60 1909-S VDB.
An MS-65 would cost multiples of this figure.
Average collectors happily hand over such a sum to achieve the sense of triumph in completing a set that is neither impossibly hard nor boringly easy.
I noticed this dynamic tension at work in the America the Beautiful quarters this week.
That might be a surprise.
America the Beautiful quarters are much less popular than the state quarter series.
But there are intrepid individuals who are attempting to get all of the designs from their change or as new rolls of uncirculated coins from their bank.
When they feel they have been stopped cold, they are upset.
I just received a typed letter mailed to me by a collector who has experienced this.
He had read a submission to the Letters section of the May 29 issue of Numismatic News.
The published letter noted that local banks were unwilling or unable to provide rolls of the new quarters.
It blamed the Mint for lack of promoting the series enough.
Taking this contention even further, the second letter sender writes: “The lack of the new ATB coins and the excess of the older issues can leave this person with only one conclusion: The Mint is protecting the economic interests of their largest group of customers – the dealers with their large initial orders – but avoiding private competition by collectors finding them in circulation.”
Whether you find merit in what the two individuals have to say, they definitely have not walked away because the set is too hard, nor have they quit because it is too easy.
For these two, collecting the ATB series from circulation sources embodies the dynamic tension that keeps collectors active and focused on their goals.
Buzz blogger Dave Harper won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog for the third time in 2017 . He is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."
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