I just hung up the telephone. I had called the Crystal Cafe in downtown Iola to see if it is open. There was no answer. It must be closed. This causes me concern because on business days I usually have lunch there. I will have to make other plans.
What does this have to do with numismatics? Well, I?ll tell you. Other collectors are like I am. We take a lot for granted. I automatically assume the Crystal Cafe will be open when my stomach tells me it is lunch time. Collectors automatically assume that the hobby stays pretty much like it is. Rather than plan, we can just keep moving ahead on assumptions.
To learn that the Crystal is closed on a business day is a bit like finding out that Q. David Bowers has stopped writing books, or that my copy of Numismatic News arrived in the mail with the Coin Market price guide torn out of the middle of it. I don?t like either of those possibilities. Judging from my mail, my readers are as put off by a missing Coin Market as I would be. Stuff like that can spoil your day.
Other assumptions that can spoil your day is to assume that the U.S. Mint is operating now as it has in the past. It is not. Some of the changes have been wonderful. Getting delivery in as few as three days for some things makes me think I am dreaming. Old-timers like me remember when deliveries took far longer. Perhaps that is why I am willing to cut the Mint a break when San Francisco Old Mint commemoratives and 20th anniversary sets take a little longer to arrive.
My expectations are rooted in part in the past. It is also clear from my mail that many of my readers are not so forgiving. The Mint is a modern business. They want delivery now. Fair enough, but expectations cut both ways.
If the Mint is a modern business, it gets to behave like a modern business. Some of the elements of behavior is choosing when to offer coins for sale, setting the price and offering new products.
The Mint did this to a fare thee well in 2006. We got the new congressionally mandated Buffalo gold one-ounce coins, but we got other products also that the Mint didn?t need congressional autorization to produce, like mintmarked uncirculated American Eagle coins. Fractional Buffalo coins will be sold to collectors in 2007.
Had they asked me beforehand, which they didn?t, I would have told them they are going too far with too many new products. I would have told them that I don?t like older sets going back on sale.
Both the additional products and the selling of older sets violate old collector assumptions. There are many hobbyists who feel they should be able to afford all new Mint issues. There has never been a declared Mint policy that this be so, but before the advent of the multiple platinum, gold and silver coin offerings, it still was true for decades.
For decades we knew that older coins would never be sold to collectors. The 21st century has brought changes. Coins go on sale. They go off sale. Sometimes the offering period is years long. Sometime it is very short and sellouts can occur. We collectors just never know. We make our best guesses.
However, our best guesses even now are turning into serious expectations. There have been so many sellout items offered that have gone up in value on the secondary market, that a growing number of persons expect more. They expect ? not just hope for ? a profit from their Mint purchases.
Given recent experiences, this is almost a reasonable assumption. Go online to the Mint Web site, buy as soon as something is offered and turn right around and sell it online.
Notice, I say almost reasonable. We had a tremor of a problem with the ?W? uncirculated American Eagle coins in September. There will be more. Some other Mint program is going to dash the profit expectation and leave some collectors with losses. It won?t be pretty. Just as the Crystal can close from time to time, new coin issues can decline in value.