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Buying like the insiders they want to be

Every so often I receive an e-mail, letter or phone call that inquires why so much space is “wasted” on new Mint issues that everybody seems to lose money on by buying.

Why not do more to encourage collectors to go back and assemble sets of classic sets of the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries? The writer or caller will often explain to me how he quit buying Mint stuff many years ago.

So why don’t I take this advice?

The short answer is that the overwhelming evidence of my experience is that new Mint issues are quite popular among readers. Rather than condemning them, I usually am threatened, implored, or simply informed that I should publish more information about current issues.

A much more frequent lament to me is that the writers and callers bring to my attention a sense that they are not informed enough about new issues. They want specific sales dates way ahead of time. They want prices now, not “To Be Announced” statements. They want Mint phone operators to be knowledgeable about programs that won’t start for weeks yet.

In short, they want to feel like an insider rather than a cat sitting on a stove wondering when it might get hot.

I have even had calls from collectors on the Mint subscription program wondering if they will indeed get something that the Mint expects to offer. They want to take no chances about overlooking something.

This sense of not wanting to miss out is shared by a far larger audience than the collectors who think new issues aren’t worth bothering with.

The most recent manifestation of this sense accompanies the Lincoln Coins and Chronicles Set. When it goes on sale Oct. 15 at noon Eastern Daylight Time, it will probably sell out rapidly.
It is true that many modern Mint issues sink in value on the secondary market, but not all of them do. The fact that often you cannot be certain what will happen is sufficient enticement to order something.

I am not ignoring the collector impulse, I simply assume that buyers already share it and are layering over it this sense of opportunism akin to entering a lottery. And they are far more likely to buy a set that earns a profit on the secondary market than winning a Lotto drawing.

I feel that impulse. I remember it when I bought proof sets, Ike dollars, Olympic coins and other issues. Sometimes I guess badly wrong. I bought 10 1969 mint sets and just one 1970 mint set. What a foolish time to cut back that was.

Chet Krause reminisced that one of the events that helped build this paper was the closure of the San Francisco Mint in 1955. The scramble to get current issues with the magic “S” mintmark then was something like the mass anxiety felt by collectors waiting for the circulating 2009 Lincoln cents that did not widely circulate this year.

That urge to get something new and to get it fast may not be felt by every coin collector, but it is felt by such a large number of them that news about new Mint issues will always be in demand in these pages and online and anywhere else you find a group of collectors.

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