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Reach out to new coin buyers

In my experience, coin and paper currency dealers focus almost all their marketing efforts toward existing and would-be numismatists. They may be missing out on another niche to expand their sales – serving topical collectors.

A topical collection is one focused on a theme. Some popular examples are animals, specific breeds of animals, flowers, trees, a country of one’s heritage, American presidents, female trailblazers, a particular year and the like.


Many collectors acquire coins and bank notes with a topical theme, such as this $5 Hawaiian note circa 1839 depicting a whale, in addition to their other numismatic interests.

When collectors start to collect a variety of objects associated with a specific topic, there are often coins and paper currency that depict that theme. I was reminded of this a couple weeks ago. A customer in our store was purchasing some 2016-dated silver American Eagles for Christmas gifts. He then mentioned that he had recently expanded his collection of whale memorabilia to include coins and paper currency that depict whales – which he previously had not realized. He already owned more than a dozen coins and a half dozen pieces of paper money. Compared to some items he acquired for his topical collection, coins and paper currency tended to be more affordable.

Decades ago another customer wanted to furnish his second home with artwork that depicted the Old West. When he realized that he could purchase U.S. and obsolete currency issues that showed Native American Indians, bison, or cowboys and have them framed at a cost lower than purchasing paintings or sculpture, he bought a number of pieces from us to do just that.

Many U.S. numismatists collect American coins and paper money as being the most relevant to their daily lives. However, I also know that many of them also collect coins or paper currency issued by their ethnic heritage, or homelands of their ancestors.

In my own instance, I have fun with my youngest children collecting coins that bear the denomination “heller,” which happens to be my last name. Since these coins had the lowest values of circulating coins when issued, they almost all are made of copper. It is possible to acquire pieces hundreds of years old at only a minor cost. We don’t have the same fascination with the German hyperinflation currency denominated in hellers. There were just so many of those issues and they were not as old as the coins. Maybe someday we will branch out in that direction.

So, dealers, when you are talking with the general public about collecting coins and paper money, are you trying to attract only numismatists? Or, are you willing to serve topical collectors as well?

Patrick A. Heller was the American Numismatic Association 2012 Harry Forman Numismatic Dealer of the Year Award winner. He was also honored by the Numismatic Literary Guild in 2016 for the Best Dealer-Published Magazine/Newspaper and for Best Radio Report. He is the owner emeritus and communications officer of Liberty Coin Service in Lansing, Mich., and writes “Liberty’s Outlook,” a monthly newsletter on rare coins and precious metals subjects. Past newsletter issues can be viewed at Some of his radio commentaries titled “Things You ‘Know’ That Just Aren’t So, And Important News You Need To Know” can be heard at 8:45 a.m. Wednesday and Friday mornings on 1320-AM WILS in Lansing (which streams live and becomes part of the audio and text archives posted at

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News. >> Subscribe today.

More Collecting Resources

• If you enjoy reading about what inspires coin designs, you'll want to check out Fascinating Facts, Mysteries & Myths about U.S. Coins.

• The Standard Catalog of United States Paper Money is the only annual guide that provides complete coverage of U.S. currency with today’s market prices.