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When Is It Time To Retire From Numismatics?

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Last week I had dinner with a decades-long dealer friend that I hadn’t seen since before the pandemic. We had done a lot of business back and forth for more than 35 years. We’re both over the age of 65 and still love the work we are doing.

One of the subjects we discussed is when would be the “right time” to retire from being a numismatic dealer or collector. We did not come up with a one-size-fits-all solution, but here are some factors to consider.

Obviously, health is perhaps the most important consideration, whether a dealer or collector. If you cannot physically handle the workload of whatever kind of dealership you have, it’s probably time to stop. If a collector has difficulty with vision, memory or mobility issues, that may also be a sign that it’s time to let things go. One option for dealers, though, is to consider working part-time for another dealership where you have an existing good and trustworthy relationship, especially a small operation where the owner might appreciate being able to take vacations or days off.

Almost as important as health is the financial considerations. If you are a dealer, do you need to continue working to cover your lifestyle expenses? If you are a collector, can you afford to keep adding to your collection or might you need to sell some or all of your holdings to provide living expenses?

If your health and finances are satisfactory, another factor is whether you now enjoy being a dealer or a collector. If you do, you are welcome to keep going. If not, consider going in a different direction.

There are also other lesser considerations that might be significant for some people.

Family considerations could be very important. Are you missing out on other activities because of your continued involvement? Did you make promises to your spouse, children or friends about what you would do “someday?” Is there someone else in your family with health challenges where your time (and maybe your assets) is needed to care for them?

When looking at estate planning, is there someone who could properly take care of dividing up or selling your inventory or collection in a fair manner? If not, it may be more important to liquidate or pass along a collection while you are still knowledgeable and healthy. It may also happen that there really isn’t anyone who has an interest in the coins or currency other than the cash they might receive from selling it. There are horror stories galore about advanced numismatists whose unknowledgeable heirs didn’t realize the value of a collection and dispersed it for a fraction of its value.

When I have done appraisals for estates to be divided among multiple heirs, it has sometimes happened that a single piece was such a large part of the entire value that whoever accepted that coin or currency would have to pay cash to the other heirs. If this might be your situation, perhaps you should sell it or at least let the heirs know of this circumstance in order to gauge their potential interest.

Most all of you reading this know of dealers and collectors who have continued in the hobby well into their 80s, 90s and even some over 100 who still made it to some coin shows. It is a blessing that this is an industry and hobby where that can be possible.

So, the question may not be all or nothing about retiring from numismatics. Another option could be to scale back on working or collecting so that what you continue to do with numismatics is still fun and fits easier with the rest of your life.

Patrick A. Heller was honored as a 2019 FUN Numismatic Ambassador. He is also the recipient of the American Numismatic Association 2018 Glenn Smedley Memorial Service Award, 2017 Exemplary Service Award, 2012 Harry Forman National Dealer of the Year Award and 2008 Presidential Award. Over the years, he has also been honored by the Numismatic Literary Guild (including twice in 2020), Professional Numismatists Guild, Industry Council for Tangible Assets and the Michigan State Numismatic Society. He is the 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 www.libertycoinservice.com. 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 archives posted at www.1320wils.com).