Turmoil in the gold and silver markets certainly make dramatic headlines, but I had a letter from a reader during the painful declines that helps me keep my feet on the ground.
What was the topic?
The letter writer wanted to know why he was not finding any 2011 Vicksburg quarters at his local bank. He says the bankers have never heard of the Vicksburg coin, or the America the Beautiful program that began in 2010. This strikes me as significant on two counts.
First, the writer is showing an excited impatience that many collectors have felt about new coins over the years. I myself have felt it many times.
The Vicksburg quarter was only just released at the end of August and I received the letter Sept. 26. Even if the bankers had been absolutely on top of things, the odds in this economy of getting immediate delivery of new coin designs is not good. I don’t expect we will wait as long as many had to do in 2009 for the new Lincoln bicentennial cent designs, because the economy has improved somewhat since then, but I do not think waiting a month or two or even three is out of the question for a new quarter design in 2011, no matter how disappointing this might prove to be to an eager collector.
The other comment he made in his letter was that there are no coin collectors left, only bullion investors. I agree that it might seem like this during times of major price swings. The coin business generates a lot of cash flow during bullion booms and some people sell what they consider to be hopelessly common or hopelessly worn coins for precious metel values that are vastly higher than any collector would ever pay to buy them.
I know to some this seems like some sort of numismatic cultural vandalism, but realistically, how many examples of a given date and mintmark of any coin issue should there be?
I expect if we could somehow sit on Mount Olympus and know precisely how many of each coin has survived the melts of the late 1960s, 1980 and today, we would see this periodic winnowing out has not reduced the outstanding supply enough to deny coins to any collector who wishes to have them.
Three decades ago I mused as many did that relative scarcity could change as a result of melting. That was the theoretical possibility. It still is. But there has never been any evidence that any such thing has ever happened.
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What’s the upshot of all this? Collectors collect and the occasional bullion boom has done nothing to hinder collectors from finding and buying the coins they desire.
It might not be appealing for collectors to think that they are being eclipsed in importance. However, this is a short-term thing that will pass just as it did after 1980.
As long as there are collectors like the letter writer who are looking for current issues, I know that the overall hobby is lively and healthy, Collectors do what they always do no matter that gold and silver are crowding them out of the headlines.