We have arrived at the autumn collecting season and my wish for everybody is that they will be able to think and act like collectors.
Strange wish, isn’t it?
What I mean is that the collecting impulse is entirely the desire by a hobbyist to own a coin that is sought for its own sake in the condition and rarity that suits his budget.
No more, no less.
Unfortunately, in the last few years, and most especially in the last few weeks, collectors have been both distracted and buffeted by the huge fluctuations in the prices of gold and silver.
To write that it is a distraction is an understatement. It’s like trying to sleep during a Fourth of July fireworks display. You know you just have to watch it.
Even if collectors tell themselves they are first and foremost collectors, what is going on in the bullion field cannot help but crowd in on their decision-making process.
Not only does a collector have to decide about a coin purchase on its own merits, if it is made of gold or silver he can’t help but think whether the price of metals will continue to rise while he owns it.
No collector ever wants to take a loss, no matter what other attractions a specific coin might have.
Collectors are also unsettled by many semi-key coins now trading at bullion prices. During stable bullion times, semi-keys trade at values above common dates.
Where are the market prices distinctions now?
I look at the circulated set of Washington quarters I put together in the 1960s, and except for the 1932-D and 1932-S, it’s all bullion now.
What happened to the 1937-S, the 1955-D, or even the 1940-D?
Silver, silver and more silver.
That won’t always be the case if the past is any guide, but how does one fill the time between now and the return to normality?
Many collectors simply freeze. They stop buying. They don’t sell, either. They can’t bear to part with what they have, even at very high current prices.
Some try to collect other things not influenced by bullion.
But as Tucson dealer Rick Snow pointed out to me at the American Numismatic Association convention, bullion affects even his specialty areas of Flying Eagle and Indian cents.
How? Other dealers heavily engaged in bullion buying and selling have no time for copper collection. They call Rick.
How much time do you think an average shop owner has in the middle of this bullion frenzy to help a kid pick out his first XF 1931-S cent, or the right proof 1973-S 40 percent silver Ike dollar? Or help any other collectors for that matter?
It is a tough time to be a collector. But now isn’t the time to be faint-hearted. Stick to your goals. Ignore the frenzy. And if you want to try something new, go for it.
After all, is an idle collector really still a collector?