Coin collecting is about as close to an eternal hobby as we are likely to see on this earth. We can count on it carrying on through the remainder of our lives.
But what else would we expect of a field that has its roots in the actions of Italian princes during the Renaissance 700 years ago?
German language coin literature dates back about 500 years. It would not surprise me if it should be discovered that Johann Gutenberg invented movable type printing on a printing press so he could easily assemble an annual coin price guide.
Yet as fixed as numismatics seems to be, we are constantly buffeted by collecting fashion. Fashion changes over time.
Collecting the hot series this year can easily turn into cold areas in the future.
What kind of fashions have there been?
Well, in my hobby lifetime there have been any number of them. What would the 1980s have been had it not been for the fashion of collecting Morgan silver dollars and seeing to it that they were dutifully submitted to the new commercial grading firms for inclusion in that fascinating invention, the sealed plastic slab?
Morgans were hot for more than a decade starting with the dispersal of the Redfield and Treasury silver dollar hoards in the 1970s and carrying on until 1989.
Morgan dollar prices of 1989 on average stand as the peak of the market as the NASDAQ stock average high of 2000 stands as a monument to the tech stock fashion on Wall Street.
With Morgan dollars there was a fashion within a fashion. What might that be? At the time it was called condition rarity. While there might be hundreds of thousands of bright shiny uncirculated MS-60 to MS-65 examples of certain dates, the unique MS-66 or MS-67 suddenly became worth many times the value of the dollars that were just one grading point behind.
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But rather than be called crazy, the hobby has gone on to refine this fashion for the ultimate grade by having competitions of the best sets ever assembled refereed by the commercial grading services.
If ever there was a fashion that merged collector enthusiasm with commercial self-interest, this was it. You might own the finest example of something, but if it is not graded, slabbed and recorded in the database, it doesn’t count.
While having the finest known example of something is a worthy ambition, what do we call the fashion of applying this ambition to create thousands of MS-69 and MS-70 silver American Eagles?
Will the condition rarity fashion end, or just parts of it? Will these thousands of MS-70 American Eagles in the future stand out like banana yellow cars from the 1970s, or of the last several years?
That’s the puzzle. Collecting is timeless. How we choose to collect is ever changing. What will happen in 2012 could surprise all of us.
One other thing that is virtually timeless is complaining about the U.S. Mint. That is strange when you consider that never before has there been so many nearly perfect coins to collect.