Let me take a step back from the debate about how to bring more coin collectors into the hobby.
To even begin that discussion, you have to assume that there are people who know what coins are.
Now I am not trying to be funny, but coins are having less and less impact in our daily lives even among collectors.. It is not wild fantasy to project that we will reach a point where they will have no impact.
Few individuals take a supply of coins with them when they start their day. Those who do, we would not be too far off to assume, are headed to a laundromat.
Instead, people arm themselves with folding money and debit and/or credit cards to take care of the transactions.
If there is a daily cash transaction that yields some change, the coins end up being taken home, not really looked at, and hidden away for months or years in various containers.
This is not a fertile field to plant new interest in numismatics.
Coin collectors try. Young Numismatist programs at shows often have areas where kids can fill albums with the coins that are piled on a table.
That is wonderful. For old-timers like me, it conjures up memories of circulation finds. For kids, the experience is one of many that compete for their attention.
Even in the days of circulation finds, most kids simply did not collect. Nowadays, with fewer kids exposed to coins, those who are won over to collecting are also fewer.
This intake process by definition cannot fill the ranks of collectors who leave the field at the end of their hobby lives.
We must bring new collectors in by other means. We cannot rely on the government coming up with another home run like the state quarters program. That simply bought us time.
Beginners of any age do not start off by buying expensive Mint State rarities. They want to start more modestly. We need to create avenues for them to do so.
Reading auction reports imply that the only worthwhile coins to collect are Mint State. Certainly that is where the headline grabbing prices are.
Grading services have competitions by their clients to build the best sets. It is a wonderful innovation. But it only works for the well heeled.
To have a mass hobby as we have always been, we need a lower end and a middle, too.
How about grading service competitions to form complete sets in VG, in fine, and VF? What would be the incentive? The services could give prizes. Better yet, how about show exhibits of complete sets of VF Buffalo nickels or Mercury dimes? Prizes could be given in the manner of the more traditional exhibits.
It would probably take an eye-popping prize to get participation the first time, but if in every corner of the hobby the construction of nicely matched sets with all coins in the same grade is talked about and rewarded, people would take new interest in their coins.
This article was originally printed in Numismatic News. >> Subscribe today.
More Collecting Resources
• Are you a U.S. coin collector? Check out the 2017 U.S. Coin Digest for the most recent coin prices.
• The 1800s were a time of change for many, including in coin production. See how coin designs grew during the time period in the Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1801-1900 .