For the past three decades, market analyst Thomas Michael has served as director of world coin values for all of Krause Publications’ world coin catalogs. With new editions of The Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1901-2000, and The Standard Catalog of World Coins, 2001-Date, now available, Michael shares some observations on these two vitally important references in the hobby.
Question: The new editions of the Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1901-2000, and Standard Catalog of World Coins, 2001-Date, have just released. Both are mammoth references, totaling a combined 3744 pages of detailed coin information. How does that information come together?
Thomas Michael: We compile information from many sources including internet auctions, live auctions, fixed price offerings, Central Bank, Mint and distributor websites, but we especially value our rich base of collectors, dealers and researchers all of whom contribute information they personally compile in the course of their hobby and business interactions.
Question: What role do these two vast catalogs play in the hobby?
Thomas Michael:The Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1901-2000 represents the most widely collected coinage. Many collectors begin with coins from this period and most dealers earn the bulk of their livelihood from coins from this period, so we revise this volume annually and invest a great deal of time and effort to ensure current trend are accurately reflected. The Standard Catalog of World Coins, 2001-Date is both an important catalog for those folks who collect and trade current circulating coinage, as well as for Mints, Central Banks and distributors who create and sell modern collectable precious metal coins. It is the one source where these two markets combine and provides the one reference to further the ends of both of these communities.
Question: You’ve been a market analyst at Krause Publications for nearly 30 years, so it’s safe to say you’ve seen just about everything. What emerging trends do you find most fascinating?
Thomas Michael: From the late 1970s through 2010 or so, contract Mints produced large numbers of coins for small countries strictly for purposes of selling to collectors often outside the traditional hobby. Mintage figures for these manufactured collectibles where too high and mintage limits were often left open so that fixed dates might be struck years after the initial run. This produced way too many coins for the traditional coin market to absorb, leaving both collectors and dealers with problems mostly resulting in decreasing values, as one might expect. A few years ago, while visiting the annual World Money Fair in Berlin, I was very pleased to find that one of the major contract Mints had completely revised their approach to solve this looming problem. CIT had begun to produce coins with truly small and limited mintages, thus seriously increasing the opportunity for these coins to retain or increase their value over time. This is a huge and exciting development for the future of the coin market.
Question: By its definition, world coin collecting is immense. What area holds a particular interest for you?
Thomas Michael: I have always enjoyed circulating coins and tokens. I appreciate things that have a purpose or specific use. Circulating coins and tokens are always designed for practical use. Consideration must be made for a circulating coins metal content and design to withstand handling, local weather conditions and specific circumstances. The goal is to produce a practical item with good durability and easy public recognition and acceptance.
Question: Any advice for collectors?
Thomas Michael: Collect what you enjoy. In most cases, if you are collecting what you enjoy, you will be doing all the right things for the best chance at long term appreciation in value. You will seek out the best designs, add the highest quality and build within a theme or series, all while enjoying your chosen hobby. In building your collection with sincere attention and patience, the end result will be as pleasing to you as the journey and when the time comes to sell, potential buyers will be able to see and appreciate the care you have taken.