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Gotta Own it
December 20, 2010

With all of the attention being drawn to coins by the high prices of gold and silver, it is no surprise that the numismatic hobby is attracting newcomers through bullion.

That’s a good thing. But there is a learning curve. The question becomes one of how best do we move along it?

I had a question last week from someone who complained that he could get silver American Eagles cheaper online than he could from the Mint.

No dates were mentioned.

He didn’t say whether he thought of himself as a collector or investor.

No mention was made as to whether the coins he was referring to were uncirculated or proof.

The only thing he seems to have picked up from the hobby is to complain about the Mint.


How would you respond to such a question?

Do you ask him what coins he was referring to specifically?

Do you mention that the public cannot buy uncirculated silver American Eagles directly from the Mint and the Mint is selling only the 2010 proof directly to collectors?

Organized numismatics has its work cut out for it in drawing some of these bullion buyers into the hobby.

We faced the same problem in 1980. Instead of converting investors into collectors, much of the hobby then seemed to begin to apply investor terms to collector coins as well.

That wasn’t a good thing. We survived it because at the core, the hobby is strong. Could we have done a better job at co-opting the investment impulse and directing it into collecting for collecting’s sake?

When the coin ceases to be the end in itself; when the “I’ve got to own that” impulse turns into retirement fund calculations instead, we have eliminated the single most powerful force perpetuating numismatics.

When it all boils down to complaining about prices, what have we got?

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About the Author
David C. Harper has been a coin collector since 1963. He joined the Krause Publications editorial staff in 1978 and is currently editor of Numismatic News and World Coin News. He also edits two books annually, North American Coins & Prices and Coin Digest. He is the author of the Class of '63 column that runs each week in Numismatic News. His first bylined numismatic article appeared in the June 1971 issue of Coins Magazine and his various Krause Publications assignments included a stint as editor of the magazine 1980-1983. Harper received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1977. He had a double major of journalism and economics.

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