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New Purpose for Old Coin Shops?
March 17, 2011

Coin shops have been a staple of the coin business as long as I have been active in it. They provide a window on the numismatic hobby to many thousands of collectors. For some of them, it was their first exposure to collecting coins.

These days rather than coin shops, I see offices with signs claiming to buy gold and silver springing up all over. I imagine as long as bullion stays strong, these businesses will continue to proliferate.

Bullion buying and selling has helped the cash flow of the traditional coin shop business, but this aside, the numbers of traditional coin shops has been declining. It isn’t easy to cover rent and other overhead costs month in and month out when many choose to go online and do business over the Internet.

Will coin shops go the way of the dinosaurs? Can they be helped in some way?

I ask this question because I had a surprise conversation on my Delta flight out of Green Bay, Wis., yesterday that was taking me to the American Numismatic Association convention in Sacramento, Calif.

As I sat in my aisle seat waiting for perhaps two more travelers to arrive, who should show up to claim the window seat but a former Numismatic News publisher whom I have not seen in several years.

After the opening greetings, I learned that he was involved in the sports card business now. He runs a trade show in Las Vegas that once had roots in Hawaii. He was heading to Vegas.

He mentioned that sports card issuers consider card shops to be important assets that their business shouldn’t lose. They have changed their business to plan to provide exclusive releases through the nation’s card shops rather than just selling everything through the Internet. They think it is good business to do this.

Should the U.S. Mint consider this as it sells its wide variety of products? Having the nation’s coin shop owners acting as ambassadors of the Mint’s product line is not a bad thought. Would collectors accept the idea that only certain coins could be purchased at a brick and mortar location?

That’s an interesting question and at the least is counterintuitive in this Internet age.

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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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