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Secondary Market Often a Mystery
January 31, 2012

Trying to explain the secondary market to newcomers to the hobby is often a challenge.

Everybody likes to buy something new from the U.S. Mint or other world mints and then see its price rise so they can sell what they have purchased for a profit.

What is the secondary market?

There is no place like the New York Stock Exchange that coin collectors point to and say “here is the market.” The closest thing we have is the bourse floor – and it moves from place to place each week.

What those collectors and dealers do at various shows determines the values of many coin issues.

A bourse is the freest of free markets. Nobody has to buy anything. Nobody has to sell anything. And nobody has to care what issue price was.

Issue price is simply what a collector had to pay the Mint at the time of issue. The initial trading price on the secondary market can deviate sharply. Many proof sets trade for prices far below issue price and have done so for many years.

Something like the 25th anniversary American Eagle set can catch fire and sell for multiples of issue price.

Some issues do both.

The 1992 White House commemorative silver dollar nearly tripled after its release. But a few years later, many in the hobby decided that its 500,000 mintage was too high and now it trades for bullion value. Depending on when you looked at it, you could have called it a winner or a loser.

With action like that on the secondary market, it is important that when you buy coins, you should look first to your own desires. If you like something, you can feel good about a purchase no matter what happens on the secondary market.




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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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