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Did YN Programs Have Impact?
April 19, 2010

Coin collectors often wonder what the future holds for the hobby. Speculation about it makes interesting reading.

One aspect of the future of numismatics is that it is largely determined by demographics.

Current collectors are counted by the number of them born between 60 and 50 years ago.


Because the prime decade of coin collecting for most hobbyists is their 50s. It has been that way for 100 years.

So the health of the hobby is determined by the number of 50-year-olds who decide to get in there and spend time and money on their favorite hobby.

Subtract the number of collectors who reach 60 this year from the number who turn 50 and the resulting number will tell you whether we will grow or not. If the number is positive, growth is likely.

True, there are collectors who are 49 and 61, respectively, but they are not part of the key demographic group.

In the next 10 years we will begin to see whether all the Young Numismatist programs that became mainstream in the 1970s will have any impact at all on the numbers of collectors in their prime.

About half of all collectors started before they were 20 and we will see if YN programs in their youth makes them return to the hobby in any greater numbers. Most collectors who started as kids put the hobby aside for a while as graduation, jobs and families became priorities. They then return in middle age as time and finances permit. Perhaps more will report that they never left the hobby, or returned sooner.

About 40 percent of collectors begin after age 40.

That leaves the great demographics wasteland of ages 20-40 where only 10 percent had their beginnings in numismatics.

The next 10 years should be a good one for the hobby overall. The question in my mind is what happens to YN programs if we see no evidence in that period that YN programs had any impact on the overall collecting life pattern of those who will be in their 50s during the coming decade and who would count among their number those very first YNs.

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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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