The market for US rare coins has certainly gone through major changes lately,
and the upcoming year should see the continuation of these trends. The outlook for
coin collecting remains bright, though the means of acquiring coins will begin to
Nationally, the number of local rare coin shops will probably decline due to several
factors. First, the proliferation of modern issues released by the Mint dominates a huge
percentage of the total spent on coins. For a collector to keep up with just one
of each product, tens of thousands of dollars must be spent annually. The days of
many collectors speculating on extra proof sets appear to be finished, as most people's
budgets can't handle even one of each issue. Therefore, shop owners do less business in the
after-market and may not even see those collectors who are offered a variety of new mint
products, such as coin jewelry and watches. The collector who at one time bought a $5
Liberty from a dealer to use in jewelry may now purchase a modern gold coin from the Mint
along with one of the government's selection of bezels and chains.
Grading services, primarily PCGS, have become so accepted
in the marketplace that the old days of a collector going into a local shop to check some
of his purchases from the national mail order dealers is just about over. The standard that
PCGS established has essentially eliminated the perceived need to check with local dealers
on more expensive coin purchases. Finally, coin auction companies continue to dominate the
market when collectors wish to liquidate their holdings. The Pittman Collection, auctioned
by Akers, should be one of the years top stories as these phenomenal rarities see the light
of day for the first time in decades.
So where does the collector expect to see his coins
heading if the older days of coin shop activity is declining? Well, perhaps up, because
the coin business is seeing new approaches to marketing all the time. Financial planner's
investment packages of $10,000 worth of MS 65 coins are certainly no longer in vogue.
Today, lower-priced coins are incorporated in decorative
items with historically interesting designs. These products are marketed through general
interest magazines and cable TV to a wider audience, introducing coins in a new fashion.
Without the hype of future financial gain, many of these new buyers may develop an interest
while not risking sizable amounts of money. This potential new base of collectors bodes
well for the future of the hobby. Innovative long-term dealers are now hard at work increasing
the presence of coins on the Internet.
As a collector, it would be wise to evaluate each particular
series of interest and consider possible changes or emerging trends. If a coin like the Kennedy
half were to end as a series now that we are approaching a new century and be replaced by a
Teddy Roosevelt half, many people would involve themselves with this series. Albums and holders
with the dates complete, rather than all the outdated holders which haven't included the most
recent issues, would give collectors a new sense of challenge and satisfaction. This possibility
makes the Kennedy half and some modern series very intriguing at present.
Small Cents: Key date coins continue to lead the
activity, especially in mid-grade circulated condition. Any dealer with problem-free examples
of F to XF 1869, 1877, 1908-S, 1909-S VDB, 1914-D, etc., has no trouble finding buyers. Modern
rolls have never recovered and remain a thing of the past. Uncirculated copper still has many
wary of preservation, primarily due to spotting.
Nickels: The last few years have seen a
tremendous increase in the number of Buffalo nickel fans, while the earlier Shield and
Liberty series lag behind, especially in mint and proof condition. The Jefferson series
appeals to beginners as they remain affordable and available after sixty years in
Dimes: While advanced collectors
pursue the Mercury dime with a vengeance, seeking out those fully split rounded bands,
many collectors have relegated this series to the back burner and not upgraded what
used to be picked out of the silver. The Barbers have a special breed of followers
who fully appreciate just how tough many of these dimes are in any mid grade.
Quarters: While the Washington
quarter has languished in the doldrums for several years, Standing Liberty quarters
are high on the list of many collectors. A design difficult to improve upon aesthetically,
coupled with striking variations, makes this truly one of the most popular series in all
of numismatics. As with the dimes, the Barber quarters in F to XF are still bought by date
and mint rather than as a type coin.
Halves: Franklin halves have dropped
considerably in the past few years due to cheap silver and the great numbers of people
who hoarded these coins. The whole series also went through an upheaval the last few years
when late dates from the sixties were found to be more rare than the traditionally thought
of key dates like the 1949-S. Short set Walkers (1941-47) have yet to recover from the
investment hype of the 1980s. Population reports show their true availability in MS 65 and,
consequently, prices are at a fraction of former highs. The early dates 1916 to 1933-S
are most difficult to locate in popular collector grades. Again, the Barbers provide a
challenge which few are able to complete in midgrades, but many enjoy pursuing.