Numismatic Times Are A Changin’
The one thing you can count on about the numismatic markets is that they are always changing. This past weekend I walked the floor at the Texas Numismatic Association show at its new location in the Arlington Convention Center.
When I attend this show, I arrive a day early to visit a circuit of several dealers and wholesalers in the area. Generally, the business I do before the show makes the trip worthwhile. The lesser business I do at the show is just icing on the cake.
The folks running this show are well organized, friendly and accommodating. The new venue is in a relatively modern building right next door to Globe Life Park where the Texas Rangers play and the AT&T Stadium where the Dallas Cowboys play.
As has been my typical experience here over most of the past decade, this show has lighter attendance that the Michigan State Numismatic Society spring show, another show that lists about the same number of dealer tables as the TNA event. The dealer and public attendance is also less than at the MSNS show. I bumped into a Southeast dealer friend at a coin auction firm in Dallas who was there to view auction lots. He wasn’t even aware of the TNA show and had no time in his schedule to attend. When I gave one dealer a check for my purchases in the early afternoon Friday, he told me it was the first sale he had made that day.
Since I had time at the show this year, I was able to talk with dealer friends and a few collectors in more depth than typical. Here are a few of the observations I gleaned from them.
- I heard multiple comments that the previous week’s Denver Coin Expo was a growing show under new ownership and that activity had improved as a result.
- There definitely seem to be more “trophy” quality coins available on the market today than in decades past.
- The number of collectors of early U.S. copper coins has grown substantially over the last couple of decades. This includes collectors of top quality pieces and for the everyday circulated coins. However, the number of collectors of large cents by Sheldon number may be down.
- Available inventories of U.S. half cents have fallen dramatically in the past two decades.
- The number of collectors of 19th century series by date and mintmark seems to have declined. Nineteenth century type set collecting is possibly on the rise.
- The concept of typical Brilliant Uncirculated dollar rolls has all but disappeared. Now, each coin in the roll is examined. The value of the roll (and this has been happening for some time) now depends on whether the roll is “original” or “put together” and whether the roll has been “creamed” to pull out any coins that might grade at least MS-63 or MS-64.
- U.S. paper money is still selling well to individual collectors. The most common U.S. small-size paper money available in bulk quantities is the weakest part of this market niche.
- Ancient coins continue to become more popular with collectors, as has been happening for several years now.
- And, as has been the circumstance for multiple decades now, the numismatic brethren are getting older and not being offset by comparable numbers of new young collectors.
Not everything is changing in the hobby. You still find dealers at every coin show that are trying to sell their coins for much higher prices than charged by other dealers. Sometimes it is easy to spot these dealers if they have almost every coin marked as being premium quality or they are all bright from being polished.
One dealer showed me a U.S. large-size note graded by one of the top currency services as Choice About Uncirculated-55. I scrutinized the note to find out why the note was graded this conservatively and could not find any indication of wear anywhere. The dealer told me this was the consistent reaction from other dealers who examined it. However, none had yet stepped up to send in the note for regrading.
Each piece of paper money has a unique serial number on it, so any search by serial number would likely find that the note had graded AU-55 at one point. That would discourage many potential buyers who otherwise might want to own this specimen as a nice Crisp Uncirculated specimen. Coins can easily be broken out of holders and resubmitted, because they have no serial number and leave no trail. Because of the serial numbers, it is difficult to make notes again anonymous after they were graded by a service.
I also have time for a wonderful chat with Dr. Ralph Ross, a long-time TNA activist who is now in his first term on the American Numismatic Association Board of Governors. The ideas from our conversation are worth a separate column in the near future.
Patrick A. Heller was the American Numismatic Association 2012 Harry Forman Numismatic Dealer of the Year Award winner. He owns Liberty Coin Service in Lansing, Michigan and writes Liberty’s Outlook, a monthly newsletter on rare coins and precious metals subjects. His radio show “Things You ‘Know’ That Just Aren’t So, And Important News You Need To Know” can be heard at 8:45 AM Wednesday and Friday mornings on 1320-AM WILS in Lansing (which streams live and becomes part of the audio and text archives posted at http://www.1320wils.com).