Long Beard's Blog

02 Sep 2021

Past, Present and Future

Coins | Long Beard

This weeks blog topic is a break from the usual style of writing, in that it's a personal view of this hobby which we share. It goes against my firm belief that writing should never be that. Personal. Yet the very subject is one of those rare instances in which it is necessary in order to both educated and create free thinking on it. In my forty-seven years of collecting I have witnessed first hand many changes, some for the better some for the worse. I've met many like minded individuals over those years, quite a few becoming friends, several long time now. And so, the discussion of how one collector sees the hobby as it evolved over not only his lifetime but those before him and the direction it may or may not take going forward. Enjoy!

Humans are the only species which collects things not out of necessity but for fascination. Prehistoric man might have collected stones or shells. As for coin collecting, that also may go back to ancient times. Why we do this has as many answers as there are those who collect them. Personally, I had no one in my family who collected and passed them on after their demise like so many others have related as to how they began their journey of coin collecting. Mine began at the requirement to achieve a Boy Scout patch striving for that highly coveted Eagle Scout rank. Sadly it did not happened. As I sit here typing and reflecting, I think back to the collectors around the first boom in the hobby at the end of the 1800's and how it grew. Not so much on those famous collectors, those with the ability of wealth to amass the largest or finest, but the average person. In that time there were only three main sources available to acquire coins. Through a dealer, mail order or from circulation. Some of you more knowledgeable individuals add the United States Mint to that list, however the low production figures show that few collected the proof coinage. Unless corrected, the mint did not offer uncirculated business strikes as sets. In 1892, the United States began marketing commemorative coins with the offering of the Columbian Exposition halve dollar. Yet like the annual proof coinage, sales figures suggest few average collectors. How ever these early collectors obtained their coins displaying and storing them left few options. While it's a fair statement that there were some very inventive people in those years, the big and often bulky wooden coin cabinets were the sole option. And those were primarily out of reach to the average collector due to cost.

The second boom in the hobby occurred sometime in the early to mid-thirties with the advent of coin boards and now albums. With a complete redesign of coinage taking place in first part of the century the collecting population began to swell. Storage and displaying had obviously been a concern as the number of collectors rose. The first albums came in 1929 when the Beistle Company began marketing a heavy cardstock with paper covering and cellophane to hold the coins in place. Each page hole punched on the sides to fit in a binder. Coin boards, those holed cardstock pages with one side viewing of each coin can be credited to Joseph Kent Post, an engineer at the Kimberly-Clark company, in the early 1930's. With the advent of these simple products, collectors shifted from collecting by type to collecting by date and mint mark. Soon names like Whitman and DANSCO (Daniel Stamp Company) exploded onto the scene with revolutionary innovations to albums. Because of this rapid expansion created in the hobby it brought about the United States Mint saw an opportunity in bring back proof coinage, which they hadn't struck for collectors since the early 1900's, in 1936. Mint sets would follow in 1947. The era of collector coins had begun.

And that brings us to my generation. While counterfeit coinage has existed as long as they have been struck, by the late 1950's larger numbers of them began appearing in the U.S. marketplace. While it was illegal to own gold bullion which coin was considered, gold jewelry was not. Combining the two, while not new, continued without repercussions. Scrupulous overseas individuals slowly saw an opening to reproduce pre-1934 gold coins which were legal to possess as collectibles. With this, through the American Numismatic Association, the certification service ANACS was founded in June of 1972. This was the beginning of major changes to the hobby and how we collect. While the cost of a particular coin was still higher than it's face value, even the key and semi-key date coins were available within reason to the average collector. With certification, although primarily limited to gold and rare coinage, those not certified slowly increased in cost. By 1985 PCGS, followedtwo years later by NGC, the market place made a dramatic shift. Previously, coins traded on worded grades of good to uncirculated, or in some instances gem. With these two firms now assigning an actual stated grade prices soared across the board. Largely due in fact to investors at the time using coins as a market hedge driving prices higher.

Once more, the U.S. Mint plays it's part. In 1999 they launched the Statehood Quarter program which gave our hobby perhaps the greatest boost since 1792.Like Sir Issac Newton famously penned, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Raw coinage also shot up. While sales of mint products both expanded and increased in numbers over the decades since 1936, currently they are changing the market place with limited releases, again spiking the prices of common coins. Sadly, few large collections are sold without first being encapsulated by a third party grader. This holds true to all of those famous collections. Meaning that in my life time I have, or could have, bought some coins for a much more reasonable prices. Is that a bad thing? Looking at the previous auction results over the years, not so. Yet holding in the future depends on so many variables. Hoards being discovered more frequently would suggest not so much for some coins. Still, if you are like myself, I collect solely for the fascination of the species with the intent of breaking even at best if and when I sell rather than profit. But where I refuse to yield is on the hyped up and over inflated secondary prices or for those fancy holders, labels and stickers. For those things I predict will crash once the hype fades and something else appears to replace them. Only perhaps not in my lifetime. Technology and our ability to buy a coin with one click from anywhere in the world also plays a part in market prices. Even though competition has increased ten fold over the traditional, clever marketing seems to drive the value up.My only question being, what has really change when broken down to the basics of collecting? Which is the sole reason I returned to the beginning assembling those coin albums with circulated coinage.

Edit- The manner in which I wrote this was to leave it open enough for you, the reader, to add to the discussion and reflect on why you collect. For those entering the hobby, particularly the current generation, my best advice is quite simple. Collect what you like. Don't fall for the myth brought on by those marketing encapsulated coins for profit alone, do some research on the purchase you intend to make and above all learn patience. In time that which you seek will be found at a price within reason.


AC coin$

Level 6

When collecting we put our soul into it. Great blog. THANKS


Level 6

Enjoyed your blog very much... All so true! ; )

I went to a coin show last week and was surprised to see the majority of coins being offered for sale were raw and un-slabbed. This included stuff well over the $500 mark, which many folks tell you to only invest in a slabbed example at that point. So I guess the simple collector is alive and well. I recently read an old article by Walter Breen and he was firmly against slabbing colonials because there was so much leeway and nobody was an expert at it, including himself.


Level 5

Man… even as a younger collector, that really feels true. Thanks for sharing.


Level 5

Fancy holders, stickers, labels. Collect coins not labels. Very nice thoughts.


Level 6

Well said. Very well said. I totally agree. I would only add the (fourth) party graders like CAC to the equation. Thank you. Nice photo. I would love to see more raw coins at auction.


Level 7

I Read it all. The last line about technology tells it all. I think it was Edison who said that technology will be the downfall of mankind. Some colle goodwill sell others will leave it to there kids. And man made rarity will have to stop. We should be able to colle t what we like.. Well done very good points.

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