By Jeff Garrett – Mid-American Rare Coin Galleries …..
The last few weeks have been like no other in my 45 plus years as a professional numismatist. The routine of attending a coin convention every week or two during that period has come to a screeching halt. Like many others, I have had to re-invent my way of conducting business. The things we all took for granted just a few months ago now seem like incredible luxuries. I truly look forward to a busy day of bourse activity, followed by a good meal with my close friends on the coin show circuit.
Coin dealers around the country are struggling to find a way to cope during this national crisis. Everyone’s circumstance is different. Some are able to keep their stores open and are seeing incredible demand for bullion-related material.
Others have been encouraged to send as many of their staff as possible home to work remotely. Some states, however, have demanded full shut downs.
Regardless, we are all suffering financially and mentally from the outbreak and response to the COVID-19 coronavirus.
During struggles like these, it is usually best not to focus too much on what you can’t do. A better strategy would be to concentrate on what we are able to do, regardless of the obstacles. For now, the internet has become the best tool for everyone to survive the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. Humans need each other to cope during times of need. The amazing connectivity of the internet allows each of us to still conduct business, stay informed, purchase much needed provisions, and stay in touch with friends, family and business associates.
The creation of Coin Dealers Helping Coin Dealers (CDHCD) a few years ago could not have come at better time. This Facebook social media group has become a vital link with a numismatic dealer community of nearly 1,000 individuals. There are thousands of additional collectors who participate. Dealers are able to buy and sell coins, post want lists, and exchange news affecting our hobby. For now, CDHCD is the closest thing to attending a coin show as possible for the foreseeable future.
Rob Oberth, creator of RoundTable Trading and CDHCD says “We have seen a surge in trading activity and membership requests in CDHCD in recent weeks. The circumstances that we are all experiencing is unfortunate, but we are lucky to have access to this extremely important community.”
In addition to the trading side of CDHCD, one of its most important functions is the ability of members to share their personal stories dealing with the COVID-19 shut downs. I can attest from personal experience that knowing and seeing that we’re all in this together provides some welcome comfort. There can be no doubt that the current situation is causing record amounts of stress and anxiety among all Americans, including those of us who love numismatics.
During my long career, I have been faced with many challenges and unforeseen problems. Hurdles in business and life are unavoidable. Regardless of the circumstances, we all need to make an effort to find the good in what is occurring in the country and the world. We will all probably be more thankful for things we assumed as normal just a few short weeks ago. Going out less, being more frugal and staying connected with friends and family are good habits we should continue once the crisis has passed. I know for myself there seems to be more hours in the day now to catch up on long-delayed projects.
One of my favorite sayings is “when given lemons, make lemonade”.
Before the COVID-19 crisis, we could all agree that one of the biggest obstacles facing the hobby was aging demographics. I have read hundreds of comments over the last several years that we need more kids to collect coins. Every ANA President, Board of Governors, and staff in recent years has spent a lot of time trying to find a solution to this pressing problem. The problem is easy to identify; the solution is not.
In a world where there is constant 24/7 competition for the attention of young people, coin collecting struggles to gain a foothold. We all know that most young people (and a lot of older folks) are basically addicted to their personal digital devices (cell phones).
Like all of us, the lives of young people around the world have been turned upside down. All of them are experiencing some version of home school, and the daily routine of class and sports has been terminated. Parents around the globe are desperate for activities to fill the hours. I watched an interesting segment on Good Morning America recently about the resurgence of jigsaw puzzles, and their surge of popularity during the Great Depression. As many of you may not know, coin collecting also experienced a boom during the Great Depression. The famous Fort Worth, Texas coin dealer, B. Max Mehl employed over 100 people in the 1930s. It was also the golden age for the production of classic commemorative coinage.
The hobby of Numismatics has been given a unique window of opportunity to capture the attention of young people around the country.
Last year, The Great American Coin Hunt was extremely successful, and gained national attention. The United States Mint did their part by creating the “W” Quarter program. Dealers around the country dropped hundreds of thousands of vintage coins into circulation. One marketing expert estimated the value of the media exposure to have exceeded $500,000. It was a much-needed boost for the hobby.
For obvious reasons, it will not be possible to launch a national Great American Coin Hunt in 2020. Sadly, individuals are now avoiding random change rather than searching it for older coins. Yet this year I would like all of us to consider another tactic to bring the hobby into the homes of as many people as possible.
Like millions of other collectors, I began my numismatic journey decades ago after receiving a blue Whitman folder for Lincoln cents. That one gift literally changed my life. My Whitman folder was for Lincoln cents dated 1941 to date. I quickly became obsessed filling the holes by going through my family’s change jar. After being frustrated trying to find a 1941-S cent, I made my very first numismatic purchase from Littleton Coin Company. Luckily for us all, Whitman still produces a full line of coin collecting folders (follow the link for a 25% discount).
Over the years I have given many talks about coin collecting to school-age children. At the end of every speech about the excitement of coin collecting, we distribute Whitman coin folders and a few coins to get them started. I have received lots of wonderful thank you notes, along with heartwarming photos such as the one above.
For the 2020 Great American Coin Hunt, I would like to see members of CDHCD and others in the numismatic community take advantage of this unique opportunity by sending at least 10 young people a Whitman Coin Folder.
Parents will be ecstatic to be given something constructive and educationally informative for their isolated children to do. Nearly every family has a change jar bulging with coins accumulated over the years. That’s why the U.S. Mint produces billions of Lincoln cents each year. Participants can also send groups of (guaranteed germ-free) older coins as well.
Like the jigsaw puzzles mentioned above, there is no reason that coin collecting can’t see a surge of interest now like it experienced in the 1930s. The hobby has so much to offer young people, we just need to get the message out.
CDHCD has worked with Whitman Publishing to offer its members special rates during this promotion for National Coin Week. Details on how to order and tips on participating will be published shortly. None us can take the future of our hobby for granted, and we must all participate for it to grow. If successful, we can add thousands of new collectors in a short time.
Coin boards have been around for almost 100 years and they are a proven success with those new to the hobby. Perhaps other numismatic organizations can participate as well. If members of the ANA, PNG, FUN, Central States, and other national and regional coin clubs join in, we can greatly expand the hobby.
Membership information and requests:
Coin Dealers Helping Coin Dealers (CDHCD)
Round Table Trading
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