HomeCollecting StrategiesJeff Garrett: The Rare Coin Business 2.0

Jeff Garrett: The Rare Coin Business 2.0

New technologies are changing the rare coin market and how numismatic companies do business


By Jeff Garrett for NGC (Numismatic Guaranty Corporation) ……
Jeff Garrett The rare coin market was profoundly changed about 25 years ago when the internet started to become a tool for business instead of something for computer hobbyists. Forward-thinking dealers began to build websites and find ways to capitalize on this new technology. Collector access exploded and the demand for rare coins has been rising each year ever since. As technology improves, rare coin companies are able to leverage these advances to grow their business.

A recent transformational change has been the near elimination of live rare coin auctions. Improved photography, more historical data, the elimination of travel expenses, and privacy have made online auctions the preferred venue for most companies and buyers. It’s staggering to me that many collectors will bid on six- and even seven-figure coins without seeing them in person. The widespread trust in third-party grading services like NGC makes this possible.

Many now wonder what technological advancements will be created next that will have an impact on the hobby. A lot of great minds in the business are looking for ways to compete using the latest ideas from Silicon Valley. In recent weeks, I have become convinced that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be the next big thing to expand numismatics.

Jeff Garrett: The Rare Coin Business 2.0

A recent article I ran across stated, “The world of work is changing. Artificial intelligence and automation will make this shift as significant as the mechanization in prior generations of agriculture and manufacturing. While some jobs will be lost, and many created, almost all will change.” In my opinion, this will apply to the business of rare coins as well.

As consumers, we all deal with the annoyance of AI regularly. Anyone who has called customer service has probably been talking to a computer. I must admit, however, that some companies have invested in more advanced systems and the experience is becoming more tolerable. Delta Air Lines now has a customer service system using computers that work fairly well. They will only get better.

In the near future, large rare coin telemarketing companies may utilize advanced AI systems to make sales calls. From what I have been reading lately, it will soon become difficult to know whether you are talking to a real person or not. The promise of a commission-free automated sales force will become too tempting for companies to ignore once the technology makes this possible. It will be interesting to see if government regulation requires disclosure of the use of AI in sales calls. Government regulators always struggle to stay ahead of technology, so it may take some time once it rolls out.

The next big change using AI will be accessing information using machine learning. When companies list coins online, one of the biggest friction points has been the creation of a compelling description. These take time and expertise to create. Imagine how much effort and expenses auction companies like Heritage and Stack’s Bowers spend writing text for the thousands of coins they offer in a typical sale. Small companies lacking knowledgeable staff find the problem to be even more pressing. Coins with a good story and data sell better.

Jeff Garrett: The Rare Coin Business 2.0

Further, there are companies that are already using AI technology to create numismatic content. The following rare coin description was created by Digital Studio NW (a dealer software company) using AI machine learning:

The 1840 50C Liberty Seated Half Dollar NGC PR64 is a highly sought-after coin for collectors. With a mintage of only 6, this coin is extremely rare and valuable. The coin was designed by Thomas Sully and Christian Gobrecht and features the iconic Liberty Seated design.

Measuring 30.00 millimeters in diameter and weighing 13.36 grams, this coin is made of 90% silver and 10% copper. The coin features a reeded edge and was struck at the Philadelphia Mint.

The coin received a grade of PR64 by NGC, which is a highly desirable grade for collectors. This coin is a must-have for any serious collector of Liberty Seated Half Dollars, or anyone looking to add a rare and valuable coin to their collection. With its low mintage and high grade, this coin is sure to appreciate in value over time. So don’t miss out on the opportunity to own a piece of numismatic history with the 1840 50C Liberty Seated Half Dollar NGC PR64.

From the few examples I have seen, the accuracy of the information is sound, but it may need some tweaking by humans. It will not be long before dozens of numismatic companies are using this technology to enhance their online offerings. In the future, many numismatic writers will become more like editors compared to creators of new content.

Another major leap for the hobby utilizing AI and machine learning will probably be computerized grading. The idea has been around for a long time, but early attempts were marginal, at best. I have heard that in the past computers could be trained to grade with about 75% accuracy, but the other 25% was way off. Some experts feel computers could never replace the human eye when it comes to grading. There are too many nuances to be considered. This may be true for vintage coins, but my guess is that the technology already exists to grade modern coins as accurately as humans.

CGC 9.5 graded Glurak.

When PCGS and PSA were sold, there was a rumor that the new owners were eyeing tech to attack the mountain of sports cards that had backlogged in their system. Modern sports cards can be measured for margins, edges, color, etc., for all of the factors that make up the grade for these collectibles. NGC is also on the forefront of exploring any new technology that will enhance accuracy and efficiency. The cost savings and possibility of improved grading accuracy will make the use of AI hard to ignore for any large-scale grading operation.

Most of the major Silicon Valley tech companies are racing to develop or invest in AI. The New York Times ran this story on Monday, January 23, 2023:

Microsoft said on Monday that it was making a “multiyear, multibillion-dollar” investment in OpenAI, the San Francisco artificial intelligence lab behind the experimental online chatbot ChatGPT.

The companies did not disclose the specific financial terms of the deal, but a person familiar with the matter said Microsoft would invest $10 billion in OpenAI.

Microsoft had already invested more than $3 billion in OpenAI, and the new deal is a clear indication of the importance of OpenAI’s technology to the future of Microsoft and its competition with other big tech companies like Google, Meta and Apple.

It won’t be long before the numismatic community is able to use these new innovations to market rare coins. Many hobby leaders spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to grow the hobby. Like the internet 25 years ago, technology is probably the answer.

The above article was created by AI… or was it?

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Rare Coin Gallery


Jeff Garrett
Jeff Garrett
Jeff Garrett, founder of Mid-American Rare Coin Galleries, is considered one of the nation’s top experts in U.S. coinage — and knowledge lies at the foundation of Jeff’s numismatic career. With more than 35 years of experience, he is one of the top experts in numismatics. The “experts’ expert,” Jeff has personally bought and sold nearly every U.S. coin ever issued. Not a day goes by that someone doesn’t call on Jeff Garrett for numismatic advice. This includes many of the nation’s largest coin dealers, publishers, museums, and institutions. In addition to owning and operating Mid-American Rare Coin Galleries, Jeff Garrett is a major shareholder in Sarasota Rare Coin Galleries. His combined annual sales in rare coins and precious metals — between Mid-American in Kentucky and Sarasota Rare Coin Galleries in Florida — total more than $25 million. Jeff Garrett has authored many of today’s most popular numismatic books, including Encyclopedia of U.S. Gold Coins 1795–1933: Circulating, Proof, Commemorative, and Pattern Issues; 100 Greatest U.S. Coins; and United States Coinage: A Study By Type. He is also the price editor for The Official Redbook: A Guide Book of United States Coins. Jeff was also one of the original coin graders for the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS). He is today considered one of the country’s best coin graders and was the winner of the 2005 PCGS World Series of Grading. Today, he serves as a consultant to Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC), the world’s largest coin grading company. Jeff plays an important role at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Numismatic Department and serves as a consultant to the museum on funding, exhibits, conservation, and research. Thanks to the efforts of Jeff and many others, rare U.S. coins are once again on exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History. We urge everyone who visits Washington, D.C., to view this fabulous display. Jeff has been a member of the Professional Numismatic Guild (PNG) since 1982 and has recently served as president of the organization. In 2009 and 2011, Jeff ran successfully for a seat on the Board of Governors for the American Numismatic Association (ANA), the leading numismatic club in the world. and he is currently the ANA President.

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