By Jeff Garrett for Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) ……
Many great minds and tireless volunteers are working hard to secure a future for the hobby we all love so much
Because I am president of the American Numismatic Association (ANA), I am asked constantly what I think about the future of our hobby. Nearly everyone is concerned about a lack of youth and the aging demographics of numismatics. Until recently, the membership of the ANA had been declining. Attendance for some coin conventions has been dwindling over the last several years as well. One does not have to look very hard to find someone concerned about the future of numismatics.
There is no doubt that the hobby has changed considerably over the last couple of decades. Some long for the so-called “good old days” when coin collecting consisted of the neighborhood coin shop, a few numismatic periodicals and finding worthwhile coins in their pocket change. They also preferred one or two grades of mint condition and grading coins on their own. I have heard quite a few old-timers state that coin collecting was more fun in those days.
Today we have the entire planet connected by a few strokes of the keyboard and collectors have access to more information than they ever thought possible. Rare coin grading has evolved into a complex combination of art and science. Third-party grading is now fully entrenched as vital to anyone buying coins worth over a hundred dollars. The US Mint has created a lot of interesting coins in the last 20 years. Assembling a starter collection from pocket change is actually more of a challenge than many would suspect. I have personally experienced all of the hobby transitions mentioned above and can honestly state that the hobby of numismatics is still fun for me.
The purpose of this article is to state my case for a future in which numismatics will be alive and well. I believe there is a lot to like about collecting coins and currency for at least the next few decades. As mentioned above, one of the greatest concerns by most in the hobby is the lack of young collectors. I truly believe this worry is overblown. There is a tremendous amount of effort expended in this hobby to attract young people. The ANA has many fabulous YN programs and a substantial part of the budget is devoted to this effort. I urge anyone with children or grandchildren to visit www.money.org and explore our many opportunities for young people.
The biggest job of anyone working with young people is to introduce them to the hobby of collecting. It is more vital than ever to expose as many kids as possible to numismatics when they are young and learning about the world. With the many distractions available for young people today, there are less who discover coins and become lifelong collectors. Many move on and, after college and starting a career, rediscover the hobby. It is extremely important to plant these numismatic seeds in the minds of our youth. A few months ago I had the pleasure of visiting the Royal Canadian Mint. The person at the Mint who is in charge of marketing stated that they create a substantial number of products (think Batman coins) for this express purpose. You never know what will trigger interest years from now in someone who has fond memories of collecting when they were young.
On the other end of the spectrum everyone knows that the average coin collector is approaching 60. The average age of an ANA member is about that number as well. This may seem alarming unless you consider the aging demographics of America in general. There is a reason that the average serious coin collector is on the upper end of the age scale. These are people who are near the end of their careers and have probably successfully navigated the biggest expenses of life: buying a home, raising kids, college tuition and preparing for retirement. They now have some expendable income and more importantly TIME for a hobby.
Now for the good news. This segment of the population is the fastest growing demographic in America. Starting in January 2011, baby boomers began entering retirement at the rate of 10,000 per month. There were 76 million people born between 1946 and 1964. Many will also be the beneficiary of the greatest transfer of wealth in the history of mankind. It is estimated that nearly $30 trillion dollars will be passed from one generation to the next in the next 20 years. This will create a huge pool of potential coin collectors with money for at least the next two decades. Low interest rates are also expected to continue for the near future and hard assets will probably be given close consideration by anyone with money to invest.
The rare coin market can also benefit from a large increase in the price of precious metals. In the past, the rise of gold and silver have had significant impacts on the prices of rare coins. Inflation has been under check for several years, but many predict that this trend will change in the near future.
Finally, my optimism for the future of numismatics is also based on the incredible efforts of so many who are truly concerned about the hobby. Many great minds and tireless volunteers are working hard to secure a future for the hobby we all love so much. I see this day to day working with the ANA and its wonderful staff. I also see the efforts at every coin show, coin club meeting and anywhere collectors gather. At the last convention I attended, over 40 Boy Scouts earned a Coin Collecting Merit Badge. During the ANA Summer Seminar I observed dozens of young people who were fully immersed in numismatics.
Every major organization seems committed to growing the hobby. The US Mint is also taking an active role in promoting coin collecting. Everyone agrees that we cannot take the future of numismatics for granted. The future of numismatics will probably be different than in the past, but I am extremely optimistic going forward.
Questions about the rare coin market? Send them to [email protected].
About 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 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 prestigious 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. He plans to run for ANA vice president in 2013.