Volume 49, Number 10, October 2012
Which way now? THIS Comment is being written a couple of weeks before Coinex, and the related sales from the London Houses, but I am confident that as the new “season” starts so we will find that once again records are broken and that the market is strong. We have been very lucky in the coin world in these past few years—whilst the world’s financial markets headed into free-fall and the phrase “double dip” came in to common usage we were carrying on as normal, in fact our hobby has actually started growing. Certainly there has been an element of investment money that has helped boost the numismatic coffers and those of us lucky enough to have tracker mortgages have found that our spare cash, useless in the bank, has to go somewhere, so why not coins? Coins, because they are seen as “safe” places to put ones money (and I offer no investment advice at all here but would simply point to prices of quality items over the past twenty or so years—we haven’t seen many heading downwards) are considered not as luxuries, to be put on hold when money is a little tight (or rather perceived to be tight thanks to our doom-laden media) but rather as sensible alternatives to other forms of savings. Now, the true numismatists amongst us may shun that viewpoint, but let us be honest here: none of us actually want to see our collections decrease in value do we? The point of this comment though is not to harp on about the strength of the hobby, I’ve done that many times before, but rather to ask—what’s next? As this new numismatic season starts so we also find ourselves waving goodbye to the Olympics and Paralympics (I for one will be very sorry to say goodbye to this summer—didn’t we do well?) and thus saying farewell to the coin programme from the Royal Mint that we hoped would breathe new life into a hobby that, let’s face it, isn’t exactly considered young and trendy! Whether the 50p programme or the “Countdown” programme have actually inspired any new collectors won’t be known yet. Certainly the 50 pence pieces themselves have been widely collected (all are in circulation now as far as I am aware, but you try finding one in your change) and sales of the albums to house them have been very high, but will those eager to get a full set of 29 go on to collect other coins? Will they make the move from Royal Mint circulating coins to Athenian owls? Only time will tell, but I fear that when the high from London 2012 passes, most of those still eagerly sorting through their change will simply put away their half-full albums and forget about them, bringing them out only when they need a bit of spare change for the car park. When they realise that even a full set of London 2012 50 pences isn’t worth more than £14.50 (maybe £16 with the album) many “new” collectors will simply break them up and that will be that, and that is no good for our hobby at all! So what is next? What can we do, as coin collectors, to keep the ball rolling? The hobby is strong, yes, but if that is investment led then it is a false strength, as soon as better investments come along the money will move out, so what we need to do is find a way to take the strength we do have now (for whatever reason), use the interest generated by the 2012 programmes and build on it. But, to be honest, I am a little stumped as to how we achieve that. Do we concentrate on coins as good investments, hoping to bring in those with a bit of spare cash? Or do we concentrate on coins as items of interest? I think I would prefer the latter, but I also know full well that such an approach won’t cut much ice with young people whose lives are governed by the internet and for whom the world is full of interesting things—things we couldn’t have even considered when we were their age. Our hobby is at something of a crossroads right now. We are in a position of strength, very much so, and when you have records being broken on an almost weekly basis and new items being discovered all the time (take a look at this month’s “Banknote News” for some wonderful new DuraNote releases that have just come to light as well as a hitherto unknown Australian note!), it is hard to see that strength diminishing. I hope it won’t, of course. I hope we will continue to carry on as we are, but as the Olympic Programme fades, as investment money turns back to banks and markets, we may find things begin to change. It is up to us, all of us, collectors, dealers, publications, societies, everyone, to make sure that change is only for the better. How we do it I don’t know. Over the next few months I’ll try to give you my ideas—I will welcome yours.
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