Last week I referred to an 175 million estimate of the number of "coin collectors" in the United States. David Ganz quoted a 2002 press release saying that "United States Mint research shows that 139 million Americans are collecting the new quarters".
As for our readership survey, someone asked if we really had no readers in certain U.S. states. Well, all we can really say is that no one claiming to be from those states responded to our survey. It's only a subset of our readership. Since we have several confirmed responses claiming to be from California, we can be pretty sure of the minimum numbers there. But having no responses to report from a state isn't enough to indicate anything except that we likely have a low readership there.
Another twenty-some responses have come in this week. They don't change the overall numbers much, but we now do have confirmed readers in additional states such as Georgia.
I wanted to share some comments about the survey. The results are interesting... and given that it only took about 30 seconds to complete, I am still somewhat surprised at the small (12%) response rate.
I found the comments regarding NBS membership or subscribership to The E-Sylum very interesting. There have probably been debates about the subject of attracting new members to numismatic groups for as long as these groups have existed.
I note with interest the 30,000 ANA membership number (which I assume means is a fairly static number). Certainly 175M collectors sounds a little far-fetched to me. People who put coins into jars after traveling abroad can't really be counted as collectors.... can they?
On a more serious note, I remember conversations we had years ago (probably 15 years ago) about attracting members to the (then) Canadian Numismatic Association.
The Royal Canadian Mint has been recruiting members for the C.N.A. for a long, long time and there have been years when they have attracted over 1,000 new members. But most of these people leave after 1 year. Why? Because they weren't really coin collectors (or certainly not numismatists) in the first place. They were interested in purchasing non-circulating, legal-tender Mint products that were attractive and may have had some nominal historical value.
I also suspect that when they found that they were not entitled to discounts off of these products (as a CNA member) they decided not to renew their membership in the Association.
In a nutshell, the issue has never been how to attract members really.... it's about how to attract the right members!
In our case, the NBS wants to find people that are interested in numismatics, numismatic literature... and, hopefully, numismatic research. Or alternatively, the NBS should be attracting people who don't fit rigidly into those categories and changing their interests so that ultimately they do fit in.
I think that NBS (and E-Sylum) membership may be low because the group fills a very specific niche. Also, people may think that we're simply book collectors... which isn't the case for most (if not all) of your subscribers.
But does that mean that we are doing something wrong? I don't think so! My contention has always been that if there are two people in the world who are interested in 'four-fingered Roman coiners named Brian', they will ultimately find each other if they are actively involved in the hobby. Actively involved being the most important words, here! Likewise, anyone who is seriously interested in our three core interests will find the NBS as well. Of course, we still have to make ourselves accessible and inviting to attract those people.
I want to stress that this is not meant to sound elitist or snobbish. Quite the opposite, in fact. I bet you most people who get your newsletter don't know or care who the other people are who get The E-Sylum or what they do for a living, etc. (except for the few high-profile figures who are prominent in numismatics in a public way). No one really cares what we all do.... just that we share common interests and want to share that knowledge and continue to learn ourselves.
Anyhow, that's my two cents on this topic.