The October 2017 issue of The Numismatist, the official publication of the American Numismatic Association) has been published. Filled with great original articles, it's an
important benefit of membership in the organization. An article by Scott M. Hopkins highlights an interesting market phenomenon - an over-reliance on technology in researching potential purchases.
With permission, here is an excerpt. -Editor
I couldn't help but notice two young men sitting next to me at a recent coin-club meeting, scouring through boxes of coins in 2 x 2-inch flips while they scanned their smartphones. They
chatted with each other as they reached for specimens bearing asking prices below what the online guide stated they were worth. With striking smiles and shaking heads, they appeared satisfied as they
chose coins that met the arbitrage driven by their mobile devices. I had to wonder what they were (really) doing.
As the evening wore on, it became clear that these two were following the same process with each collector and dealer at the meeting.
I asked if they were professional dealers, and with smiles they responded, “No! We're collectors.” I couldn't believe how often they opened their wallets and passed cash around.
What was striking was how willing the two young men were to exchange their cash for coins. (Granted, they could be very well off, and it might not have mattered how much they bought.) Still,
finding values for the pieces came at the expense of truly studying and appreciating them. I saw the two unknowingly buy problem coins and those that were far from the grade their price guide apps
I also noticed they were picking up quite a few colonial coins and assumed this area was their forte. Anyone who collects New Jersey copper or Massachusetts silver knows that it takes immense
study of die states and hands-on inspection to really understand the different varieties, let alone authenticate them. When I asked if they had any experience with colonials, they shook their heads
with a definitive “no.” As I continued to pry, their body language told me not to worry; they were scrolling through online guides to learn which varieties were the rarest and at what prices to
I know the Internet and smartphone apps have replaced a lot of conventional wisdom and traditional book learning. I do not fight it and have a healthy collection of e-books and hours logged on the
Newman Numismatic Portal to prove it.
But what collectors will find is that many of the best reference books on both classic and obscure topics rarely are digitized. Due to the amount of numismatic research out there and copyright
laws, many never will be. That does not mean we should give up on our research; it does mean that we still need them.
I think the mantra “buy the book before the coin” is still relevant. You probably are tired of hearing it, but it does not limit you to traditional books; it is a reminder to educate yourself
before opening your wallet. Impulse buys are great, but they often are even better when you know a little bit about what you're purchasing. I feel more confident cherrypicking varieties or
under-graded coins after I have studied the series and know through reading books and discussing with other collectors that I am scoring a great deal for my collection or for resale.
Scott is absolutely right. People are asking for trouble if they can't be bothered to truly study the areas they're collecting. And as someone who's helping build the
Newman Numismatic Portal, I know that while it's indeed a fantastic resource, copyright laws will rightfully keep a great deal of top-quality up-to-date information from ever being fully
accessible there or anywhere else - at least not for free. -Editor
For more information about the American Numismatic Association, see:
Wayne Homren, Editor
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