In a recent piece by Peter Mosiondz, Jr. for CoinWeek, he provides some sound coin collecting advice and describes three categories of individuals that purchase coins. While his coin collecting recommendations are spot on, we believe that he’s slightly off the mark with respect to describing the categories of individuals who purchase coins. In this article, we’ll share with you what we believe to be the three primary types of individuals that purchase coins and will explore each category in some detail. You may find that you relate to one of these categories, and that your long term goals are consistent with a different category. If that’s the case, we’ll share with you how you can refocus your priorities. We’ll also share with you some sources you should avoid when purchasing coins, and will highlight a few pitfalls that we have seen throughout the years while evaluating coin collections.
In our opinion, a coin collector is an individual that purchases coins for the love of the hobby. Many individuals fall under this category. With respect to coin collectors, there are some that dedicate a considerable amount of time to researching, learning the hobby and purchasing select pieces. These individuals may be referred to as “numismatists,” but more times than not they are simply high-end coin collectors. These are the type of individuals that will thoroughly research a coin and may wait weeks, months or even years to purchase the perfect example. While their coin collection may not be the largest, it’s typically filled with some beautiful high-end examples of type coins.
Another category of coin collectors are general collectors. They may be interested in acquiring the most recent U.S. Mint product, purchasing one of each set in a series, or filling all of the slots in their coin albums. As a coin dealer that specializes in purchasing estate coin collections, we regularly see collections that are composed of the previously mentioned coins and sets. Oftentimes, we see Whitman coin books with most of the slots filled, with the exception of the key date coins. On occasion, all of the “holes” are filled, but the more valuable coins may be in lower end condition, or may be represented by a replica coin. Based on our experience, most coin collectors from the “Greatest Generation” were general collectors and oftentimes filled holes in their collection with coins that they were able to pull from general circulation.
In recent years, we’ve seen fewer coin collectors and more coin investors. These are individuals who primarily purchase coins for investment purposes. A common attribute of these individuals is that they’re concerned with the state of the economy, our monetary system, and are interested in purchasing coins as an investment and as a hedge. Most of these individuals are of the opinion that their coins will increase in value as the fundamentals of the economy erode. They tend to be well informed and read many of the popular alternative financial websites, such as ZeroHedge. They’re commonly referred to as “stackers” in that they routinely acquire gold and silver bullion coins that they stack up in their safe. They can typically tell you at any point in time how many ounces of each type of coin they have on hand. There’s not one particular social or economic class that defines these individuals, as the investors that we see range from survivalists to CEO’s. While their frequency and volume of purchases many vary, they share a common opinion regarding the future value of precious metals. If and/or when other investment opportunities present themselves, these individuals may liquidate some of their bullion coins and pursue these opportunities; however, at the moment, many believe that the stock market, bond market and real estate markets are all in a bubble.
The last category of individuals that purchase coins are what we’ll refer to as “coin buyers.” These are individuals that oftentimes purchase coins because they’re convinced by a well written ad or a coin broker that they are good long term investments. While they may refer to themselves as “investors,” they don’t take the time to research the market value of coins, the historical price of particular coins, and will oftentimes take the word of the coin marketer at face value. Many coin buyers tend to be retired, purchase coins from T.V. shows and from ads in their favorite circulars. Unfortunately, many times the elderly are targeted by these companies. When these coin collections eventually make their way to us, we’re always stunned at the ridiculous prices that these less than ethical companies charged individuals for items; many of which are face value. We hate to see individuals being taken by unsavory characters and have previously warned customers about purchasing coins from non-numismatic sources. Want to know exactly how ridiculously priced most of these items are? Just ask the sales associate for their buy-back rate on the items before finalizing your purchase. If they dodge your question, then you know you’re about to substantially over pay for an item.
Assessing Your Category
Did you find that you fall into one of the above categories? If so, is it consistent with your long-term goals? If not, then we recommend you take steps to move into the category of choice. It is our recommendation that “coin buyers” immediately cease purchasing coins from non-industry sources and take a step back to determine your desired category. If you’re interested in purchasing coins as an investment, then consider purchasing low premium gold and silver bullion coins; especially if you believe that the price of gold and silver is undervalued. Are you a coin collector at heart? If so, we recommend that you educate yourself through various websites such as CoinWeek and the American Numismatic Association, or consult with an experienced coin dealer that you trust. Have you been primarily collecting haphazardly, but would like to take your collecting to the next step? If so, then research the market value of your desired coin, stick with the leading third party grading companies, such as PCGS and NGC, and be sure to check out the population numbers for the coin(s) that you desire to make sure that it truly qualifies as a rare coin.
In conclusion, in our opinion, the three categories of individuals who purchase coins are coin collectors, investors and coin buyers. Coin collectors may fall into two separate categories – higher end collectors who spend a good bit of time researching and studying the field of coin collecting, which are sometimes referred to as numismatists, or general coin collectors who purchase coins and build collections as a sense of accomplishment and for the love of the hobby. Another category is coin investors, who primarily purchase gold and silver bullion coins with the anticipation that the coins will increase in value in the years to come. Lastly, there’s the “coin buyer,” who tends to purchase coins that are recommended by coin brokers or that are introduced to them by home shopping television shows or through their favorite circulars. Regardless of which category you fall under, we hope that we provided some helpful information to assist you in your future coin purchasing endeavors.