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Direct Marketing Opportunity in U.S.?
By David C. Harper, Numismatic News
September 13, 2013

This article was originally printed in World Coin News.
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It has been settled opinion in the United States for at least the past decade that the best way to realize the highest possible prices for coins is by selling them at auction.

That certainly seems to be true when you look at the auction stories that appear in this month’s paper.

The question that comes to my mind is how severe is the squeeze between the auctions at the top of the market, the direct sales by world mints of modern issues to collectors or distributors, and the old-fashioned coin shops and bourses.

Certainly, bourses look healthy when you judge them solely on the basis of the World Money Fair in Berlin, a giant show held in early February.

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Seeing crowds lined up elbow to elbow waiting to get in the door would not raise the eyebrow of a numismatic Rip Van Winkle who has just awakened after 35 years.

However, even after adjusting for the arrival of the internet and the pre-eminence of auction firms in the world field, Old Rip might be surprised to learn that there are many pessimists out there when it comes to the future of coin shows.

A recent poll question by sister publication Numismatic News asked respondents whether the internet will ever replace coin shows got a surprising number of “Wake up, it has already happened” responses from individuals who either help stage smaller coin shows or attend them. Rising costs are a big concern. It is not cheap to go to a coin show unless it is just down the block. The high price of gasoline and perhaps a restaurant meal or two add up pretty fast even for a traditional one-day show.

Selection on these local bourses is declining. Dealers who know that auctions are the best way to sell coins for maximum value direct their material to where they think they will realize the highest prices.

They have always done this, but never before has it so affected what might be called the feeder system of shows where small shows were visited by dealers who would scour them for material to take to shows up at the next level and so on up to national shows.

The internet is killing, or has killed, the feeder function, and it may be just force of habit that continues to compel old-time collectors to go to shows.

My view, of course, is heavily slanted toward the location of my office in the United States, but with third-party grading services opening offices in Europe and Asia, the American-style of doing business, if not the American method of collecting seems to be sweeping international numismatics.

Where will that leave us after the final triumph of large name auctions and smaller internet auctions combined with a reduction in the number of small shows?

Perhaps European firms offer an answer. Average collectors are not likely to participate in major auctions that offer the million dollar rarities. They certainly have taken to participating in online auctions, but it would seem there is more to numismatic life than that.

European marketing firms offer collectors new issues, exclusive issues, with interesting stories and various price points to entice them into spending their hobby dollars with them.

There is not much like this in the United States. Firms that offered regular price lists might have been close at one time, and bullion firms certainly market certain coins made of precious metals, but what of direct marketing of world coins to the collector base in the United States? This might be the next opportunity.

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• IT’S HERE! Order the 2014 North American Coins & Prices.

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• See what guides and supplies our editors recommend for keeping up with your collection.


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