Thankfully, we have two weeks back in the home office to come up for air. After a successful but grueling consecutive run of coin shows, Rob and Robbie are back, assisting the office staff in processing inventory, working on upcoming ads and price lists and some general clean-up. Although this hardly qualifies as glamorous work, it is the necessary byproduct of weeks on the road buying coins. P.A.N. was a brisk show, with steady activity throughout. The guys bought and sold quite a bit of material, although the beginning of the show proved to be the most active. The Reeded Edge has established themself as a buyer at all of these type of shows, and the flurry of material offered to us reflected that. Rob made the observation that the dealers lamenting about a slow show were the ones planted at their booths waiting for something to happen. In this business climate, you need to be creative. This could be as simple as putting a large sign up promoting your business or as arduous as canvassing every table in the room. The point is business is competitive at coin shows (and elsewhere, for that matter), and the dealer who expects that the old model of throwing out bird seed to attract the birds will work exclusively, is sadly mistaken. As we have professed time and time again, some shows are made from buying, others from selling and the remainder from a mix of a little of both; but, seldom is the success formula for any two coin shows identical.
There is a cute story that we like to re-tell about an outsider who accompanies his collector friend to a large coin show. The story goes that after a day of walking around the bourse, the outsider made the following observations: The dealers behind the tables resembled a retirement home, with the average age over 65. The collectors sitting in front of the tables were older yet. Where is the youth in this hobby? More worrisome, if this trend continues, where will this hobby be in 10 years? This almost exact scenario (although paraphrased) was published in the A.N.A.’s magazine The Numismatist back in the 1930s! This leads us to our next observation about the current trend of coin shows. Show attendance has been noticeably off across the board, but the market in general remains strong. How can this be? In our estimation, we are in a transitionary period, one which we feel will continue its path into the future. The coin show, as a medium for conducting numismatic business between dealers and collectors, is moving towards obsolescence. The shift that we have noticed with all but the most ardent club-supported shows and larger national shows is one towards a wholesale environment. In other words, dealers attend coin shows to trade with other dealers. Collectors still supporting coin shows are an aging demographic, much like the group still using print publications as their business medium. The internet is the wave of the future, and it is where the youth in our hobby has migrated. With the advent of digital imaging, the need to see items in person becomes much less important. Numismatics is moving in the same direction as the rest of retail commerce. For those who fear change, this is a scary proposition. However, for the forward-thinker, endless opportunities abound for the future of our hobby. Other hobbies, such as stamp collecting have been resurrected by platforms like eBay. We project the same for coins. The instantaneous ability to share information allows collectors and dealers to network like never before. The power and potential is limitless, and it is a prospect that we are excited about. Much like the future of the hobby prognosticated by the outsider 80+ years ago, it looks daunting at face value, but is actually very bright once all factors are considered.