The deck has been stacked against us for some time. Lockdowns, restrictions, and the overall COVID narrative was testing the patience of all but the most ardent believers. Society in general was done. Most people entered this summer as if it were just another normal pre-pandemic summer, albeit with more pent-up cabin fever than ever. Translation for the coin business? This was not going to be a summer where people spent their time indoors with their collections. This was going to be a time where we started traveling again, having outdoor cook-outs, attending sporting events and concerts….yes, this was going to be the summer when things returned to normal.
Our hobby is both cyclical and seasonal, and the summer is not historically a robust period for the coin business. Many factors promoted a complete turnaround in consumer behavior this summer, especially given the thankful end to the COVID pandemic. But our crystal ball was not projecting a recession with the accompanying collapse of BITCOIN, sluggish financial markets, weak precious metals and record fuel prices. The situation just got more complicated…..at least, potentially. Where the deck was arguably lacking aces at the end of the pandemic, it was now void of all face cards, thanks to the recession. This spelled potential disaster for the coin business and the hobby overall. So knowing the cards were not in our favor, how did we fare? The short answer is, damn well!
Why did the coin market persevere in such adverse circumstances? Obviously, the answer transcends both circumstances and conventional wisdom. At the heart of the coin market is a nucleus of collectors. They did not go away. Their spending habits arguably were altered, but compared to what we normally encounter with a summer slowdown, it was slight, at worst. Is this to imply that coin collectors did not travel or otherwise alter their pandemic lifestyles? The answer would be a resounding NO! We interact with our customers on a daily basis, and it was obvious after talking to both our wholesale customers (dealers), and our retail customers (collectors), that both were mimicking society as a whole. Vacations and overdue trips were being taken, outdoor and social activities were being enjoyed and a resumption of a normal lifestyle appeared to be the order of the day. They simply did not drop collecting as a component to that lifestyle. Rather, numismatics were seemingly integrated and wound into their post-pandemic routines, perhaps one of the few positive outcomes of COVID.
Our regular readers have probably noted that it’s been a while since we have posted a Market Update. This was not by choice but rather necessity. The pandemic altered all of our routines. In retrospect, this was probably the most fluid two year period of our company’s history. Remembering back to all of the initial closures/shutdowns in Spring, 2020, there was a hobby-wide coin shortage. Coming into 2020, we had built up a store inventory of over 25 double-row boxes of certified coins. Less than six months later, we had sold down to under half a dozen boxes. What had started as a concern for restocking the shelves quickly evolved into a plight. With coin shops closed and shows on-hold, the supply chain for rare coins came to a screeching halt. The short version is, we had to get very creative during this period to stay in business. It was obvious that collectors, with more time on their hands, desired new coins, and perhaps more-so than ever. Keeping them supplied proved to be a different matter. Using some in-house ingenuity, we treaded water during COVID, ultimately living to fight another day. Fortunately, as both shops began to reopen and coin shows resumed, this supply problem gradually resolved itself. This was an indirect consequence of COVID, and as we’re only too aware, was not a challenge just limited to the coin business. The direct consequence was that our office experienced health-related staffing problems, a situation that persisted for almost 6 months. We often allude to time being our most precious commodity. With fewer employees to staff the office, more orders than ever in company history, and additional time spent on the phone/online alternatively sourcing coins, Market Update became a sacrilegious lamb.
Readers of Numismatic News and Coin World may have noted yet another change. Where we used to run large, once-a-month, item-specific advertisements in both publications, we now have gone to more regular ads promoting readers to sign up for our monthly price lists. Why the change? The answer stems from the aforementioned coin shortages, in tandem with the unprecedented, newfound demand. During COVID, and almost without fail, when a reader would call/email to order a specific coin, it had been previously sold. Some of this had to do with the lag time of the publications. On average, the timeline between sending our final ad copy to Numismatic News and/or Coin World, to the time that it took each of them to get the publication in their subscribers’ hands, was 7-10 days. Simply stated, in that window, advertised coins got sold elsewhere. Conversely, our in-house generated price list was able to get an updated inventory in our customers’ hands in just 2-3 business days, thereby increasing their chances that the coins would still be available. We felt promoting the price list component was a more effective use of our advertising dollar. Hence, this strategy replaced the item-specific listings.
As we alluded to at the beginning of this report, this summer has been an enigma. For all intents and purposes, it should have been a complete disaster. Unfavorable economic conditions and a desire to resume a normal routine, pointed to both less time and money to devote to coins. Thankfully, neither was the case. Although the market and corresponding demand have both predictably slowed from their pandemic fervor, the coin market still remains surprisingly healthy. How this translates to the fall is anybody’s guess.
Farmers have an old saying. Make hay when the sun shines. The sun continues to shine on this business and the hobby that we collectively know as numismatics. As long as that continues, The Reeded Edge will remain in the forefront, bringing fresh, new coins to the marketplace, while servicing all of your numismatic needs. We consider ourselves very fortunate to be part of such a great hobby and business; it’s something that we never lose sight of…..Until next time, Happy Collecting!