In last week's post, "Is Numismatics in Trouble?" I attempted to point out that the hobby is changing, not dying. Social media has given collectors the ability to share information for free, so there is shrinking need for old media. Social media has also provided a way for collectors to talk about their hobby and show off their collections which is phasing out the desire to join coin clubs. The internet has made coins as readily available as they've ever been. For the casual collector, who does not want to closely examine their pieces prior to purchasing, this is the path of least resistance to scratching their numismatic itch.
Our parents' and grandparents' version of the hobby is grudgingly giving ground to the digital age and sharing economy. Numismatics is giving way to a new numismatics, "Newmismatics." It is a hobby where you can find information on demand with no need for a shelf of coin related texts. A hobby where you can strut out your best coins for all the world to see via social media. And it is a hobby where coin clubs meet digitally 24 hours a day and at their leisure.
Please keep in mind, this shift in the collecting community does not mean the classic establishments have to disappear. They simply have to adapt to the new landscape. For instance, the ANA would do well to establish an online, crowd sourced numismatic encyclopedia. Have you ever used Wikipedia for coin research? It is amazing! It is also disappointing that this resource is not hosted by a numismatic group. I would very much like to see the "Wikipedia of coin collecting" be on a website that is not the actual Wikipedia.
Coin clubs need to move meetings online. Those who prefer to attend in person, can; those who would rather tune in via the internet can watch a Skype feed. Meetings could be recorded and stored in the cloud for future members to watch if they wanted to learn more about their club. Or, what about a coin club that accepted PayPal for membership dues? I suppose some might. I hope they do.
Old media information outlets (printed periodicals) are withering. Most have an online presence, but only a few have embraced what it means to be a digital media organization. CoinWeek is doing a good job.
Honestly, I am not a huge fan of numismatic news stories. I don't particularly care what the Mint will be releasing in the coming months. Modern issues don't interest me. I know they interest many people, and I will never tell someone what they should collect, modern coins just aren't my thing. Because of that, I don't frequent coin news sites. That is, unless they have an article about the act of collecting or new ways to interact with the hobby. I eat that stuff up.
I want to end this on a high note. So I am going to change gears for a moment. There is an old-school numismatic staple that I don't see going away. That is face to face coin sales. There is no experience like walking into a coin shop or coin show and being able to hold the coins. Or walking out of the bank with a $25 brick of rolled pennies. Feeling the weight of the metal pressing on the pads of your fingers is one of the simple, yet paramount, joys of the hobby. Handling coins is not something that technology can replace or replicate. The tactile nature of numismatics is an inherent, integral, and irreplaceable part of collecting.
Many of the remaining brick and mortar coin shops supplement their store income with online sales. It's a smart move. I think if I were to be a coin dealer, I would sell online and at shows only. I love the interaction you get at a coin show. It's great having so many people with a shared love under one roof. But, I don't want to be confined to a store all the time. Part of that is because I am scatter-brained and would probably drive myself crazy during the slow hours when no one was around. And the overhead would be a constant stressor that I do not want to deal with. My hat's off to all of those who own and operate brick and mortar coin shops. I hope to visit yours one day. I love a good coin shop.