Sunday, December 4, 2016

Numismatic snobbery: A rant

Warning:  This post has some colorful language. Nothing crazy, but I wouldn't recommend it for anyone under 14.

I am going to make a few assumptions about you. Yeah, you; the one reading this right now.

- You are a coin collector.
- You have not spent a lot of money on the coins in your collection. In fact, you probably got many of them for face value.
- You are under 65 years old.
- You do not routinely visit a local coin shop, nor do you attend more than two coin shows a year, if that. There is a very good chance you attend none at all.

Know what's messed up? There are a lot of snobs out there who wouldn't consider you a collector. Crazy, right? Someone can collect the coins they find interesting, and/or have access to, and many of the numismatic old-guard would say you don't belong to their club. They would say that real collectors are connoisseurs who only bother with exceptional pieces and true rarities.

I have to confess, I bought into that mindset for a long time. It wasn't until recently that I realized my mistake. I never disqualified someone as a collector for buying cheaper coins or building a collection solely by roll searching (I personally love roll searching), but I did feel a certain amount of condescension toward them because I had a few nicer coins in my collection.

Looking down on someone for what they choose to collect because it is not the same as what you collect is a dick move. There are plenty of dealers who will not give a customer the time of day if they believe that customer isn't prepared to spend a hefty sum. It happens to me at every coin show I attend. I have a supreme lack of focus, even when I know roughly what I want. 

A dealer will ask me, "What do you collect?"

I reply, "A little bit of everything." It's true. Yes, I have a 20th century type set to complete, but sometimes I want to look at tokens and medals. Once in a while I am in an ancients mood. Occasionally, I prefer a good oddity (like a 1oz silver bullet).

About half of coin show dealers quit talking to me after that. If I mentioned the type set their eyes often glaze over and I get the, "Well, let me know if you want to see anything." They know that most people who buy by type aren't looking for key dates. Most often, the type collector wants the best example they can get within a minimal price range.

I'm sorry Mr. Coin Peddler, but I can't afford to spend $1,000 on a coin. I have a child, wife, mortgage, and bills to think about. My wife would murder the shit out of me if I spent that much in one shot.

What's funny is that these kind of dealers are often the ones you see talking with their dealer pals about how the hobby is dying because younger people just aren't taking an interest in numismatics. Yet there are neglected customers peering into the dealer's display cases as this stream of crap spills from their mouths.


It's really too bad younger collectors with a healthy interest are oft being ignored in favor of the older "big spenders" whose numbers are dwindling. But, if these dealers want to doom their businesses to eventual failure, that's their problem.

Above, I mentioned the numismatic old-guard. I am talking about the egotistic dealer's who won't give non-wealthy collectors their time and the collectors who have the same mindset. Those who bewail the death of the hobby despite a very active buying and selling community that exists online, but that they simply don't want to be a part of because, "That's not numismatics."

The new breed of collectors are those like the folks I made assumptions about at the outset of this article. We collect what we like, we don't over-pay, and we are continually connected via social media.

I know I have been tough on coin dealers here. I tried to qualify what I said with words like, "some of, those like, the ones who," to indicate that I am not talking about dealers as a whole. To be perfectly clear, there are so many good dealers out there, they out number the snobs 3 to 1. Do not avoid coin shops or shows because the proprietors might be dicks. Give them a chance, especially coin shows; I think you'll be glad you did. Also, give a coin club a chance. Clubs are a great way to meet fellow collectors. If there is not a coin club near you, consider starting one. 

Remember, this is your hobby. It's not mine, not a coin dealer's, not PCGS's or NGC's (with their set registries), not Coin World's (with more ads than articles), not even your best friend's. Collect what you want, how you want, in whatever amount you want. There is no wrong way to pursue your hobby. And for the love of God, share photos! It's as much fun for many to see other people's collections as it is to view their own.


Tim Stroud said...

Damn man, why you gotta beat me up so bad?...................LOL Just kidding, but you are right about the whole situation. There are still a few out there that understand, but they are a rare breed.

Information For ALL US Coin Collectors said...

I like this and it is true for some dealers. I volunteered to speak at a Cub Scout meeting on coin collecting so they could earn their merit. There were about 10 young boys and some parents, and i brought cheap coins, but they loved it and were full of questions.

Later the scout master messaged me on Facebook and said I was the coolest thing the rest of the meeting and they even gave me something for doing this. So we do need more of this and there is an up and coming market.

Elizabeth Weaver said...

My first (and only, at least til I have more spending money) coin is a very basic Peace Dollar. It's not worth more than the silver content. Got it for $20. I didn't buy it because of any qualities of the coin itself (though I do love the design) but because the story of the model for Liberty on the obverse is so interesting. I tend to take an interest in coins with a story, but I don't really bring that up because "that's not numismatics."

Whatever. I love my Peace Dollar.

Tim Stroud said...

I beg to differ with your last statement Elizabeth, the history of a coins design is a very basic part of numismatics. I my humble opinion, anyone who would tell you different is not a true student of the hobby.

Anonymous said...

I think the elitism comes from all directions. I know collectors that consider anyone buying with the idea of eventually making money an investor, not a true collector. I know dealers that label you as a collector, even though you buy and sell regularly and attend many shows and have an active ebay business and they jack up their prices because you are a collector. Everybody should mind their own damn business and stop trying to put labels on people so they can judge them. This extends far beyond coin collecting as well.

Avantika said...

Totally enjoyed reading this., I have faced the same kind of issues as well!

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