In 1989 I was the president of the Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG). I was recently looking at the November/December 1989 copy of the PNG Report (newsletter of the group) and found this interesting article I wrote for my President’s Message.
The Contents page described it as:
“The Collector and Investor: Both Need More Education! By Harvey G. Stack.
An educated numismatist is the best hobbyist. With a thorough subject knowledge, both collectors and investors can become self sufficient, selecting coins based on what they see and feel, not what someone else suggests.”
The text, which began on page 8, will be the focus of this and my next few articles.
Has the romance gone out of numismatics? Do the terms MS-64 and AU-59 have the collector stymied? Only through continued education can today’s hobbyists keep up with the ever-changing trends in numismatics. It is the constant need for education and how it applies to the collector and numismatic marketplace that I will address in this article. The ANA has tried to provide a source of information, but I believe a greater assimilation and distribution of this information is needed. We must use the past and present knowledge and experiences as a foundation to continue to provide basic information so that coin collectors can learn for themselves.
Collectors today are offered:
1. The Numismatist with articles and ads about coins;
2. Specialized books on many series;
3. Some general books and pamphlets on collecting;
4. Weekly and monthly publications, such as Coin World, Numismatic News, Coins Magazine, and Coinage;
5. Local and regional coin clubs;
6. Regional coin shows;
7. Two national conventions;
8. Dealer auction catalogs, price lists, and the coin shop.
Since I started my career as a full time dealer in a coin shop run by my late father, Morton, and my Uncle Joe, I would like to reflect on my experiences and how they influenced my development.
Yesterday’s coin shop was usually considered the local “coin clubhouse.” Parenthetically, Stack’s still maintains the same atmosphere and warm surroundings today for collectors to gather in.
From listening to collectors as well as visiting dealers, I learned, in depth, about series of coins, how coins were made, unusual varieties, grading, rarity and scarcity, market conditions, and other details about coins. I, in turn, would pass on this information, either in discussions or in our price lists and catalogs.
Among my teachers in our shop were such famous numismatists as Dr. William Sheldon, Homer Downing, Martin Kortjohn (who was past president of the ANA), Harold Bareford, Henry Grunthal, Dr. Charles Green, Wayte Raymond, F.C.C. Boyd, and are hardy perennial John J. Pittman, to mention but a few. All imparted their numismatic knowledge to me with great generosity. In writing to John Pittman recently, I mentioned my appreciation of the knowledge he gave to me and he replied, “I also appreciated the knowledge I received from Joseph and Morton Stack.” Yes, dealers and collectors exchanged information so all could learn from each other.
I also obtained knowledge from meeting with collectors at their homes, at coin clubs, attending conventions, and reading auction catalogs, price lists, and various periodicals. All this was in addition to the friendly and informative conversations in our shop.
In order to further explain the need for more education now, let us explore the topic so much in discussion today, namely the two-tier market in coins — one created by the investor — and the other by the collector. There is talk of the investor dominating the collector market. It appears that this is a new phenomenon. But with knowledge of the past, one could discover that the investor had dominated the market for only short periods of time over the years. Though there were instances of this occurring before I became a full-time dealer in 1947, I prefer to cite some examples from my own personal experiences, and some of the idiosyncrasies I encountered when the investor appeared to dominate the collector in the coin marketplace.
(Continued next week)