Are Numismatic Sales Rising?

February 20, 2020

By Patrick Heller


As most experienced collectors know, the published data on “wholesale” prices are not necessarily accurate.  At any time, my experience is that some coins and currency trade at a premium to these figures while others clear the market at significant discounts.

When new editions of A Guide Book Of United States Coins (popularly called The Redbook) appear, it is not unusual for some dealers to advertise a list of coins that they will purchase at or above the “retail selling prices” featured in this catalog.  I’ve also noticed in recent years that the alleged wholesale bids on several key-date U.S. coins in typical collector quality were higher, sometimes far above, what these coins were actually changing hands between dealers.

Many of these wholesale bids were lowered by the reporting services over the course of 2019.  One result of so many lower prices is that the company where I work has experienced a surge in demand from coin and currency collectors.

I work at a dealership with a store open to the public.  Typically, we tend to buy far more collectible coins and notes than we can sell to our retail customers.  Therefore, we end up wholesaling the excess.  What we have noticed over the past year is that several key-date coins and notes where we used to pick up excess quantities from the public are now ones where collectors are seeking to purchase them from us in greater quantities than we are acquiring from retail sellers. We now attend major coin shows seeking to find more specimens of some of these numismatic items instead of taking excess stock to liquidate.

For 2019 as a whole, our numismatic (as opposed to bullion-related) sales increased by a double-digit percentage from 2018.  Areas of particularly increased demand were ancient coins, U.S. paper money, key-date, and somewhat better-date U.S. coins, and (starting about two months ago) common-date and better-date pre-1934 U.S. Gold Coins

This anecdotal story of one company does not prove that there is an overall trend of rising numismatic sales.  The U.S. Mint, for instance, at its last October Numismatic Forum reported a year-over-year decline in sales, though that was for combined bullion and numismatic products.  But, bear in mind that U.S. Mint sales only include current or recent year products.  It is possible for older coins and currency to have an increase in demand while interest in new issues lags.

I would appreciate hearing from other dealers how their sales of numismatic items fared over the past year compared to the year before.  Feel free to add your observations to this column.

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