Coin Registries: How We Can Shape the Future

Posted on 1/1/2003

Coin collecting - a pursuit that many of us associate with quiet studies surrounded by gorgeous coins and thick tomes of numismatic knowledge - has in many ways become as affected by technology as any other part of the world.

Coin collecting - a pursuit that many of us associate with quiet studies surrounded by gorgeous coins and thick tomes of numismatic knowledge - has in many ways become as affected by technology as any other part of the world. The introduction of eBay, online census reports by the grading companies, message boards, and coin-related web sites have created an impact that can be felt throughout numismatics. Everything about how we collect coins and share numismatic knowledge has been affected, if not directly, than at least indirectly by the introduction of computers and the Web. Even those of us who stay as far away from computers as possible feel the impact of the Web through its effect on our fellow collectors. From coin prices to the education and development of the next generation of numismatists, key aspects of coin collecting have been affected by technology.

One of the most visible and exciting changes in numismatics has been the introduction of online coin registries. For those not familiar with the concept, coin registries are a way for collectors to enter the details, descriptions and photos of their coins into a web site in predefined sets, and thus share their collections and coin knowledge with the world. The registries also rank sets by the rarity and desirability of the coins, allowing collectors to quickly identify the best sets listed. This powerful new tool gives viewers the opportunity to see and admire coins that otherwise might be mere legends to the average collector-talked about in admiring tones at coin shows, but never actually seen. Furthermore, users can converse with one another on message boards (a kind of public bulletin board, much like group e-mail correspondence).

The coin clubs of the new millennium
In the six years since electronic coin registries have existed, they have become the coin clubs of the new millennium, storing virtual versions of literally thousands of collections and tens of thousands of coins. They are the Whitman and Dansco albums of the Internet age wrapped up in a package (with community communication) that begins to feel like an online version of a coin show. Only this coin show goes on 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, and is just a click away.

The registries have demonstrated an ability to significantly influence the hobby in a variety of areas. Regular registry and message board participants testify to the fact that the impact of the registries on coin prices, scarcity and collecting trends is highly visible. The registries have proven to be a quickly growing facet of the hobby that many collectors find compelling and key to their enjoyment. Registries can be for everyone, and it's clear that they will become more and more central to collecting as their exposure grows, just as the Internet itself has become a major part of our lives. To ignore their impact on collecting means ignoring a significant part of the future of collecting.

Understanding the registry concept
An online coin registry is an interactive, electronic community for collectors, allowing users and members to display complete or partial sets and have them ranked. Although coin registries vary, their main purposes are to encourage coin collecting and to acknowledge outstanding collections, as well as to promote an electronic exchange of coin information with other collectors.

Registries are commonly run by system managers who are responsible for creating definitions of the "sets" in the registry, in terms of what coins they contain. Then, within those sets, they will create a number of specific "slots" into which individual coins can be collected. These "slots" are essentially like the empty spots in a Whitman album. The system managers make determinations such as what varieties will be collected in a particular set.