As the Internet continues to revolutionize the way we collect (for better and worse), Registry Sets are a major reason the coin market is so successful today. Numismedia explores the role of Registry collecting in the larger picture of numismatics.
Wow, what a strange cycle we are experiencing. Or are we? It appears that the balance of activity has shifted to modern issue coinage. But is that really the case? We have studied the market for decades and much of the activity we have seen over these many years has been at coin shows, auctions, dealer teletype, through printed media, and occasional dealer mailings of buys and sells. Several years ago, we added the Internet to this list of information gathering. Prior to the Internet, as important as it is, much of the information could be easily deciphered and one could determine the difference between truth and lies or exaggerations.
The Internet is an amazing concept. It tends to give all an equal voice, providing everyone with a system to express their points of view. However, it may not be accurate if a novice numismatist exposes others to inferior information or pretends that opinion is fact. This is where you have to determine the difference between fact and fiction. As a credible numismatist, you need to be expert enough to provide superior information that leads to the advancement of numismatics, not hearsay and innuendo. As a dealer or collector, you need to verify any and all information you feel has some hint of untruth.
The so-called talk on the Internet currently is about modern issue coinage. This gives the appearance that the coin market is interested only in modern issues. While this is a very active area of the current market, it is by no means a correct assumption. Over the last three months, dealers have been bombarded with inquiries about modern issues and the mint's release of bullion-related coins has caused quite a stir among today's numismatists. Hundreds of millions of dollars has been spent for these modern bullion coins. With all this interest in modern coins, old rarities (but common dates) have taken a back seat for the time being. Or have they? While modern bullion coins are receiving much of the visual attention, we are seeing many astute collectors purchasing traditional U.S. Gold from the past. Since the premiums are so low at this time, they are taking advantage of all the publicity afforded the modern issues. While the novice collector participates in modern issues, the classics are waiting in the wings for a future of potential interest.
In the past month, we have seen a rise in several of the U.S. Gold issues that had previously stumbled. Common $20 Saints in MS63 are up $30 over last month's FMV — as is the MS64 — but the MS66 has jumped from an FMV of $2,660 to a higher $2,910. This indicates that demand has been restored because the FMV had drifted too low. Especially the MS66 coins, where supplies are not readily available like they were a few weeks ago. Even the $5 Indians, which had plummeted over the last few months, seem to be solidifying at this time. MS63s moved back to a higher FMV of $2,780 from the October level of $2,500. These are the kinds of trends that we look for to help analyze the overall market and the potential direction it may take. Obviously, astute collectors and dealers do the same thing as they buy and sell into this market.
It is understandable how the modern issues attract so many collectors because these coins look nearly perfect. In fact, the grading services have certified so many of these coins as 70s, it allows many collectors who are putting together Registry Sets to increase their overall performance rating. Registry Sets are a major reason that the coin business is so successful today. Collectors love the idea of competing for a collection of the highest graded coins within a specific series. There are thousands of collectors putting their money on the line as they try to overtake the collector ahead of them for a higher rating. This has become such a major undertaking that collectors will actually pay two or three times what they had anticipated in a major auction just because there is competition vying for the same high-grade coins.
While the modern issues are receiving much of the media attention, the idea of Registry Sets is not a new one. Registry Sets have been around for a long time; it is now that they have been given an official name. Look at any of the major collections from the past thirty years and you will find that they were the finest coins offered at the time. They may not have been called a Registry Set, but they certainly could have been. If you visit the NGC Web site, you will be able to locate a Registry Set for just about any method you wish to collect coins. Here you will see hundreds of potential sets that can include coins certified from NGC and PCGS as well. What makes this interesting is that potential collectors can follow an area and purchase coins to compete and not even place their coins on the site. This is where it gets even more interesting. There are hundreds, if not thousands of collectors who are non-visible participants in the Registry Set phenomena. We