Numismatics has been called the "Hobby of Kings." Is that really true?
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Hobby of Kings might have once referred to the cost of acquiring and holding coins, but was that really true? Was there also a "Merchant Class" of coin collectors along with kings and the Clerical classes?

 Is coin collecting now more egalitarian, or do we deceive ourselves?

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I consider myself a merchant class collector then, although I do own some very tough to find proofs described in your research Roger. Some would find it hard to find a 1952 Lincoln Cent in superb gem cameo that looks like the day it was minted. You may have money to spend but would have trouble locating one as nice. Or how about nice early Jefferson Nickels of 1938 or 1939 with some cameo contrast ?

Sorry I meant proofs only but may apply to gem uncirculated pieces as well :preach:

Edited by numisport
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The first two questions are tough to answer. I cannot help but think of the English industrial revolution and the proliferation of token coinage, which became very popular with contemporary collectors. So popular that counterfeiters began producing varieties and concoctions designed to dupe unsuspecting collectors! Monarchs were not the only people driving these markets. Plus, several well-known contemporary collectors of Soho pieces did not sit on the throne, such as Sarah Sophia Banks, the Duke of Portland, Samuel Birchall, and of course James Watt Jr.

I find your last question most intriguing. I think the answer is going to depend on how you operationalize “coin collecting”. Is this activity constricted to the upper echelons, or would collecting from pocket change also count? If the former, I would say no as most people lack the resources to acquire such material. If the latter, then I would argue yes as most people would have little issue setting back change as part of a collection. One needs to look no further than the state quarter or the ATB series to see that in action. Of course, this answer is also based on my observations within WEIRD (Western, European, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic) countries. I imagine the answer would change if we considered other countries that do not fall neatly within at least one of the general confines described above. Any serious contemplation of the topic brings to mind many potential confounds that would need to be addressed before the question could be answered in a meaningful way.

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3 hours ago, RWB said:

 Is coin collecting now more egalitarian, or do we deceive ourselves?

Partly depends upon definition of "collector".  I have frequently estimated up to 2MM US collectors with the concurrent assumption that the majority have annual budgets of $500 or less.  It's a guess but it should be evident that most collectors are of relatively modest means.  So in this sense, presumably more egalitarian.

Concurrently, the participation rate by the most affluent is either modest or very modest and certainly not remotely commensurate with their affluence but this has overwhelmingly been true to my knowledge in the past as well.

It's more accurate to claim that art is the hobby of kings, if it can be called a hobby, because that's what the wealthy actually prefer, then and now.

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I can't speak for anyone else but I do consider myself "The King of my Castle"

...but given today's prices/evaluations of some coinage I can see where only a "King" could afford some of them. 9_9

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11 hours ago, RWB said:

 Is coin collecting now more egalitarian, or do we deceive ourselves?

Dissemination of INFORMATION is certainly more egalitarian....access to coin shows is easier than decades ago....the internet (Ebay, HA, GC, Stacks, etc.) is fantastic.  

And of course, sites like this are great, too. (thumbsu

Certainly, some types of coins (gold, silver) are difficult to accumulate many of the years and mintmarks.  Other coins, less so.  Pretty much as it was 40 years ago and 60 years ago.

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16 hours ago, RWB said:

Hobby of Kings might have once r

The only thing i am the king of is the Garage and the Library aka the back bathroom :) anyway i will never be in the class of collector that will be hitting the auctions for the mega dream coins.  However, i will hold my own in the moderate price range coins.  Anyway most all of my coins are perfect (to me anyway even if they do say 63 on the holder)  I will tell you these are perfect!! becasue they are perfect for me.  maybe it is just the ego of one.  Trust me when i go to the shows it takes me a while to get through them becasue i look at everything because i will never know what direction i will be going when i pick up a new coin and DANG IT if it is a coin i dont have one of yet i will start looking at that series and get side tracked about all of the others, bu t that i just coin collecting.  When you get a piece of history in your hand the mind will sart wonding the journey of the little jewel.

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11 hours ago, GoldFinger1969 said:

Certainly, some types of coins (gold, silver) are difficult to accumulate many of the years and mintmarks.  Other coins, less so.  Pretty much as it was 40 years ago and 60 years ago.

If the buyer had a lot money, it doesn't seem to me that buying any US coin was much more difficult in the past than now, unless it's for specialization or specific quality.  For the actually rarer more expensive coins, I suspect most of these could have been tracked down through dealer contacts.

The Hansen mega thread on the PCGS forum has certainly once again showed that buying practically any US regular issue coin (MS or proof) isn't difficult at all.  In less than five years, he is only missing a very low proportion.

With non-US coinage, it's more difficult for the scarcity but this is substantially due to the lower price level.  If the coins were worth more, few would be hard to buy either assuming the coin exists to be bought.  

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The nice thing about collecting coins is the wide range of available possibilities.........Trophy coins and key dates are often egalitarian but there are still MANY choices and avenues for the 'common man'.   

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Was numismatics called the "Hobby of Kings"?  Yes.  Was it once, was it ever, the "Hobby of Kings"? No, never.  Any chance it could become the "Hobby of Kings"?  Considering the hobby's apparently irreversible and increasing vulgarization, no.  Not by a long shot.  Coin collecting neatly embraces the entire spectrum of wealth and where you stand on the continuum of mental illness vs. eccentricity is largely dependent on who you are and how much money you have in your pocket.

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I'm going to toss out my very first thought...King Farouk.

Easily one of the most famous 'King' collectors who had one of the most famous liquidation sales of millions of dollars of his coins in 1954 arranged by Abe Kosoff.

In fact I distinctly remember seeing an interview with Q. David Bowers telling a hilarious story about the fact that King Farouk actually enjoyed shining up his pattern coins with silver polish! Many years later (and David knows this first-hand) some of those same shined up famous pattern coins from King Farouk's original collection were then graded as very high quality proofs. True story!

There is a ton of information about King Farouk's unbelievable collection both in books and now via 'Googling' xD

I'd add that the most amazing thing about coin collecting is you can be any type...from 'peasant' to actual royalty and there is something(s) wonderful for entry to collecting all the way up to a lifetime of serious collecting at pretty much any income level...as long as you can support yourself, no matter what that means to you. :-)

Edited by Kurisu
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