Technology and Numismatics

Posted on 9/25/2014

Advances in technology have greatly enhanced the coin hobby.

The rare coin business has grown tremendously in the last 10-15 years. One of the primary drivers of this growth has been advances in technology that have greatly benefited our hobby. These advances range from the Internet to better computers on everyone’s desk. From improved quality of shipping and imaging to more accurate and timely pricing, all areas of numismatics have reaped the benefits of improved technology.

Expedited delivery is one immediate result of improved technology. Many years ago, I employed one individual whose primary job was to ship packages each day. This person would have to carefully wrap 10-15 boxes for Registered Mail, fill out the forms by hand, and then go stand in line at the post office to ship them. Today, my office assistant can rapidly fill FedEx boxes with coins, go online to fill out the air bills, and around 4 pm a FedEx driver picks them up. This one advance in technology saved me one extra employee, and I am able to track the packages online. I also have the added peace of mind knowing the coins will arrive securely the next day.

The same productivity savings have occurred in other parts of the rare coin business, as well. At one time, producing rare coin photographs was quite the undertaking. Your company either operated a dark room or paid considerable money to have images developed off-site. Many years ago, my rare coin auction company had an in-house dark room. That room is now used for storage. Digital photography has been a huge plus for the rare coin business, and its importance cannot be overstated. Digital photography of rare coins is why the Internet is so vital to the hobby. You can now view images of thousands of rare coins for sale at any given time. The quality of good digital images has given buyers the confidence to bid online for hundreds of millions of dollars of rare coins each year. NGC makes wonderful use of digital photography. Every graded and encapsulated coin is imaged and can be viewed online. This is a great tool for anyone wanting to verify the legitimacy of an NGC-certified coin.

Technology has also been a key to the advancement of rare coin pricing. Ten or twenty years ago, most collectors and dealers used a printed version of some price guide to value coins. These usually included the Red Book, Greysheet, and possibly Coin World Trends. Pricing rare coins involved much more guess work than data-driven work. Today, there are a multitude of online guides with much more updated pricing information. The NGC US Coin Price Guide and World Coin Price Guide cover everything from Colonial coinage to world coins. The price guides include considerable auction price information which has become extremely important in recent years. NGC also provides population data for the number of coins they have certified of each issue. These and other advances in pricing information have given rare coin buyers the confidence to spend ever increasing amounts on purchases.

The ANA recently launched its new website to very favorable reviews. The ANA management and board had made the decision that the considerable investment was vital to the organization’s future. Like all websites, content will be the key for the ANA to attract and retain new viewers. In coming months, the past 125 plus years of the The Numismatist will be available on the site in a searchable format. The complete history of this venerable publication will now be available for research. Many other ideas and projects are in the works at the ANA to leverage the success of its new website. The ANA is also committed to using social media to attract younger (or young at heart) members. The ANA already has a vibrant Facebook presence.

Nearly every successful rare coin company is now a technology company. Most have at least one or more individuals on staff at all times to solve tech issues, post coins online, create digital images, and tackle other computer-related tasks. Many successful collectors have also become more tech savvy in recent years. Quite a few can perform detailed online research, including locating coins and establishing values. A few years ago, I taught a class at the ANA Summer Seminar on rare coin pricing. Much of the class involved how to properly use online tools available to collectors.

The NGC website,, is a great place to start for anyone interested in discovering ways to use technology to their advantage. I encourage everyone to explore the site. The amount of free information is astounding and is extremely useful for all collectors, from beginners to advanced. The NGC website, also provides fun and informative social media opportunities with active chat boards. Collectors can also participate in the NGC Registry and build a collection that competes with others around the country and around the world. The community of rare coin collecting has changed over the years, and individuals now have more tools to be successful than ever before.

It will be interesting to see what new technological advances take place in the next few years that will improve the rare coin marketplace. You can be sure that many great minds are working on the problem at this moment. I would explore this and other issues in more detail, but I think I see a great coin deal that just popped up on my watch!

Questions about the rare coin market? Send them to

Jeff Garrett bio

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