How To Invigorate The Hobby
Posted on 11/17/2016
A few weeks ago Principal Deputy Director, Rhett Jeppson of the United States Mint held a forum in Philadelphia to discuss the state of the hobby. Hobby leaders and collectors from around the country were invited to attend. The event was held at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. The attendance was fantastic and over 50 individuals made the trip. The event attracted leaders from all areas of the hobby including the media, mass market sellers, numismatic artists, collectors, rare coin dealers and grading companies. Among those attending was Mark Salzberg, Chairman of NGC.
There were also interesting presentations by Dr. Robert Goler, the US Mint Curator; Jon Cameron, Associate Director of the US Mint and Dr. Ellen Feingold, curator of the Smithsonian Numismatic Collection. These presentations served as an excellent background on the history of the United States Mint and laid the foundation for discussions about its future.
After hearing some of the facts about the US Mint's sales and customer levels in recent years, it quickly became apparent why the forum was held. The US Mint has far fewer customers than a decade ago. Key US Mint personnel were eager to discuss ways to better serve its collector base and float ideas to grow the hobby. After the intriguing presentations, the US Mint arranged a panel discussion. The panel consisted of representatives from the media, mass market and grading companies (Mark Salzberg). I was given the privilege of leading the panel and a wide range of subjects were examined.
The panel discussions were followed by an afternoon breakout session to examine:
Group 1 – US Mint Packaging
Group 2 – Mintage/Household Order Limits
Group 3 – US Mint Medals
Group 4 – Future Customers
Group 5 – Developing Youth Collectors
Group 6 – Historic Design Reproductions
Group 7 – America the Beautiful (next steps)
The subject of the last group is particularly interesting to me. The 50 State Quarters Program that began in 1999 created millions of new collectors. With the right program the United States Mint can be an incredible engine for growth of our hobby. The US Mint is eager to run an efficient operation and make its customer base happy. This is very important and hopefully some of the ideas for better packaging, order limits and so on will be successful. I believe the most important opportunity for the hobby is the creation of new collectors.
There were many ideas presented during the forum including the following:
- Create a circulation rarity so that collectors and the general public can be given a reason to search their pocket change. Each year the US Mint produces billions of Lincoln cents. Perhaps a small quantity of a special issue could be circulated in the production runs as well. People love a treasure hunt and if the program continued for several years it would stimulate incredible interest.
- Replace the State Quarter program with a “Great American” series. Each state could nominate its greatest citizen and this could provide a history lesson for young collectors.
- Re-issue classic designs for circulation or collector series. Imagine the excitement of collectors if Morgan and Peace dollars were reintroduced.
- Expand the silver medal program that proved so successful this year. The coins are beautiful and collectors love the precious metal aspect of the series. This market could be expanded tremendously with the right product offerings.
- Create games for a young audience that has become accustomed to finding everything on a mobile device. The world has clearly gone in this direction and the US Mint and every other hobby organization needs to adapt. Developing the interest of young people is critical for the future of our hobby.
- Produce fractional buffalo gold coins. This was an idea of Mark Salzberg. Like him, Americans love bison and there would be a lot of demand for more affordable gold coin issues.
There were dozens of other ideas and hopefully the United States Mint will implement some of them. The most exciting part of the event was the enthusiasm and apparent willingness of the US Mint to work with hobby leaders to expand the hobby. I have stated many times that we cannot take the future of numismatics for granted. Everyone needs to work together to ensure that numismatics stays relevant in an ever changing world. The US Mint has taken a great first step and hopefully I can report some exciting developments in the near future.
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