Golden Opportunities

Posted on 4/25/2019

Programs such as the Great American Coin Hunt are helping promote numismatics.

In the past, National Coin Week went largely unnoticed by most collectors and dealers in the United States despite the fact that the American Numismatic Association (ANA) created the event 96 years ago to draw attention to the hobby. The ANA offers trivia contests, educational material, and much more to its members and the public to celebrate the week.

This year, National Coin Week (April 21-27) has risen to a level of importance it has long deserved. For the first time in years, numismatics has made the national media. Usually, the only time the national press takes notice of our hobby is when an iconic coin sells for millions of dollars or a scandal erupts.

On Monday morning, NBC’s Today show ran a story about the Great American Coin Hunt.

The upbeat segment featured a Miami coin dealer, Bob Green, who is participating in National Coin Week by putting collectible coins into circulation. The Great American Coin Hunt was organized by Coin Dealers Helping Coin Dealers (CDHCD) and Roundtable Trading, many of whose over 1,000 members also have volunteered to participate by entering old coins and currency into circulation.

In addition to the nationwide coverage by the Today show, the Great American Coin Hunt has been the subject of many local newspaper and television news stories. For the first time in years, National Coin Week is drawing the attention of non-collectors around the country. The event’s website has exploded with visitors in the last week.

The idea started months ago when I asked CDHCD founder Rob Oberth if he thought its members could put 1 million wheat cents into circulation. A quick calculation determined that this would cost only about $30,000 and that if a large number of its members participated, the cost per member would be minimal.

Oberth has done a brilliant job of making this idea a reality. The Great American Coin Hunt has become one of the most powerful programs implemented in years to attract new collectors to the hobby, and he has shown clearly that social media can be the tool that will help revitalize numismatics. Through his efforts, hundreds of coin dealers around the country have rallied to the cause of promoting numismatics by putting vast quantities of collectible coins into circulation.

The US Mint is striking a limited number of quarters with the West Point (“W”) mint mark.

Another amazing offshoot of the program was the United States Mint’s decision to produce a circulating rarity. The Mint, under the guidance of its new director, David Ryder, is striking a limited number of quarters with the West Point, (“W,”) mint mark. Only 2 million coins of each of the five new “America the Beautiful” quarters will feature the W mint mark. The coins are being salted evenly around the country with the regular circulation quarters.

Social media is again at work as collectors and the general public share stories about the search for the elusive coins. Newly found examples are selling for huge premiums on internet auction sites. The W quarters are creating excitement seldom seen for mint products in recent years.

The US Mint is doing a great job of making sure the coins are being fairly distributed around the country. I even have found myself looking at my change this week.

Over the last few years, I have been involved in a multitude of ideas to help invigorate the hobby. Most of these ideas have been failures. The ANA and many other numismatic organizations have been battling the aging demographics of our collector base. We all know that to survive, we need to attract young collectors.

Through the power of social media and the efforts of the United States Mint and the ANA, the hobby has the chance to introduce millions to the hobby of numismatics.

Some see National Coin Week and the Great American Coin Hunt as a nuisance. Predictably, coin shops around the country will be fielding calls about wheat cents, buffalo nickels, silver certificates, and other material that has been placed into circulation. Hopefully, most will see the incredible opportunity and be willing to spend the time with those who have discovered the hobby through these efforts.

Most of the collectors reading this article started their collecting journey by filling coin boards. This has been a difficult task in recent years because of the lack of interesting coins that can be found in circulation. If just a tiny fraction of the people who find coins in their change this week start filling an album, the hobby will grow tremendously.

The most important task this week, and for the near future, will be to encourage collectors who have just discovered numismatics. National Coin Week, the Great American Coin Hunt, and the US Mint’s circulating-rarity program are “golden opportunities” for our hobby. Let’s all work together to leverage this incredible national exposure for the long-term health of numismatics.

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Jeff Garrett bio

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