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 MS 63 are up $30 over last month's FMV
— as is the MS 64 — but the MS 66 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 MS 66 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. MS 63s 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
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 liken this to a game
of pinball; the high score is right there for all to see and the next player knows
what they need to become the highest in that category.
As we travel the country to coin shows and auctions, we are exposed to many collectors
of classic coins, some expensive and some not. The current theme we find is there
are hundreds of thousands of collectors absorbed in finding the right coins for
their collections. The demand is so widespread that most dealers can sell just about
any coin in their inventory for the current FMV. The only real problem is the proximity
of the buyer and the seller. That is why wholesale dealers go to coin shows at a
breakneck pace to gather coins for other dealers to sell to their local collector
customers. The Internet also makes this an even easier proposition. So there is
a constant flow of business even when the market appears to be slow. There may be
areas of softness but we seem to have settled into a normal market. Some coins are
strong, some are weak at current levels, and many others are somewhere in between.
While some may disagree, we feel this is a very healthy market.
The good thing about the modern issues and the collectors of this material is that
one day, they too will be considered in the same vein as classic coins.
This article is a guest article written by:
The thoughts and opinions in the piece are those of their author and are not necessarily
the thoughts of the Certified Collectibles Group.