Monday Morning Brief for July 19, 2021: 100-year-old advice

July 19, 2021 3 min read

Monday Morning Brief for July 19, 2021: 100-year-old advice

By William T. Gibbs , Coin World,Published: Jul 19, 2021, 7 AM

Nearly a century ago, in the August 1921 issue of the American Numismatic Association journal The Numismatist, correspondent Theo. J. Venn asked, “What Are The New Coin Collectors Collecting?”

Many of the author’s observations remain relevant today, including this one, “The young collector ... who has the true instincts of the numismatist proceeds in the same manner as the veteran — he secures what he can in the best condition procurable.”

Collectors of Venn’s era would understand the drive of today’s collectors who participate in third-party grading registry set competitions. Collectors then as now valued completeness and condition; a gap in a date set remains a challenge as the collector seeks to acquire the missing piece, and coins in higher grades have long been preferred, by most, to those pieces in lesser grades.

However, I suspect that collectors a century ago would also look askance at some modern contributions to collecting — the 1–70 grading scale and the huge price differences between individual grades at the upper levels; the grading service slabs themselves, imposing a level of sterility not experienced when you could hold the coin itself rather than a piece of hard plastic; and the burgeoning number of products offered by the U.S. Mint and world mints.

Still, the wide variety of new issues offered every year potentially opens doors to younger generations of collectors.

Venn wrote, “Some years ago the writer became much interested in the question as to what effect the advent of a younger generation of collectors would have on the field of American numismatics—whether the trend of the old series of favorites remain undisturbed or whether they would be supplanted; whether we could continue along the same narrow lines or whether they would be broadened to the extent that the average collector would take interest in all the Americana instead of devoting himself merely to a few specialties.”

We have seen in recent years that younger collectors collect a wide range of numismatic items. Go to YouTube, for example, and you will find any number of youthful YouTubers discussing silver bullion coins, modern coins with pop culture themes, traditional U.S. and world coins, and more. One of the two 2021 recipients of the ANA scholarships (see Page 41) collects Disney Dollars, Walking Liberty half dollars, and quarters (the W Mint mark quarters being the collector’s newest interest), with the other recipient collecting America the Beautiful quarter dollars, and Greek and Roman ancient coins.

None of those areas of interest would have surprised Venn. Collecting current series was popular then as it is now (the Walking Liberty half dollar was a current series in 1921). Disney Dollars are the late 20th century equivalent of 19th century private scrip, an area of interest 100 years ago. And ancient coins have always been of interest to collectors.

What would have probably surprised Venn is the fact that both recipients of the ANA scholarships are young women. Throughout his article, Venn used male pronouns (it was assumed that a collector was a “he,” and musty grammar dictated the generic “he”). Most if not all collectors in 1921 were men; certainly most contributors to The Numismatist or participants in ANA activities were. In the list of attendees to the 1921 ANA convention (published in the October issue), the women on the list were either the wife (Mrs. Geo. J. Bauer, for example) or daughter of a male attendee; all of the exhibitors were male. Indeed, the 1921 convention offered a “Reception to the Ladies,” a social event held for the women in attendance while the men conducted convention business.

Still, the similarities between 1921 and 2021 outweigh the differences. Younger collectors will continue to enter the field and influence what mints issue and dealers sell. In that regard, nothing has changed.

The original article and others like it can be found at  online