The total results from the Stacks-Bowers’ Baltimore auction after all sessions came in at over $13.5 million, an impressive result. Ten sessions saw nearly 7,000 lots of U.S. coins, medals, tokens and related offered. Over 4,100 of these lots were sold via online-only auction sessions which took place in the week following the coin show. This illustrates the shift that is currently taking place in the rare coin business, as it pertains to how mid-level coins are bought and sold.
SHIFTING TRENDS IN THE HOBBY
Many articles have been written, and there has been much talk regarding two major issues: declining show attendance and lack of youth in the hobby. Adding to this is oftentimes sparse attendance in the live auction room at a show. It would be overly simplistic to directly relate declining show attendance with a declining amount of collectors, and therefore less business being done in rare coins.
A counter to this logic is evident in the auction result described above. Stacks-Bowers sold over 4,100 lots of coins in online-only sessions which took place on a Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday following the Baltimore show — not exactly the most exciting days of the week. The debate, therefore, is not so much whether there are fewer collectors, but rather if our business and hobby is adapting fast enough to current commerce trends.
Clearly there is enough money in the industry to absorb a $13.5 million auction in a week, and it is possible a good number of the buyers were not in attendance at the Baltimore show. It is also possible that many of the buyers were younger dealers and collectors who prefer to bid and buy in the online-only sessions, where their price research and notes can be saved and referenced quickly. The pace of online only auction sessions also suits a younger generation, with lots passing quickly and efficiently. Perhaps it’s time to rethink the traditional “coin show” model as the main platform of
the coin business.
For every rule there is an exception, and specialized shows, such as the Early American Coppers/C4 show which just took place, are excellent annual events which bring like-minded dealers and collectors together and are must-attend for specialists. In the same vein, auctions can be re-evaluated in how they are conducted. What if the most premier coins or collections were sold in small sessions in which there was no internet
bidding only a few times a year in conjunction with the three or four most important shows? Of course the lots could be viewed online, but bidding could only be done in person or via the phone. This would require attendance from all of the top dealers and collectors, build camaraderie, and create a tangible buzz.