No don’t panic and rush for the underground shelters just yet. It’s not the end of humanity to which we refer here, but rather, perhaps the end of the coin corner shop. Well on second thoughts maybe it is the end of the world as we know it. Depends on what side of the fence you sit on. This could mean the last bastion of numismatics as we have known it over the years is about to crumble and fall to the ground.
For it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that our numismatic art form has gone through almost as many changes in the last five to ten years as a teenager passing through adolescence. These days – and this can relate to business as well as hobbies – it’s a case of adapt, or die. Ask the UK high street store BHS, who have just been placed into administration and will in all likelihood go to the wall in the next few months, quite simply because they either refused to see the need to move with the times.
And as Bob Dylan would have put it, “Oh the times they are a changing.” Change is inevitable and what is really changing in the numismatic world is how people are paying for transactions and how numismatic material is being collected and marketed. Plus, there is also the impact and influence of the world wide web and how people’s buying behavior has dramatically changed because of it.
Many of the puritans underestimated the power of online marketing and how numismatists would use online marketing to augment their store, coin show, or mail-order operations. Although we expected a massive expansion of Internet usage by collectors and dealers, I don’t think we fully considered what that would do to existing brick-and-mortar coin shops – especially those in smaller markets.
The older more established numismatists will in all likelihood remember with fondness browsing through a coin shop for hours on end and salivating over the hundreds of rare coins on display. These store generally had a sizable showroom with a variety of products on display. Nowadays if you happen across these stores there will be a counter, a person manning a till, but absolutely little to no stock in there at all. When asked why not. Many of these store owners will in all likelihood corroborate the same story.
Many say that it is not worth their effort to display coins or paper money for sale in the store, as they would far rather buy such items from the public, and then ship them out to wholesale buyers or online retail customers.
Remember what I said earlier about adapting or dying. Here it is in the cold hard light of day. These owners of corner street coin dealerships are being forced to change the focus of their business and many are saying that they can no longer sell better-date coins and paper money in their store, but could find buyers online. In fact, many have sharply cut back the display space devoted to numismatic material. Instead, choosing to replace this freed-up space with other kinds of collectibles.
The reality of changing collector and dealer patterns is that if something can’t be found on the shop floor or in stock, all they have to do is look for and purchase them online.
As collectors can more easily go online to find multiple sources of most numismatic items and also examine high quality photographs of items encapsulated by grading services, the value of patronizing brick-and-mortar local coin shops is diminishing. Focused coin shops in larger markets are likely to survive, but small-town enterprises are at risk of disappearing. The same thing happened to focused stamp shops over the past 30 years. This pattern is now being repeated by coin dealers.