By Patrick A. Heller
Commentary on Precious Metals Prepared for CoinWeek.com …..
Don’t look now, but the US and world population is getting older. The average age of members of the American Numismatic Association (coin collectors) is over 50. The shift will become even more dramatic as the greater number of people born during the Baby Boomer years (1946-1964) reach retirement age.
As the population matures, that will impact markets for collectibles in several ways. The most important demographic shift is that numismatic collectors reaching retirement tend to slow down building their holdings. It is likely that many formerly active buyers could turn into net sellers as they seek to augment their cash flow. Any reduction in demand or increase in supply in rare coin market is generally followed by falling prices.
Almost as significant is the shift of assets from one generation to the next as coin collectors die off. With greater numbers of elderly people, today there are more collections included in estates. From decades of experience, I can tell you that most heirs do not share the same passion for the holdings as the coin collector who died. I see a high percentage of collections sold by either the executor or personal representative of the estate or by the heirs who receive the items. In more than a few instances, those selling the collections have much less numismatic knowledge than the collector who died to be able to liquidate the treasures for the best price. (Estate planning note: if your collection consists of specialized items, your non-numismatically inclined heirs will probably thank you if you liquidate them yourself.)
This demographic shift in supply and demand could bring a silver lining for new, younger collectors. Those numismatic niches where prices decline could present a bargain opportunity to acquire some great rarities.
The rare coin and paper money collector should anticipate the impact of changing demographic patterns on future prices. However, keep in mind that markets are affected by more than demographics. Rare coins and paper money have largely done well since the turn of the century, sparked by rising public interest since the beginning of the Statehood Quarter series and also by higher gold and silver prices. So, a shift in the demographics of numismatic collectors should be factored in with other factors that lead to changes in supply and demand.
Patrick A. Heller was honored with the American Numismatic Association 2012 Harry J. Forman Numismatic Dealer of the Year Award. He owns Liberty Coin Service in Lansing, Michigan and writes Liberty’s Outlook, a monthly newsletter on rare coins and precious metals subjects. Past newsletter issues can be viewed at http://www.libertycoinservice.com. Other commentaries are available at Numismaster ( under “News & Articles) and at CoinInfo. His award-winning radio show “Things You ‘Know’ That Just Aren’t So, And Important News You Need To Know” can be heard at 8:45 AM Wednesday and Friday mornings on 1320-AM WILS in Lansing (which streams live and becomes part of the audio and text archives posted at http://www.1320wils.com. He is also the financier and executive producer of the forthcoming movie “Alongside Night” (trailer posted at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTZ8vn45Cds).