By Louis Golino for CoinWeek
The U.S. numismatic press covers U.S. coins and the U.S. coin market in much greater depth than it devotes to the world coin market and world coins. Coin World’s monthly special edition and Krause Press’ World Coin News provide useful coverage, but in general world coins do not receive the attention they deserve.
Although many Americans collect world coins, the U.S. market is very insular whereas coin markets in European countries and Asia are much more focused on foreign issues, according to John Winkelmann of Talisman Coins. Americans do collect foreign issues, and I think this trend is increasing, but people in other countries who collect coins are much more focused on coins from countries other than their own than Americans are. This makes it difficult for the U.S. collector "to understand how the rest of the world works numismatically."
One of the goals of this column is to help address this weakness in U.S. numismatic press coverage by focusing on world coins and the world coin market. This will include articles on different segments of the market, primarily the modern world coin market, as I am not as familiar with the market for older world issues.
This column addresses differences in how the modern world market is viewed in the U.S. and abroad. Future columns will look at coins and series from different countries, strategies for collecting, and various segments of the world coin market as seen by collectors and dealers.
Talisman Coins is the largest modern world coin distributor in the Western hemisphere and does a very large business buying and selling coins. Talisman is the official distributor for several foreign mints, including those of France, Canada, Australia and Poland.
I recently interviewed Mr. Winkelmann of Talisman, who graciously provided a fascinating look at the world coin market. He said that there are really two different markets when it comes to world coins. There is the U.S. market, which is largely focused on American coins, and the rest of the world, where the national numismatic market is weaker. "The international market for world coins is much stronger than the U.S. market," he added.
In addition, he stressed certain differences in the two markets. People who collect 2 euro coins, for example, usually collect them from all the countries that have issued them, and collectors who specialize on modern world issues like "achievable goals" which can be very hard with classic U.S. issues, but is more feasible with certain modern coins if one limits one’s focus.
World coin collectors also collect bimetal coins, but in the U.S. clad coinage such as state quarters is currently very unpopular. As Mr. Winkemann said, "American collectors want precious metals for their money."
Canadian coins are the most popular foreign issues in the U.S. because of "proximity and history," said Mr. Winkelmann. When I asked him about the perception that exists in the U.S. that modern Canadian coins have not performed very well on the secondary market, he disagreed. He explained that while some sets from the 1960's and 1970's that had no mintage limits have not done well, most recent Canadian issues have "strict and low mintage limits" and have done well.
For example, the recently issued set that commemorates the rare 1911 silver dollar sold out within two hours of its web site release at $180 per set and are already selling on e-Bay for almost $400 each. The sets have a mintage limit of 6,000, and the 1911-2011 dollar coin that is part of it has a limit of 15,000, whereas U.S. commemoratives are often issued in much higher numbers, in the hundreds of thousands in many cases. He said that while there were exceptions like the 2001 Buffalo commemorative dollar, he said that collectors who want to lose money should buy U.S., not Canadian commemorative issues.
Another interesting recent issue in the 2011 Full Buck Moon coin, which is made of a combination of silver and niobium. It is the first of a new series of Native American-themed coins and is the first Canadian coin made of niobium. It has a mintage limit of 7500 and sold out very quickly. I purchased one and can say it is a very attractive coin with good long-term potential because of the design and significance of the coin as a first issue and new type.
We also talked at length about the French Mint and French coins. To be sure, many other European countries issue beautiful and interesting coins, but none combines high artistry and low mintage quite the way France does.
The French Mint is the oldest in the world and the oldest civilian organization in France having been founded, said Mr. Winkelmann, by Charles the Bald, who was the King of the Franks. One of the benefits of this rich history is the Mint’s "phenomenal medal workshop" which he said has created over 200,000 different medals in the last 400 years. France issues a vast array of commemorative coin issues in bimetal form as well as numerous silver and gold coins. Most recent French issues exist in many different versions and sizes.
Addressing the French coin market, Mr. Winkelmann referred to it as "the smallest domestic market in Europe," but said that there is a much stronger market for French coins outside France. He said there is a large market for French coins in Asia. He attributes this partly to the low mintage levels, which help build a strong base of collectors, and to France’s longstanding trade and diplomatic ties with the rest of the world.
Mr. Winklemann also said that it is important to put enjoyment first when it comes to coins. Less expensive coins are usually not investments and generally should not be viewed as vehicles for investment return like stocks or bonds. He also mentioned that modern world issues have great appeal for collectors who are focused on specific themes such as animals or ships. Talisman’s customers include many such collectors.
Louis Golino is a coin collector and numismatic writer, whose articles on coins have appeared in Coin World, Numismatic News, and a number of different coin web sites. He collects U.S. and European coins and is a member of the ANA, PCGS, NGC, and CAC. He has also worked for the U.S. Library of Congress and has been a syndicated columnist and news analyst on international affairs for a wide variety of newspapers and web sites.