The Graying of the Coin Business

The coin business continues to grow but will there be any dynamic younger dealers left to service the next generation of new collectors? I am in my mid-40’s and I represent one of the last waves of coin dealers. If you go to any coin show, you’ll see plenty of dealers in the 40-60 year old range. But you’ll see virtually no coin dealers in their 20’s or early 30’s. This worries me. What sort of future does the coin business hold if there are no up-and-coming dealers?

The lack of young dealers means that this business will become more “self-serve” in the coming years. By this I mean that most collectors will have to purchase their coins through impersonal sources like EBay with little or no guidance from a trusted resource. For some people, this will be no problem; they do not need the guidance they get from a dealer. For others, they will never get the satisfaction that a good dealer-collector relationship can provide.

I think the lack of young dealers boils down to one major issue: the extreme expense it takes in starting and running a successful coin business in today’s market. When I opened my business in 1984, I had less than $50,000 in operating capital. Today, it takes a significant six-figure investment to run a coin business.

I would personally like to see organizations like the Professional Numismatist Guild (PNG) create mentoring programs that match young numismatists with dealers and foster an environment that encourages more young people to choose numismatics as a career. Some large firms like Heritage and NGC offer internships for college age numismatists that are a great introduction to the reality of numismatic as a career.

While I’m not sure that I’d like to be 25 years old again, I’d sure like to be well-positioned in a growing industry that has a future leadership void. Teach your son or daughter how to grade coins…you have a better chance of him becoming the next Jim Halperin than the next Tiger Woods!