Oh sister, I can't let you go
Like a preacher stealing hearts
At a traveling show
Attended the World's Fair of Money yesterday in Chicago. As this is the largest coin show of the year, it had everything. Rare coins in certified holders, common cents in cardboard holders, $500K gold bullion bars, pocket watches, medallions, tokens, paper money foreign and domestic.
Although it was neat scoping out cool coins (think the most expensive coin I held in hand was a 1921 $20 Saint priced at $375K), most enjoyable for me was meeting many dealers that I've interacted with remotely over the years. Nice to put faces with names. Hard working bunch of folks. Save for a few shops, hard to see how most of these people stay in the black. You can see that it's a labor of love for most of them, as they still refer to coin collecting as 'the hobby' rather than as an investment or industry.
The structure of this industry is evolving, as a few big, well capitalized players like Heritage are exerting major influence on how business gets done. The Internet is also playing a huge role. A classic Old School vs New School competitive landscape has been forming.
The other takeaway is how small and seemingly undervalued this sector of the collectables market is versus, say, art. A few multi-millionaires looking to diversify their holdings could sweep up the entire supply of coin rarities on the market with relative pocket change. Former energy industry CEO and current owner of the Texas Rangers Bob Simpson is demonstrating what could happen here, as he has assembled a number of monster coin sets that on an value basis is tiny versus his wealth and compared to collections of fine art out there.
It would only take a few more people like this guy to radically alter the supply/demand dynamic of this industry.