The numismatic market is crowded.
This month, for instance, the Royal Canadian Mint has put more than 30 coins into the market, the exact number depends on if you count different variations of the same design. Now, I’m not picking on the RCM, because while they may be more aggressive than some other mints, they are not the only ones. In truth, I can’t think of a single coin issuing authority releasing fewer coins now than they were 20, or even 10, years ago.
The modern coin collector simply has a lot to choose from. Part of this is the result of some dramatic changes in the hobby itself. There was a time when collectors focused heavily on circulating coins, and expected a handful of commemorative coins and the annual sets. The investor market was focused either on bullion issues, or scooped up whatever older Mint State issues were being promoted.
Today, however, things have changed a lot.
For most of us, putting together date sets of Canadian decimal coins was the name of the game.
Today we have collectors who focus on certain themes or subjects, we have coin purchasers who are looking for gifts, coin enthusiasts who are interested in pretty coins, people who collect stuff because it catches their fancy, and the traditional date set enthusiasts.
One of the goals of any marketing plan is to develop a unique identity as a way to stand out in the crowd. Modern mints are no exception. We still think of them as government departments, but virtually every mint in the world is now expected to pay its own way, or even turn in a bit of profit to its government masters.
In a market as crowded as this, standing out from the crowd is a bit of a challenge. No matter what sort of theme you pick, there are plenty of coins to choose from.
In the current market, it seems, the answer is innovation.
The innovation takes the form of an interesting design, but also in the form of new technology.
For example, the RCM’s September offerings include full colour coins, holograms, lenticular technology, imbedded elements, translucent enamel, special finishes, and complex micro-engraving or the use of several different die treatments on the same coin.
None of these were being offered back 25 years ago, when the 50th anniversary of the Second World War was being commemorated. When I think about it, I don’t think most of them were even being considered a possibility.
I think that this change is good, it is a bit of cliché to say that things either evolve or atrophy, but it is a truth that applies to almost everything we encounter.
If the coins of today are different from anything we expected just a few years ago, I can’t wait to see the coins of the future.