Numismatics thrives thanks to grading, Internet

By Jesse Robitaille

Third-party grading has driven Canadian numismatics more than anything else in the past 30 years.

Now supported by the Internet and its far-reaching research implications, third-party grading has significantly impacted numismatics since it came on the scene in Canada in the mid-1980s. Since then, graders have applied their trusted standards to almost all numismatic material, and in recent years, all major North American auction houses have begun certifying all coins with a third-party grading service before they’re sold.

“It almost doesn’t matter what it is anymore,” said dealer Sandy Campbell, the owner of Proof Positive Coins, who has nearly 50 years of experience in the business. “You can argue there are pros and cons to third-party grading – there always will be – but I’m the biggest fan of third-party grading because it’s giving an independent opinion. I don’t care what you’re selling, but it has to be represented properly to the end buyer, and that’s how you do it.”

After the Internet gained widespread commercial and professional appeal in the early 1990s, people have also been able to verify their material through online research and, more recently, buy new material as e-commerce. Since this time, Canadian numismatics has also been in a bull market, with prices consistently climbing.

“They both complement each other, too, because people wouldn’t have the confidence to be able to make that significant online purchase if they didn’t have third-party grading,” said dealer Michael Findlay, a full-time dealer since 1979, who called these grading and technological advances “revolutionary” for the hobby.

“Those are the two most important aspects of the business today that we have seen in our generation,” added Findlay, who’s the owner of Certified Coins of Canada and the president of the Canadian Association of Numismatic Dealers.


The Internet’s myriad numismatic impacts include allowing collectors to acquire more material; pursue more research; publish more articles, books; and reference guides and form more clubs and organizations.

“There are specialty clubs for nearly everything, and they all have journals, and a lot more information is being published than ever before. I think that’s very important,” said dealer Geoff Bell, who founded the Coin Cabinet and then Geoffrey Bell Auctions with his son Brian in 1986 and 2008, respectively.

With advancements in desktop publishing in recent years, between 150 and 200 numismatic books have been published each year, “and a lot of them are on niche topics,” said nearly 45-year collector, researcher and author Darryl Atchison, of Cork, Ireland.

“That is adding huge numbers of collectors to the market because that’s going to give a lot of confidence that they can enter these fields with information that wasn’t available before,” said Atchison, a Fellow of the Canadian Numismatic Research Society (CNRS).

After an author releases a new book, the material it covers often sees increased demand and value, driving new parts of the market, Campbell said.

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