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Modern Issues - Sorting Them Out

Tom Becker


As a dealer, it's in my best interest to anticipate how modern issues will perform in the aftermarket. Of the many coins produced, which will collectors be asking me for two, five or ten years down the road? This is the checklist I use to anticipate demand:

Clearly contrived coins produced to appeal to a narrow range of initial buyers usually flop in the aftermarket. This includes Zodiac signs, denominations produced to correspond to a cultural groups lucky numbers, stamps and coins combined in sets, and packaging of coins intended as gifts for special occasions. This is the true “giftware” that lacks much, if any link to traditional numismatics.

Anything with an Olympic Games theme has proven to be a disaster in the aftermarket. Now that it's politically incorrect to wish one nation's athletes whip another's, nobody cares about this event except the athletes. This is the way it should be. It's much like travel in space. It's a wonderful experience for those who have been there but of little importance to the people who are asked to pay for scientific or athletic amusement. Besides, most coin collectors are mature people who don't want to be reminded they can no longer swim, jump or run like they used to.

Mintage figures, which have always been used to lure original buyers, have lost importance in the modern coin aftermarket. There are simply too many products made in limited numbers. That the RCM continues to lower mintages must influence the aftermarket buyer's selection process. They know that no matter how low the mintage the issue price will seldom hold up. The “latest and greatest” products tend to diminish much of any interest there might have been in previous low mintage issues. Those who made previous purchases thinking they were buying an instant rarity can also see continually lower mintages as the marketing gimmick it is.

Things I Like

Great coin designs have attracted collectors for centuries. It is no different with modern Canadian issues. It's important to recognize that these exceptional Canadian designs have universal appeal. It is not the experienced members of the numismatic community who determine the merit. No collector living today will see the time when anything produced by the RCM since 1967 will be considered an important numismatic rarity. People around the world enjoy owning certain Canadian coins because they like the theme and design. Painted flags and hockey players don't generate this same interest.

The way I judge the merit of coin designs is to imagine the same coin being produced fifty or a hundred years ago. The 1978 Commonwealth Games dollar is hideous now and would have been so in 1878. It won't be any more appealing in 2078. By contrast, the 1997 silver Loon commemorative dollar offers an exceptional reverse design. Of greater importance, this lovely coin appeals to even those who have no interest in collecting coins. That's the real test with the modern stuff. When the average person is genuinely impressed and interested then you are on to something.

Even collectors with generous amounts of discretionary income may find it difficult to afford all the new RCM products. The Mint's massive and indiscriminate production has forced collectors to pick and choose. Simple logic suggests future participants in the aftermarket will be even more selective. They won't be tempted to buy something just because it happens to be available at a fraction of the issue price. There are too many examples of modern issue coins that dropped in value and stayed there. I see some coins becoming extremely popular while others are of interest only to the scrap metal dealer.

Things I Really Like

Among all the 1967 to date mint products I like best the coins that at least resemble business strike issues. For as long as I've been involved with the hobby collectors have been obsessed with completeness. I have no reason to think this will change. The person who begins collecting the 25 cent coins of Elizabeth II wants a complete set and it will drive them crazy to learn certain Caribou reverse coins were not issued for circulation but can be found in RCM sets sold to collectors. The same goes for the other circulating denominations where coins made only for collectors are needed to assemble a “complete” set.

Based on precedent, I think it's fair to assume the RCM will continue to increase the issue prices for its collector products. I wouldn't rule out a coin containing one ounce of silver soon being priced at $99. While there may be some who are willing to pay such a price, I'm guessing the aftermarket participants will see greater value in the many previous issues that represent solid values when the original issue price is considered. There is something innately attractive about a coin that was “officially” sold at $40 but can now be had for $15. Everyone likes sales that offer deep discounts.

You may not agree with my reasoning or selections. I do hope you give some serious and yet selective attention to modern issue Canadian coinage. Among the enormous mix there are some wonderful coins that are fun to own now and should prove to be excellent investments.

 

Tom Becker is a regular contributor to the Canadian Coin Reference Site, you can direct your questions directly to Tom easily by E-mail:tom@tombeckeronline.com or visit Tom's website @ http://www.tombeckeronline.com

 




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