The Demise of the Printed World in Numismatics, Part Three

A few weeks ago I started writing about some comments made by David Harper of Numismatic News at the Texas Numismatic Association Show in early June regarding the demise of the printed word in numismatics. I took a break to talk about the new $10 bill, as that was current in the news. I now return to give a few of my thoughts about the future of printed information in our hobby.

When I first started as an active numismatic professional, information was available in a few monthly publications, a couple of yearly publications, auction results and from my personal experience in our store and learning from collectors who visited. I would keep numismatic publications on my desk at work, or at home on the kitchen table or next to an armchair. While I relaxed, I would read the listings and information each contained, make notes in the publication about things to follow up on, and refer back and forth between different publications. The information was there in my hand or could be taken from a shelf where I saved important publications. Earlier auction catalogs were stored in our library, as were older reference books, some going back to the 1880s. As professional numismatists we could supply this information to our clients. If they were interested in learning we could offer them source materials. If not, they could take advantage of our knowledge when buying and selling coins.

Now the Internet is the source of information for many, as well as a platform for buying and selling. This encourages some collectors but it discourages others. When I consider the next 25 years, I agree with many of Dave Harper’s predictions, but I will offer some ideas that I think are important to maintain collector interest and keep the hobby viable and exciting

As I noted earlier, David Harper’s remarks about the demise of the printed word gave me much to think about. Obviously, the main factor that has caused the printed word to lose favor among coin collectors (as well as other hobbies) is the fast, current information provided by the Internet — definitely a positive aspect in many regards. However, I hope that David Harper is incorrect when he says that the printed word will be completely supplanted by electronic media.

The current world is demanding, requiring immediate news and speedy answers to any questions. In this way electronic media has an edge on the printed word. But do we always need to be informed so quickly? I think not! Sometimes great enjoyment comes from studying, reviewing and finding the answers to questions, not necessarily just having the information immediately provided.

Many of the great collectors I have known were not in a rush to complete their cabinets. The fine collections I have helped start, build, improve and eventually sell were not accumulated in a hurry. Louis E. Eliasberg spent many years building his monumental collection and continued to collect until he passed away in 1976. He enjoyed owning and displaying the collection. Josiah K. Lilly, whose collection is one of the feature collections housed in the Smithsonian Institution, started collecting in 1951 and the coins were given to the Smithsonian only after his death in 1967. Even the D. Brent Pogue Collection that Stack’s Bowers Galleries is auctioning now in the 21st century, was carefully and diligently collected over 40 years. Devoting time to building a fine collection is an essential part of the process.

I have heard this phrase said often and like to repeat it to myself: "A collection [of anything, in this case coins] is not a necessity of life, you do not have to wear it, eat it or live in it,” so there is no reason to rush. Next week I will conclude my comments.


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