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Remaining Curious

By Victor Bozarth - June 22, 2023

How do we spark numismatic curiosity in young people? Years ago, Lincoln Cents helped bring many into the coin fold. What series does this today? Courtesy of PCGS TrueView. Click image to enlarge.

Numismatics is a hobby that appeals to kids of all ages. Sure the little kids might not “get it” yet, but the older kids have already figured out we’re talking about money here! Regardless of whether you’re a 10-year-old or 70-year-old kid, aren’t we all fascinated by coins?

Generationally, though, we look at things differently. The 70-year-old numismatist most often started their collection with change from paper routes or mowing yards. A Lincoln Cent folder was the first set for so many of these “old” kids, just like me.

Today, kids rarely use change, nor throw papers… And it seems fewer than in my day even mow yards!

There is certainly a disconnect between the ability of the younger kids to develop a love for actually handling coins. How do we bridge that gap? This is a serious concern for me because I love numismatics. How do I as an old “kid” tell the young kids how cool coins are? Will they want to listen?

Are they curious?

As a price guide specialist with PCGS, I both review the newest APR data and update U.S. prices as my fundamental responsibilities. Yes, some of it is quite tedious, but as a numismatist I’m blessed to encounter dozens of coins, on a daily basis, that spark my curiosity. Rabbit holes, anyone?

OK, let’s get serious… What do many of the great collections coming on the market today have in common? Traders and graders. Fundamentally, I’ve observed some pretty interesting things over my 1,000-plus rare-coin shows. Let me give you the two extremes.

Many of my colleagues in the general marketplace and collector friends have never actually learned to grade, nor understand the specifics of any of the coins they bought and sold. Their primary purpose is buying for less and selling for more. These are traders.

The reality is that traders make our markets possible. Without trades, we would be without prices with which to gauge values. In moving markets, traders are abundant. In stagnant markets, traders often disappear.

On the opposite extreme are the specialists. Not only do they want to learn all the history a particular coin might carry, but they also want to know the difference between a Good and an MS63. Although many specialists are stronger on coin knowledge than grading, I call these graders.

Graders want to know the historic pricing and the nuances that determine grade. Graders want to know more than “how much or what can I get?”

Obviously, the majority of numismatists fall squarely in the middle of the trader / grader spectrum. Practicality generally rules the decision for most. I realized early on that knowledge, especially remaining curious, was money in the bank, so to speak. Trading, on the other hand, cuts both ways. Sure, it was fun when you made money, but losing money isn’t so much fun.

You know something else I’ve noticed? Traders come and go. Graders are lifers! Sure, sometimes life gets in the way and we have to put coins on the shelf for a period of time, but while traders often find something they can make more money trading, graders are addicts to their own predilections – numismatics! Graders almost always come back because they’ve always remained curious.

Like with many aspects of life, finding a balance between extremes usually works best. While I love learning specifics about a particular coin, especially surface, strike, and grading nuances, I often get bored past a certain point. I, too, have sought varieties over the decades, but many times that search is little better than diving down a rabbit hole.

Often the flip side of finding a rare variety was also the difficulty of finding someone else who cared. Especially in my younger years, I would often read about a coin that held great value if and only if you could find one. The 1913 Liberty Nickel, right?

Regardless, experience truly is the best teacher, if you’re willing to listen. We are seeing fabulous collections come to the market bringing record prices because many of those collectors were graders. They built noteworthy collections and learned about the coins they collected. They remained curious.

Fundamentally, don’t we learn more when we’re curious? Great collectors always remain curious!

Article provided by PCGS at
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