Professional Numismatists Guild
Source for reputable dealers
PCGS US Coin Price Guide
General certified prices, though somewhat inflated
New York Int'l Numismatic Convention
Popular ancient and world coin show & auctions - January
Fred Weinberg
An Excellent source for mint error coins
 
His work with rare coins is so voluminous and so extraordinary that he was named by COINAge magazine as one of the Numismatists of the Century. Bowers' dedication to the hobby and his lifelong interest in rare coins, along with his pursuit of scholarly knowledge, have made him one of the most honored and revered numismatists of all time. Bowers is the only person to have served as president of both the Professional Numismatists Guild (1977-1979) and the American Numismatic Association (1983-1985). From the PNG, he received their highest honor, the Founders Award; and he has received their Friedberg Award a record seven times. From the ANA, Bowers has received its two most distinguished awards: Numismatist of the Year and the Farran Zerbe Memorial Award.

He was the first ANA member to be named Numismatist of the Year (1995), has been inducted into the Numismatic Hall of Fame (at the ANA Headquarter in Colorado Springs), and has received more Book of the Year Award and Best Columnist honors given by the Numismatic Literary Guild than any other writer. He has lectured at Harvard University and appeared on the Today Show as well as on programs on CNN, CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, the Discovery Channel and the History Channel.

Dave has been kind enough to take some time away from his busy schedule in order to answer some questions posed by Studium. We're grateful for his input.

 

     
     
 
 
COINS AND CURRENCY
Q. David Bowers
 
Conducted on February 22, 2011
 
   
Studium:   Over your many years of collecting, what would you consider to be your favorite collectible?
     
QDB:   Taking collectibles in general, among my personal favorites are music boxes and coin-operated pianos. These can be kept at home and enjoyed at leisure. In contrast, coins, tokens, medals, and paper money necessarily have to be kept in a bank vault. Regarding the latter, I have many fields of interest-including Civil War tokens, counterstamped large copper cents, selected medals with interesting motifs, obsolete bank notes of New Hampshire and Maine and National Bank Notes of New Hampshire. I also like to "collect" information-made especially enjoyable by using the Internet.
     
Studium:   With grading numbers often being the key focus for many collectors, do you think the field of numismatics is becoming commoditized?
     
QDB:   As has been said, given a box full of certified coins and a price list, "even a monkey can be a coin dealer." Indeed, numismatics has been commoditized. However, along the way a lot has been lost-for a given coin graded at, say, MS-65 can be absolutely gorgeous or can be an ugly dog. Anyone buying the holder rather than the coin is apt to run into problems-except, perhaps, for modern products for which most all exist in high grade anyway, and with nice surfaces.
     
Studium:   Extremely high prices dominate the stellar quality coins sold through auction. What were once somewhat affordable examples of early material are becoming prohibitive for most to afford. Are high quality coins becoming a rich man's hobby again?
     
QDB:   Extremely high prices make news accounts, but are hardly in the mainstream of activity. Probably more than 99% of numismatic transactions, if not 999 transactions out of 1,000, involve moderately priced coins. Only a handful of people are paying hundreds of thousands of dollars or more for rarities. The typical collector goes about his or her activities filling in items of interest, many of which are reasonably priced. In fact, there are a number of series-say commemorative half dollars and Peace silver dollars-for which in Gem grades the prices are much lower than they were at the height of the market in 1989.
     
Studium:   With the frequent release of new US mint issues, do you feel they are diluting the numismatic hobby?
     
QDB:   With regard to new Mint issues, they are absolutely overwhelming-with $10,000 to $20,000 needed just to keep up with new products. Most of these have no relation to circulating coinage or actual monetary value. The American Eagle coins, bullion pieces in platinum and the like, are denominated, but the denominations are a farce. That said, among modern issues there are occasional pieces that I find interesting-because of the design or the subject depicted. It's amazing that the Mint has many more artists than ever before in its history, but does not seem to come up with designs that are artistically pleasing to anyone. Coin World in particular has written many articles about this failure.
     
Studium:   What is your view on grading services available to collectors?
     
QDB:   With regard to grading services, they are very valuable, as although grading is an art, not a science, and even the same grading service can grade a coin differently when it is resubmitted, still the era of selling polished coins as "Proof," Extremely Fine coins as Mint State, and the like, has largely diminished. I view the top two grading services, PCGS and NGC, as being particularly dynamic. However, their holders are the starting point, not the ending point, for the intelligent buyer-except, perhaps, for modern Mint products and common coins that are easily available in high grades.
     
Studium:   Chinese counterfeit coins, among other things are beginning to appear that are virtually undetectable from the real thing. What's your opinion of this relatively recent development?
     
QDB:   The Chinese counterfeits are a great threat. Huge numbers of fakes are out there. The best protection is to buy coins certified by PCGS or NGC. There are other grading services, too, but NGC and PCGS are the most widely recognized in the marketplace. Any of the runner-up grading services would do well to state their policies with regard to refunds, mistakes, and the like. There is very little available on this subject in print.
     
Studium:   What do you think has been the most important recent change in the hobby, good or bad?
     
QDB:   The most important change in recent times has been the Internet-completely revising the way coins are bought, sold, and information exchanged. The Internet is wonderful, but it also can have problems-such as providing a great arena for misrepresentation and fraud. In the long run there is no substitute for doing business with a truly experienced numismatist of excellent professional reputation.
     
Studium:   What would you change about the hobby now?
     
QDB:   It's wishful thinking to suggest that buyers should do more reading and studying. This is the absolute key to success. Those who do not want to do this will pay a penalty in terms of lesser value obtained for the money spent. Accordingly, my change would be to emphasize education and knowledge and make it clear that the Internet, grading services, and other aspects are not a replacement for knowledge.
 
Studium:   Would you care to make any predictions about the future of coin collecting?
     
QDB:   As coins are interesting to own, easy to store, and there is a wide community of interested people, I feel that it will continue to be a dynamic hobby. When you mention "coin collecting" is like to think of coins, tokens, medals, and paper money-numismatic collecting. Certain of these fields, particularly tokens, medals, and early paper money, are relatively undeveloped in terms of market activity. There are many opportunities available for anyone interested, including rarities for inexpensive prices. However, once again, knowledge is desired.
     
Studium:   Do you have any recommended books for the neophyte?
     
QDB:   The Guide Book of United States Coins is essential. I think some of my books are quite useful as well, particularly The Expert's Guide to Collecting & Investing in Rare Coins, as this gives a lot of guidelines. I would recommend these two books as a start, after which anyone interested could browse through other titles, look at their contents, and acquire those that seem to be the most valuable In my opinion, the most useful are those that give excellent narrative information in addition to just listing of prices.
     
Studium:   Could you tell us about any future plans that you have or books you plan on publishing?
     
QDB:   Whitman Publishing Company always has books in process. Already done, in their hands, and awaiting publication are The Whitman Encyclopedia of Half Cents and Large Cents, and a book I did with Dr. Kathryn Fuller, 1,000 Nights at the Movies. Some others are in process, including a guide for beginners in coins-people who are interested in becoming serious numismatists, as opposed to casually finding pieces in pocket change.
     
Studium:   Any advice that you would like to share for collectors?
     
QDB:   Knowledge is king, so get as much as you can. When buying coins, shop for quality, not for low price. High quality cannot be obtained for low prices. And, by very definition there is no such thing as "below wholesale" unless someone wants to liquidate slow moving inventory or doggy coins that cannot be sold on a wholesale basis. Buy coins one at a time, look at them carefully. Explore new areas such as tokens, medals, and paper money. Go to conventions, use the Internet to seek out information on interesting pieces. Develop some collector and dealer friends. With regard to dealers, check around various firms, then zero in on one or two or three with whom you can build a meaningful business relationship.
 
   
   
   
 
 
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