Taking My Hacks

A Penny for Your Thoughts

Joe Orlando


In early 2012, I traveled to a major coin show in Florida called the FUN Show. I took a couple of days to observe, looking for ways to improve our hobby. Even though my stay was brief, the experience was terrific. It not only opened my eyes to some of the things our industry can do better but it also provided added motivation to push forward with some projects we already have in motion at PSA.

There will always be differences between the two markets and there's not much any of us can do about some of those differences. For example, coins will always have some psychological tie to the precious metals market. In addition, the collectible coin industry has many decades on our hobby, resulting in a noticeable difference in market maturity.

The differences extend beyond the aforementioned examples and, while there was a part of me that walked away a little frustrated from the show, I was much more excited about the potential in our market than frustrated by our industry's shortcomings.

Imagine the following scenario: On a table, you have three collectible coins. All are of equal rarity and quality. In addition, on that same table, you have an awesome Babe Ruth item. It could be a fantastic card, autograph, professional model bat, game-used jersey or ticket. If you invited 10 random guys off the street and asked them which item they felt was the most interesting, at least 9 out of the 10 guys would select the Babe Ruth item.

So then, why is the Ruth item only worth a fraction of each coin on the table?

It simply doesn't make sense on the surface. At that show, I witnessed Heritage generate over $64 million during a 3-day auction, with many coins selling for well in excess of $100,000. In fact, two coins sold for more than $1 million each. One was a 1793 Flowing Hair, Chain, With Periods cent (penny) graded MS65 by PCGS that sold for $1.38 million.

Yes, there is some explanation for the gigantic differentials in prices between the two markets, for relatively equal types of collectibles, but it still defies logic to me. What our market offers that no other market can compete with is a connection to the material. Sports, music, history and entertainment are a part of our culture and they each touch people from all walks of life. No coin can match Ali or Ruth in that department. No stamp can match Elvis or Marilyn. No piece of paper money can match Abe or JFK... at least in that regard.

So, what is one thing we can change in our market, something that the coin business does so much better than we do as an industry? Provide quality information. Perhaps the most eye-opening aspect of the coin show, and the market in general, is the enormous difference in information available to coin collectors and, more importantly, potential coin collectors compared to what is available in our market.

As an example, I ran into a booth at the coin show that carried nothing but coin collecting books and supplies. They had dozens and dozens of high-quality books about how to collect all sorts of coins and the books included tons of great images. If you are a person who is contemplating collecting coins, there is no shortage of quality information about virtually anything you would want to collect, in print and on the Internet. This is not so in our hobby as there are few quality resources, comparatively speaking.

The coin market is extremely inviting to new collectors... we have a lot of room for improvement here. The good news is that there is something we can do about it and, in 2012, PSA will.

Stay tuned and never get cheated,

Joe Orlando

Joe Orlando
Editor In Chief