Collecting in the 21st Century

by: Mike Ellis   |   Thursday, November 11, 2021   |   1 Comments

Mike Ellis   Collecting in the 21st century


As a Professional Numismatist for 27 years, consultant grader for ICG beginning in 1998, full-time grader at ANACS in 2006, a grading instructor at American Numismatic Association (ANA) Summer seminars since 2009 editor of 2 editions of "The Cherrypickers' Guide to Rare Die Varieties" and contributor to dozens of numismatics references I am very passionate about everything involving numismatics and sports trading cards. (Sports cards are something I have always collected and been in the business on my own since 1988 including third party graded cards since 2006. I have collected coins since 1968!)

Collecting numismatic and sports trading cards has been my passion for over 40 years. While my passion has never diminished over the years many changes have occurred.

From a time when numismatic items were self-graded by collectors and grading was haggled over to the current period of third-party grading services grading inconsistency is still being haggled over.

From a time where the marketplace had never heard of the internet; and web-based sales were just not a part of the marketing landscape, to today, when smartphone applications offer instant access to all.

From a time when buyers and sellers decided value and auction venues were not a primary mechanism of such, prices were almost completely determined by market supply, and demand determined by the two parties involved in a transaction.

But times have changed and today more than ever market dynamics have gravitated to the internet. We see massive growth of mega giants such as Amazon and eBay and ever shrinking retail outlets as older and younger generations alike turn to the internet for shopping, banking, communications and much more.

Its no wonder then that collecting in the 21st century has also changed. Today fewer companies control larger segments of the marketplace while just a few third-party grading services largely control grading.  But with centralization of the markets, the average consumer, the single most important element of the entire market, tends to be left behind.

This is typical of markets where technology changes faster than each successive generation of consumers as numismatic and sports trading cards as collectibles are stark examples as they remain largely as niche markets.

From my perspective I recognize that it is technology that influences speed and growth of a market. However, there must be a balance between consumer and market stabilization. A prime example is how eBay grew from an online “clean out your garage” company to a $4+ Billion giant where everything imaginable can be found. With the growth of online services, third-party grading using the Sheldon Grading Scale took off rapidly offering a means to normalize grading and stability in auction venue pricing as market supply and demand took over.

Businesses specialized in marketing and manufacturing made substantial inroads to grow numismatic awareness including unique marketing offered mostly by the U.S. Mint. I say unique because it largely reflects on what are considered “’Moderns” which are hugely popular yet have a distinctive different mindset than “vintage” which are largely the older generation's "first love" when it comes to numismatics.

Sports trading cards as an industry are certainly not new but the more recent generations largely drive growth in this sector. Americans love their sports which by extension is currently a far broader market than the more specialized and older numismatic-based collectibles market, so it just stands to reason that sports trading cards, given advances in grading and marketing are a much broader growth market in this part of the 21st century.   

Collecting basics remain unchanged while new technologies are bringing exciting new growth opportunities to the numismatic and sports trading cards industries.  Stay tuned because big changes are on the way!

(1) Comments

MJ
on Saturday, November 13, 2021 08:40 AM

Great blog post from a numismatics expert on market changes. I have seen the same changes and believe technology will fuel the next revolutionary leap in the numismatics and sports trading card markets.

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