Friday, February 6, 2009

Ruminating on economy, collectibles and coins in Long Beach

Feb. 6, 2009
Posted by Noah

Unlike so many at this company, I’m a strict neophyte when it comes to coins. When asked what he did before he became a coin dealer, Steve Ivy likes to say that he was in fifth grade. And he’s serious, even if it is a funny line. That, however, is somewhat typical of the best minds in coins: they start early and their knowledge is encyclopedic. Mine, at this point and for the foreseeable future, is more like a pamphlet. Perhaps even just a text message. What I do know, given the latest jobs numbers out this morning – 7.6% unemployment. Wow. – is that there is little safety in the market, few safe places to put your money, and that coins of most stripes are still a solid bet, as are many areas of collectibles.

Being on the inside at Heritage, and having a pretty good grasp on the business of auctions and of antiques and collectibles as a larger market, I can tell you that no sector of the business has been spared hardship since the economy sank last September. Our main two competitors had dismal years last year and recently announced job cuts totaling in the thousands. Even Heritage was forced to lay some people off based solely on the difficult numbers we’re all seeing. It’s a sobering sight to drive to work on roads that seem emptier, to see the parking garage with way more spaces than a month ago and to see “For Lease” signs in front of office buildings lining Turtle Creek where there used to be a waiting list for to get in.

Through all this, however, collectibles have remained – if not strong – steady. As I said above, coins in particular have fared well. Not perfectly, but the loss in value has been relatively little, if any, in many sectors. I can also testify to the fact that comics, movie posters, natural history and sporting, entertainment and music memorabilia all continue to perform well, hold value and allow beginners to find their way into a safe(r) market. Last month we had our FUN Auctions in FL, which were better than expected, and right now, In Long Beach, CA, we’re having the next round of important early year coin auctions. All signs, so far, are positive.

All this goes to say what? I don’t know, really, other than that it’s been on my mind a great deal lately as I’ve upped the speed of my coin education, with an eye toward getting in eventually and a developing obsession with gold dollars. With our faith shaken in traditional methods, we all need another place to put that energy. Seems to me I’m in a pretty good place to make a transition.

Here’s a link to the Long Beach catalog, if you’re curious. Have a good weekend.