Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Where in the world are all the coin collectors?

Someone once asked me why I started a blog. The great thing about the internet and blogging is that collectors can communicate with each other and remain anonymous if they so choose. (read one of my favorite articles by a fellow collector on why coin collectors are so paranoid) I have met many collectors, both online and in-person, who share my interests through this blog that I never would have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. But it's also nice to connect to other collectors, even if I never really meet them. They may be silent and anonymous, but the traffic statistics tell me they are there.

So while I don't know exactly who is reading my posts, I do know where they are generally located and how they found my site. I thought it would be interesting to share some of that information.

So where in the world are all the coin collectors from?

Looking at the last 10,000 collectors to visit my blog, the most surprising thing to me is the global distribution of everyone. While it's not surprising that 84% of all my visitors were in the U.S., what surprised me is that the other 16% came from 97 different countries around the world. For an English-only site, I expected that number to be considerably smaller.

So who are the top 10 countries ranked in order?

They are: United States, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, Germany, India, Phillipines, Spain, Poland, and the Netherlands.

Some smaller countries to appear include the Solomon Islands, Nepal, Mongolia, Ivory Coast, Malta, and Sri Lanka among many others. It is truly a global hobby.

When I take a look at the distribution of collectors visiting my blog from within the U.S., the top states are less of a surprise to me. Here are the top five: California, New York, Florida, Texas, and Illinois.

If I change my perspective and look at the distribution by urban areas, they pretty much represent those areas where you would find the major coin shows and large dealers. If I had to pick two areas that I think are underserved by the coin collecting industry based on my non-scientific observations, I would say it is Minneapolis and Chicago.

So how did they find my site?

Not unexpectedly, 70% find me through Google Search. A surprise is that another 8% find it through Google Images Search. Anytime I include a picture with a post, that picture becomes available to Google Images.

So combined, Google accounts for 78% of all visitors to my blog. If you maintain any kind of website that you want others to find, you cannot ignore the fact that Google dominates internet searches.

For all the hype regarding Microsoft needing Yahoo's Search Engine, only 2% of my visitors arrive through Yahoo even after submitting my website's URL to them. In fact, AOL is actually the second highest after Google supplying close to 4% of my blog's traffic. Maybe Microsoft should be looking at AOL. I'll bet Time Warner would be willing to sell.

So, if you want to make collecting more interesting, you might try blogging. Sites like http://www.blogger.com/ are free and can get your blog up and running within minutes. Blogging has helped me to enjoy and share my collection and collecting interests with others from around the world. Can your local coin club do that?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Presidential Dollar Rolls: Collection or Investment?

"We are opening the vault for a limited time only. Don't miss this golden opportunity."

These were the words that greeted me when I opened the flyer that came in the mail today. The flyer was from a well known marketer of collectibles and billed itself as “The smart way to collect Presidential Dollars.”

The offer was for rolls of 12 Presidential dollars for "Only $34.95" plus $4.95 for shipping and service. That is more than a 200% premium over face value for coins that are currently in circulation.

Not a great investment

The offer asks you to consider “a similar series of U.S. President stamps . . . [that] sell today for 12 times or more than their original face value.” It includes a chart showing what a great investment these Presidential stamps issued in 1938 turned out to be. The chart showed the stamps rising in value by 1,200%!

Ironically, their chart starts with the stamps at face value and doesn’t include a 200% premium paid upfront as you would pay with their Presidential coins offer. More importantly, what do these Presidential stamps have to do with the future value of Presidential dollars?

As far as I’m concerned, nothing justifies paying a 200% premium when I can get uncirculated coins for face value.

Collecting at face value

As a coin collector, I am a big fan of the new Presidential dollars. I like the series better than the state quarters. But when it comes to buying the new dollars, I like to get mine at face value. My Presidential dollars are part of a collection, not an investment. Although it would be nice to have them eventually go up in value, I collect them with the expectation that they will never be a great investment.

Where can you get rolls at face value?
My 10 year old niece collects rolls of Presidential dollars. But she pays only $25 for a roll of 25. Where does she get them? From her bank. Unfortunately, not every bank has the rolls. The two banks closest to my house both have Presidential dollars, but neither has the rolls. However, after a few minutes of calling on the phone, I located one that does.

Where else can you get them at face value?

The U.S. Mint has a direct shipment program where they will send you 10 rolls at face value plus free shipping. It's the same as getting them from the bank. The catch is that you have to order 10 rolls and you can't specify which mint. But it's not like you are stuck with the other $225 worth of coins. You can break open the rolls and spend them. After all, that's the whole point of the program! One major drawback of this program for collectors is that they have not included every presidential coin in the program. Until the huge mintages of the early issues have been dispersed, this is unlikely to change.

But the U.S. Mint says the rolls are "circulating $1 coin rolls" and not uncirculated

Let's be realistic. The coins from the direct shipment program are uncirculated with regards to grading. The whole point of the direct shipment program is to get the coins into circulation. The banks aren't doing it so the U.S. Mint is going straight to the consumer.
I recently gave the direct shipment program a try and ordered a box of dollars. I have opened some of the rolls and the coins are definitely brilliant uncirculated. In fact, the coins are nicer than the individual coins I’ve gotten from the bank.

At the bank, I’ve had to watch as the tellers put their fingers all over individual coins as they were counted and then clanged all the coins as they were handed over to me. I’ve watch the grade of the coins go from uncirculated to circulated during that transaction.

What about the mail offer I received?
Even if I don't consider the coins an investment, why not buy my Presidential dollars from the offer I got in the mail? They list some reasons that make the offer seem like a good deal. Here are some of those reasons.

"Each Presidential $1 coin is a limited edition!"

Wait, let me randomly pull a coin out of my pocket. . . . It's a 1973 Philadelphia quarter dollar. Hmm, is this also a limited edition? Better check my Redbook. . . . Yep, here it is. The mintage for 1973 is limited to only 347,924,000. Oh my gosh! According to the Redbook, all of the change I have in my pocket consists of limited edition coins. I have to stop spending my money!

"Coin collecting is a rapidly growing hobby in the United States"

I'll give them this one although I'm not sure how many new collectors it will take to justify their 200%+ premium. This argument was used with the state quarters. Did that pay off?

"You may not have even seen any of these unique $1 coins in circulation because they're being snatched up and hoarded away as fast as they come out."

This one makes me laugh the most. We don't see them in circulation because nobody wants them. Try spending a few. I've had a cashier tell me how much she hates the coins because the next customer will refuse the coin as change.

If they are being "hoarded away," how will this really reflect on their future value?

The Hoarding Effect

Let's look at an example of a coin hoarded in the past. The 1883 Liberty Head nickel without the word “CENTS" on the reverse had a mintage of around 5.4 million and is worth $14 in AU-50 (2007 Redbook prices). Yet, the 1883 with the word “CENTS" has a mintage of over 16 million and it is worth $100 in AU-50. You would think that the lower mintage coin would have the higher value today. But once people heard about the design change to add the word cents to the reverse, they assumed the original design would become scarce. So they hoarded them. The result is that more of them survived in relatively good condition.This hoarding phenomenon recently occurred with the state quarters. (Believe me! I've seen some of the hoarding. Right mom?) If this is happening with the Presidential dollars, then I think it's safe to say this will negatively impact their future value to collectors.

The smart way to collect
Simply put, the smart way to collect Presidential dollars is NOT to invest in Presidential dollars! Millions of Americans were introduced to coin collecting through the joy and fun of collecting state quarters. Let’s hope that the Presidential dollars have a similar affect on the hobby.