One of my favoite items in my collection are these 2007 Somalia Motorcycle Coins

During the last month, I have had email conversations with a few readers about the future of the hobby. To sum up the several conversations, the following are summaries of the issues I heard:

  1. Politics: In the last 20-years, the American Numismatic Association and many of the regional organizations and clubs have be overcome by politics. If you are not with the “in crowd” you are welcome to come to the meetings but do not expect the same treatment as those within the inner circle.
  2. Acceptance: A progressions from politics, if you are not the same demographic of the inner circle, usually white male over 50, you have no chance of being admitted into the inner circle.
  3. Elitism: You do not collect something cool like Bust Dollars or Morgan VAMs? What is this, transportation tokens? Gaming Tokens? That is not cool and you cannot be in our club.

We live in a politically charged society where opinions are magnified into binary choices: yes or no, up or down, for or against, etc. There are no shades of gray and common sense is not as common as we would like to think. Things are so bad that it is reported that a woman filed for divorce after 22-years of marriage because her husband voted for Donald Trump!

While I am be guilty of adding politics to the hobby, I believe I have worked in the hobby’s best interest. During my tenure as president of the Maryland State Numismatic Association I told the board that we look too much like an insular club and need to branch out. My final President’s Letter published in the Maryland Numismatist spoke of this.

If your club’s board has consisted of the same people for more than a few years, it is time for you to step down and let someone else take the position. While it may be fun to be the king of the club, adding new people is not only good for the hobby but it will allow newer members a chance to participate. If you are not working to turn over your leadership every few years, then you are helping to destroy your organization through stagnation.

In order to have a lineup of people ready to take over leadership of the club or organization, we have to get more inclusive. This is one of the aspects of the hobby that has bothered me for a long time. If you go to many club meetings, shows, and even ANA conventions, you look out over the crowd and see an overwhelming number of white males over the age of 50. As a white male over the age of 50, I can say there is nothing wrong with that demographic. But it is not the demographic that will sustain the hobby.

I stull own this Fort McHenry Commemorative Medallion I bought at the gift shop.

Over the years there has been an effort to bring more women into the hobby. Since half of the population consists of women, that is a good start. However, the few women I see roaming the bourse floors are either middle-aged and white or accompanying their children. And given my previous discussions about bad customer service, it is no wonder women stay way from the hobby.

And someone please tell the Girl Scouts that the conditions surrounding the failure of the Girl Scouts commemorative still exist. On many occasions, the Girl Scouts have been accused of being insular and parochial in their attitudes. Maybe, if they step away from their cookie boxes they will better help the girls expand beyond the attitudes these leaders think are keeping women back.

Another problem I have seen in numismatics is the lack of ethnic diversity. Where are the people of color? We work with the Young Numismatist programs through schools and the Scouts appear to reach youngsters of all ethnicities. Why does this stop after the age of 18? Why is there no outreach to non-white adults?

You cannot tell me there are no non-white adults who collect numismatics. One place I have seen a nice mix of ethnicities has been at the FUN shows. And the argument that Florida is more ethnically diverse than someplace like the Chicagoland area where the World’s Fair of Money has been held for too long is not a good argument.

I created my own Large Cent collection using a Gardmaster album

Maybe it is because of the stuck up nature of the hobby. Why does everyone have to create a set that fits nicely into a blue, brown, or green album? Why does everyone have to buy plastic holders with numbers as close to 70 as possible? Why are most of the emphasis and programs surrounding numismatics have to be about coins or currency?

We pay lip-service to numismatics being an all inclusive hobby but the mid-to-lower collector can be made to feel unwelcome. Dealers who are older may have a difficult time relating to younger and, frankly, a non-white demographic. It has created a culture where if you are not white, male, and collecting the thousands of Morgan dollars that are on the bourse floor or the more expensive stuff in the cases, you are a nuisance.

Although there are dealers who do cater to the average collector, the rest treat the books, boxes, and junk bins as a necessary evil. And even if you are a white male over the age of 50 but enjoy searching the junk boxes for that odd item or the rows of tokens for something from your hometown you have never seen before, you are just not the type of person the dealer wants to work with. While this is not true of every dealer, I have experienced a lot of dirty looks while carefully searching through red boxes of tokens and other items in 2×2 holders looking for that cool item from Brooklyn and New York City.

My 1902 Panama 2½ Centesimos on the left known as the “Panama Pill.” On the right is a national brand coated aspirin. I still own the coin because I think it is interesting.

EVERYONE needs to be more inclusive or risk the hobby dying. Mainstream publishers may want to consider creating an imprint to support niche publications in order to get that information into the hands of the collectors. And an open note to the members of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society that devoted an edition of The Asylum, their quarterly publication, to electronic publishing of numismatic information, those who worry about maintaining the status quo may want to think about how the status quo is making numismatics look like an exclusive club. Stop hoarding information and make it available to anyone who will appreciate it.

Now that we have identified the problem, how do you we fix it? How do we get the YNs to continue to collect into their 20s and 30s? How do we recruit women and people of color into the hobby? How can we teach the dealers that can barely spell customer service that they need to change their ways or there will be nobody to buy their coins because they chased all their potential customers away? I am open to suggestions!

A check from the First National Bank of Inwood (NY). Inwood is a hamlet on Long Island where I grew up. Even though FNBI was bought out long before I was born, having this in my numismatic collection gives my collection a personal touch.

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