Coin collecting is an ever evolving world nowadays. It really always has been, there's just more choices out there than ever before. In the past few years there has been a new trend of certified coins bearing the signature of someone recognizable from the "world of coins." I bet most of you have seen something similar in other collectibles too. They are usually a designer, an engraver, a numismatist, a politician, or some other person in the ilk of coins. So the question becomes... what do I NEED to know?
The short answer is use common sense. The long answer is more complicated and needs some explaining. Also some words of warning. There are three broad spectrums of collectors out there and most all will find themselves in one of these categories...
- The Bullion Collector. In truth, this collector probably doesn't see themselves as a collector. They are after stacking up content and are definitely "function over form." To them a chunk of silver is a chunk of silver. As long as it's pure and recognizable, who cares who's on it, the grade, and a signature is a waste of this person's time.
- The Purist. This collector likes the rare, often unusual coins, and the history matters. They prefer to have coins in matching grades, certification service, and probably already have a favorite Signature in their collection! The devil is definitely in the details and they love the low populations that signature coins typically have.
- The Tweeners. This is the largest group of collectors and the group most of you are in. In fact, you probably were the Bullion Collector, like the idea of The Purist, but are just not that picky. This group of collectors end up dabbling in both arenas and knows how to justify it for themselves through knowing a little more about coins.
I realize this is a broad stroke but also why Signature Coins have been growing so much. If you're the collector that likes to grab the new Silver Eagle each year and know you would like to have it in an MS69 or MS70 condition, you might end up with a Signature Coin. They typically don't carry much premium over other certified coins and you might as well grab one anyway. The Purist will already be looking for their perfect bauble and probably have a name in mind too. The Bullion Collectors won't care at all!
Here are some things to keep in mind.
- Signatures add extra value to the collectors, not to the pocketbook. Again, most Signature Coins don't carry high premiums over other certified coins but it does add a "cool factor" to your collection. Are you collecting autographs or coins? With that said, a few Signature Coins are being signed by coin people who are beginning to get up in age. With no disrespect, they won't be signing forever! The Coin Congressman Mike Castle is very popular for signatures. He's 83. Popular Numismatist Kenneth Bressett is 94!
- Don't buy facsimiles. I've seen facsimile signatures from Ronald Reagan back to Wyatt Earp. You don't want a facsimile of the coin, why would you want a fake autograph?
- Pass on what you know. Not only is this the future of coin collecting but it's just good to do. If you like Mike Castle coins, be sure to let your heirs know why. If you just had to have that Doc Holliday facsimile, let them know it doesn't carry the same weight.
Lastly, remember, it's OK if you don't feel like you fall into these collector types. Also, it's OK if you find yourself moving from one group into another. Coin collecting is always a journey and certainly can change over years and just life. Again, most importantly, pass on what you have learned, it is the future of our hobby. Happy collecting!