Numismatic Risk and Opportunity In The Digital Age

While finishing the last three years of my Naval career in Silicon Valley, I was exposed to parts and pieces of the tech world that I never would have been privy to otherwise.  The pace of change in the valley is staggering.  Research in the fields of autonomy, artificial intelligence, machine learning, computer vision, additive manufacturing and data science are just a few areas that the Department of Defense is interested in pursuing for military use.   The military applications of these commercial technologies are surprisingly common.  Secretaries of Defense Ash Carter and James Mattis recognize that without adoption of new technologies, our military will slowly lose dominance…and relevance.  Furthermore,  failing to understand how our adversaries could use these tools places American service men and women in grave danger.  NOT taking technological risk is full of hidden risk.

Similarly, our hobby has fallen critically behind the technological power curve. There is of course no real comparison in the gravity between numismatic and national defense, but the lack of recognition and adaptation to technological advancement in numismatics is stunning. Whether you are a dealer or collector, failing to consider how technology is reshaping the landscape is dangerous.

Located in the heart of the world’s innovation center, Silicon Valley Coins and this blog will discuss, in various levels of detail, the good, the bad and the ugly of the intersections of tech and numismatics.  An executive summary can be found below.

THE GOOD:  Information availability has drastically changed the coin business.  Data on pricing, frequency of sales, high resolution images and dealer competition have made the hobby more accessible to more people than ever.  From a collector standpoint, it has also driven down prices for many of the more generic issues as the wealth of information quickly shows how available many of coins, even classic key dates, can be found at the click of a mouse.  Just 20 years ago, most collectors would have been relegated to their local coin shop and the occasional coin shows in their regions.  Now, the entire world is at their fingertips!

THE BAD:  Information comes with a price, however.  Much like a whole generation of young people have diminished social skills because they are texting instead of interacting in person, technology has given some collectors and dealers an overinflated sense of knowledge and expertise. There is no substitute for holding a coin in hand. Numismatics is full of subtleties.  Technology can prevent those in the hobby from critical lessons in nuance and subtlety.

Conversely, non-profit organizations within our hobby that are charged with the duty of spreading the joy and excitement of numismatics are failing miserably to capitalize on technology as a marketing tool.  The next generation of collector operates and interacts with the world in a much different way than many of us and it centers around social media, smart phones and computers.  In any business, one is either growing or dying.  There is no steady state. Go to any local, regional or national show to get a sense of which direction we are heading.  Technology needs to be strategically used to engage new collectors for a lifelong passion for coins.

THE UGLY:  Counterfeiting has been a problem that governments and society have had to contend with for centuries. For collectors, there is a special place in hell for those that produce fake examples of our treasures.  In corporate America, companies like GE are at the beginning phases of making additive manufacturing part of their business practice.  It sounds scary, but if you are manufacturer or an airline and a certain part breaks, just print a new one and throw it in!  This is happening right now, and it will only continue to advance.  3D printers primarily use polymers, but metal printers are viable and being used with increasing frequency.  It is only a matter of time before someone starts to use these for counterfeiting purposes.  It will not be easy given the die markers and luster that coins exhibit, but I would guess within five years, the code and scanning tech in conjunction with Artificial Intelligence will be sophisticated enough to print very deceptive pieces with die markers included.  This is a significant challenge with which our hobby will likely need to contend.

Despite the difficulties ahead, I am very bullish on numismatics.  There is more opportunity than risk by a large margin.  If you are interested in starting a rewarding new hobby or are interested in rekindling an old childhood passion in a new and exciting technological age, why not give John a call at 650.542.9595 to discuss what Silicon Valley Coins can do for you.  Happy hunting!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.