I've been working double-time these past few months buying and selling - I'm not quite sure what the specific impetus has been, but many more buyers and sellers have been active since Christmas. (In this part of the world anyway!)
This increased activity has exposed me to a range of sellers - sophisticated collectors trading our of duplicate items that they no longer have a keen interest in ranging to folks that have been rather mindless accumulators over the years and are now selling for one reason or another.
I'm always forced to endure a few cliches and truisms from these sellers when going through the purchase process - for some reason people often feel the need to spout homilies about the state of the economy / rare coin market / human race in general when they're selling, I have no idea why. In my experience, the less experienced the seller is, the more they espouse about life in general.
One specific tired cliche that stuck in my craw these past few months is the hoary old chestnut that goes something like this: "Yes, I used to collect quite a bit, but I stopped when they started making too much. "The Mint" ruined the market you know - it's the same with stamps."
One the face of it, a complaint like this makes a lot of sense - anyone involved with the coin industry to a reasonable degree anywhere in the world will be able to recant stories of past mistakes made by their local issuing authority - mintage figures that went too high, brochures that were sent out too frequently, different products that boggled their mind, etc etc.
As someone that's work for and alongside Australia's mints for some time, I'm the first person to admit that in hidsight there are some things that our own mints could have done better over the years, and I'm sure there are others that would take a far dimmer view of a few strategies that have been undertaken by either NPA, the Royal Mint or the Perth Mint. I'm starting to develop the view that this evolution in marketing strategy is a natural progression through a market cycle - it would be a very good business strategist indeed who could avoid the problems that come from the tactics that are required to keep a mature market from evolving.
Despite that fallibility, I don't see for a second how it can be used (realistically) by a collector as an excuse for giving up on collecting! Let's look at a few examples using other products to see just how ridiculous this argument really is:
"I stopped going to the library when they kept adding all those new books, it was crazy - they just kept putting more in there!"
"I stopped watching TV when they started running it 24 hours a day - I just couldn't keep up."
"I stopped drinking beer when there was more than 2 different brews on tap at the local - how's a bloke supposed to make up his mind?"
"I stopped surfing the internet when they put all that information on there - it was just too much!"
These statements are so ridiculous, there's no way we can conceive somebody making them. Trouble is, to a degree that's the argument that a lot of decimal coin "collectors" like to trot out as a justification for pulling the pin on their "collecting"! The question becomes then - is it "the Mint's" responsibility to produce just enough coins for their customers? If so, how many or how few coins is that? That's not a calculation I'd like to be responsible for having to make!
The other view to take is that it's up to each of us as collectors to determine what we collect, and how often we add to our collections. I just can't see a collector of pre-decimal coins, sovereigns or paper banknotes complaining about there being too many opportunities to buy - the amount available is the amount available, and collectors buy as little or much as they want to!
I don't think this perspective of personal responsibility would gel too well with some of our decimal collecting friends (or stamp collectors for that matter).