The human touch… why digital innovations can't beat face to face collecting


16 March 2023
Despite technological advancements such as cryptocurrencies and NFTs, we continue to be hunters and collectors, enjoying the thrill of the find, writes Sebastian Wieschowski in his latest 'View form Europe' column.

Collecting is a deeply human activity with a long tradition; even emperors and kings collected coins.

Despite technological advancements such as cryptocurrencies and NFTs, we continue to be hunters and collectors, enjoying the thrill of finding rare pieces to add to our collections and filling gaps. For decades, there have been predictions of the demise of collecting as a hobby, but people of all ages in Europe continue to collect.

What is constantly changing, however, is the taste of collectors.

New areas of interest emerge while others fade away. Who would have thought in the mid-nineties that no one would want to buy lovingly designed and colourfully painted surprise egg figures a generation later?

Phone cards, once the third most popular collectible after stamps and coins, have become plastic junk, and teen collector items such as the Diddl (a comic mouse) sheets, beer trucks, and pins now end up in the attic's rummage box.

This year's World Money Fair in Berlin offered clues as to where collectors' interests are heading in the next few years.

For example, there were significantly fewer stands dedicated to zero-euro souvenir notes. Although there is still demand for artistically designed fantasy banknotes, the big hype seems to be over.

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This year's World Money Fair has developed into a fair where "real" values are traded. This increasingly means classic precious metal investment products, which were previously only found at precious metal dealers and are now also increasingly offered at coin fairs.

Coinages such as the Krugerrand from South Africa can be found at more and more trade fair stands.

Additionally, there are silver bullion coins that provide an accessible way to invest in precious metals while also appealing to collectors. Another noteworthy option is the two-euro commemorative coins, which have inherent value insurance due to their face value.

The most promising development from Berlin, however, is the continued growth in demand and price for rare and well-preserved historical collector coins.

This trend may be influenced by the current investment emergency, inflation rates, and uncertainty in financial markets, but it seems that many new collectors are recognising the value of owning an imperial coin with a striking patina that cannot be replicated at the push of a button like a cryptocurrency or mass-produced collector's coin.

Speaking of digitalisation, the pandemic has sparked a surge in all things digital in the field of numismatics.

However, it seems that for many collectors, it is not sufficient to order coins with the click of a mouse or to engage in online discussions on forums. They crave the opportunity to closely examine and touch coins, as well as the chance to converse with fellow enthusiasts, appreciate their expertise, and enjoy a leisurely beer together.

The desire for personal interaction was particularly strong after the Covid-19 pandemic, which is why the World Money Fair in Berlin was a resounding success. Similarly, the Numismata coin show held in Munich in March 2023 exceeded all expectations. At times, the exhibition hall reached maximum capacity and the narrow aisles were congested, but such a bustling atmosphere is precisely what coin collectors around the world refuse to do without, even in this age of digitisation.