There's a little press in Torrance called the Coin Dealer Newsletter -- though its three editions are better known as the Greysheet, Bluesheet and Greensheet. It's unseen by most of the world, but essential to those who've turned a hobby of coin collecting into a full-time trade.
However, Coin Dealer staff writer Derik, 28, who's been collecting since he was 12, says the crowd of coin hunters is rapidly expanding, and diversifying, as precious metals surge in value -- a panicky reaction to the Great Recession.
Right now, gold is at a record-high $1,850 per ounce...
... up from $1,650 just two weeks ago. Derik says he's never seen anything like it.
But, like the stock-market crash that made this whole environment possible, he adds that gold's true value is probably being blown out of proportion by buyers and sellers freaking each other out -- and that the "bullion bubble" might be about to burst.
(Millions of bullion coins, as opposed to collector's relics, are issued by the government every year, as a solid source of profit and way to stabilize the economy.)
That's the great thing about gold, though: It's not capable of crashing as hard as paper or invisible credit. Thus the sudden interest from outside the hardcore hobby circle, explains Derik:
Attendees at the Long Beach Convention Center's coin expos every four months are "getting to be younger, and also getting to be a lot more -- it's not just white people anymore," he says.
In the past, "it was pretty much a white-men-over-60 hobby," he adds. But now that "people are losing faith in stock and stuff, they're buying something that's more tangible."
The Greysheet journo has even heard increased reports, lately, of coin dealers being robbed out of their cars. (And when the thieves get wind, you know that shit's mainstream.)
The next show is this September 8 through 10 at the Convention Center, and it sounds damn impressive:
The Long Beach Expo spans 100,000 square feet in the beautiful Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center. Held three times a year since 1964, the Long Beach Expo receives outstanding attendance. There are over 2,000 dealers and 10,000-12,000 public attendees each show from around the world.
Derik says coins will range from those "worth hundreds of thousands" to "ones in cruddy condition for a couple grand." And for all you well-drink newbies on college budgets -- he says the cheapest you'll be able to get "for any kind of gold coin" will be "at least $150, for even the worst condition."
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But it's probably worth it. Given this Dow roller coaster we're on, what was formerly a nerd's sport is speeding down a serious trail to hip-dom. That is, if a similar convention in Chicago this week is any indication. Via ABC News:
The World's Fair of Money is under way in Chicago, showing off $20 gold coins worth millions and uncut sheets of $100,000 dollar bills accompanied by armed guards. Normally, this exhibit by the American Numismatic Association, held in different cities each year, lures 10,000 to 15,000 visitors.
But according to association spokesman Donn Pearlman, this year's show is on pace to attract even more. "There's a renewed interest in gold and tangible assets. More investors are showing up with the collectors. This is the gold, silver and bullion coin trading capital of the universe this week", says Pearlman.
So yeah -- stop by. If nothing else, do it for your student loans. Oh, and fun fact, before you go: The most expensive coin ever sold was a "Double Eagle" from 1933, for $7.5 million. Not even Star Wars coins on exotic islands can out-radical that.