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CDN Acquires Whitman: What Does This Mean for the Coin Market?

by Ursula Kampmann

“CDN Publishing acquires Whitman Publishing” reads the title of a brief press release that might have the potential to shake the numismatic market. For those who are unfamiliar with these US companies: CDN Publishing is the firm behind Greysheet. Greysheet is a resource that collects data on the current prices of US coins, similar to stock market prices. It is one of the main reasons why many average Americans include coins in their retirement portfolios. Thanks to Greysheet and professional grading offered by companies such as NGC and PCGS, even non-collectors in the US feel confident to determine a coin’s price without taking any risks.


Who Is Behind Greysheet?

Greysheet has been around for many years, but it has expanded significantly since 2015. This is due to the fact that the company was acquired by a group of investors that year. They include big names in the US market: Steve Eichenbaum, the long-term CEO of Certified Collectibles Group, which is the parent company of NGC, Mark Salzberg, long-term CEO of NGC, Steve Ivy, CEO of Heritage, and Jim Halperin, co-founder of Heritage. John Feigenbaum, who is in charge of CDN Publishing, also has a background in coin dealing. He took over his father’s coin shop, David Lawrence – Rare & Certified Coins, which describes itself on its website as the “industry leader in the trading and auctioning of US rare coins certified by PCGS, NGC and CAC”.

Simply put, Greysheet is run by people who are interested in turning the “hobby” coin collecting into a widespread form of investment. In this way, they can boost their sales figures and profits. After all, grading companies stand to gain the most from this development. These firms are crucial as investors lack the necessary expertise when it comes to determining a coin’s quality. They do not want to waste time learning how to do this themselves. Therefore, they rely on the judgement of others – and this means that NGC and similar service providers receive a steady flow of consignments.

Auction houses that sell high-price coins also benefit from this trend, for example Heritage and its main competitor Stack’s Bowers. After all, their income is defined as a percentage of the hammer price that a coin is sold for.

What Could be the Consequences of the Acquisition of Whitman Publishing?

In the US and Asia, this is a highly successful approach to attract investors to venture into the numismatic market! In Europe, however, it does not work. For one, this is because Europeans have other methods of securing retirement funds. Therefore, people only get their coins graded on the European market if they want to sell them on the international market, hoping to fetch a higher price.

The question is whether this will change with the purchase of Whitman Publishing. Until now, Whitman has been focused on the US market, publishing for example the famous Red Book, the single most important reference work for US coinage. 

However, Whitman also launched books such as the Catalogue of Modern World Coins 1850-1964, first published by R. S. Yeoman. Even though collectors of European coins would certainly have more reason to be worried if CDN Publishing acquired Krause instead of Whitman, one could well imagine that this book might serve as the basis for new Greysheets on categories of European coins.

Let’s be honest: coins from the German Empire or coins of modern Greece, to name but two examples, could be just as excellent investment objects as US coinage. Always provided they are graded and updated prices are made available every week.

Why Are Things Different in Europe?

The fact that people have (comparatively) secure retirement payments in many European countries is not the sole reason why coins have not become successful investment objects in Europe yet. The primary reason for this issue is logistical in nature. Currently, PCGS and NGC are both unable to grade coins that have been consigned in Europe within a reasonable timeframe. If you urgently need a coin to be graded for auction, forget it. As soon as this changes, the European market will be wide open for coins to become established investment items. In this crisis-ridden world, individuals increasingly desire more affordable investment objects that are easier to acquire than stocks or real estate.

What Does This Mean for the Typical European Collector?

First, it is worth noting that although NGC and PCGS offer their services to collectors of hammered coins, these pieces are not as suitable for standardised grading as machine-minted coins from the 19th century onwards. This means, this change will mainly affect collectors of coins created from the 1800s onwards.

This pool of collectors can be divided into two groups: 

  • Those who already have a collection and paid attention to the quality of their coins can rejoice – when they sell their collection, they will get more money for it. 
  • Future generations of collectors, on the other hand, are on the losing side. Only the wealthy among them will be able to afford coins of extraordinary quality.

However, genuine collectors do not collect for investment purposes anyway, but rather for the joy of possessing historical artifacts. We know from experience that when coins become investment objects, the prices of average-quality coins with minor imperfections drop considerably. Therefore, it is possible that the market for investors will separate from the collectors’ market over time. And in the future, we might be able to tell at first glance whether a collection was gathered for investment purposes or out of sheer joy of collecting.

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