I have to applaud the few youth organizations throughout Canada that work hard to get children hooked on the coin hobby. There are plenty of wonderful incentives like the Coin Kids volunteer program of the RCNA that gifts plenty of quality coins and discounted premium material for youth.
There are also tireless collectors involved in the implementation of numismatics into the classroom on a localized level. This author is one of them. Incorporating a banknote into a social studies class or teaching geography from provincial-themed quarters is satisfying, to say the least, but one has to wonder when those efforts will pay off. Selfishly we do this to promote the hobby and ensure it for future generations.
The seeds we are planting now are likely going to be decades before maturation. In the case of youth being taught the joys of numismatics, only so many will actually have the collecting bug. I refer to the excellent book One Coin is Never Enough: Why and How we Collect by Dr. Michael Schutty. In it, he describes the unique and admittedly strange psychology of those of us who collect. Not everyone has the genetics or curse as some would describe it, to be a collector. Some might describe it as a compulsion.
There are years of challenges that the youth will face even if they have the collecting bug. A child’s ability to come back to the hobby after the rigors of high school and/or post-secondary education often put collecting on the back burner. Sometimes social stigmas lead themselves forward and drive hobbies behind. It’s flattering to see that children who enjoy comic books and video games are no longer ostracized or considered nerds. For youngsters who prefer
Sometimes social stigmas lead themselves forward and drive hobbies behind. It’s flattering to see that children who enjoy comic books and video games are no longer ostracized or considered nerds. For youngsters who prefer coins, it might still be difficult to be socially accepted in school.
Financially speaking, their lives will only become more expensive until they reach consistent income generation. Collecting might not be permissible in their everyday lives with part-time and student employment. I can personally relate to a time when I left collecting for several years because of the rigors of being in school and working full-time.
There is an age group though that has the ability to engage in numismatics full-force. Millennials are a group of children who grew up in the 1990s and early 21st century. Today the earlier half are graduating and entering the workforce. The bulk of them is finishing advanced university degrees at a higher rate than any other generation in Canada. Aside from all of the economic uncertainty, they are finally buying homes and entering sustainable careers. They are the age group most likely to benefit from numismatic education and support. And we should put our full-force behind them.
The bulk of them is finishing advanced university degrees at a higher rate than any other generation in Canada. Aside from all of the economic uncertainty, they are finally buying homes and entering sustainable careers. They are the age group most likely to benefit from numismatic education and support. And we should put our full-force behind them.
The millennial age group is the new baby boomer group both in demographical size and impact they will have on the economy. They will be in the workforce for the next several decades and before they enter retirement they will be the largest percentage of the population in Canada. Their life expectancy will be at an all-time high compared to previous generations.
They also bring a new set of skills to compete with the work ethic of the earlier generations that would be an asset to the numismatic community. Their fluidity with technology is hard to deny. They need not list computer skills on their resume. It is second-nature to them. An increasingly large number are learning to code and build apps, a skill that will likely become a necessity to future generations.
Many millennials are looking to complete their resumes with coveted volunteer work and experience utilizing their technological skills. In many cases, it can make or break a job interview as its presence can showcase real skills and experience, which few millennials have entering the workforce today.
This skill set and the corresponding problem can be put to great use volunteering and even work paid positions in numismatics. They could be employed to digitize obscure numismatic books or even convert current publications to electronic versions that have found difficulty in reaching out to a digital audience. Unfortunately, I still hear from numismatic publishers that CD-ROMs are the future of publishing on the topic.
Social media is their forte. Genuine social connections with like-minded would-be collectors on social media would have a far more powerful impact on engagement and installing the hobby rather than the older generations attempting to compete with the multitude of content online. Imagine if they could be inspired and given the incentive to communicate with their age group. I was amazed to discover that a healthy audience of twenty-something coin collectors exists on Instagram, thrilled at the opportunity to share breathtaking photos of their collections. I can’t wait to join!
Given the opportunity, they would also be interested in publishing writing and research on numismatics. Such an opportunity, to be published, is a wonderful accomplishment and another example of added value to one’s resume. The ability to learn the nuances of the publishing world and to take on the responsibility of working with an editor is invaluable. We should advertise opportunities like this. This author has used it as a bridge to a career and has opened several doors that would otherwise be closed thanks to numismatic publishing
The most compelling reason to target millennials seems to relate to their financial purchasing power. After all, money makes the world go round. As much as we love teaching children about coins and securing an interest in them for the future of our hobby, their buying power is minimal. However, millennials, even if overtaxed and overextended with bills and the cost of living, are the ones who will be able to make a difference. They still find ways to spend what little they have on their passions and hobbies every day. If given a compelling reason to buy coins I believe they could make a powerful impact on the hobby.
Their presence at the next major coin convention and ability to make meaningful purchases would give dealers a financial incentive to continue to rent tables. The admission of children is encouraging, but won’t keep those dealers renting tables year-after-year. One millennial with purchasing power today will have a greater impact on the hobby than dozens of youth who are attending a show to learn about coins.
Of course, all of this is not to suggest that we should abandon our youth programs. The efforts being made right now will likely pay off in encouraging a fraction of the children we reach out to become coin collectors as they get older. We should continue these efforts. I will continue to further these efforts by continually introducing coins in the classroom wherever possible.
However, the immediate need is the foreseeable future. As expenses rise in hosting conventions, printing journals, and updating guidebooks the number of participating collectors is dwindling. Without a population to support that drop-off of our hobby will suffer dramatically over the next decade.
With all of the opportunities, there are definite challenges that would be foolish to ignore. Minimalism is no longer a trend, but part of millennials everyday lives. Besides learning to live off of less and just owning less “stuff”, tablets and phones have taken the place of many everyday belongings in our homes. Even though millennials are finally buying homes, Canada’s prohibitively expensive housing market is forcing many to settle for smaller homes or rent in tight spaces. Ultimately, challenges such as these will continue to tie up millennials financially.
Perhaps even more perplexing for the average collector concerned about the hobby is whether or not millennials would even have an interest in collecting. It is hard to see with their Y.O.L.O lifestyles. It would be incorrect to suggest that they either do or do not because the age group is so diverse from a socioeconomic perspective. And it simply isn’t a matter of making coins fun as we have proven with children and ourselves that coin collecting is fun. They are out there. The next step is to real them in as soon as they get hooked.