The thin blue line - investing v collecting

The thin blue line is often associated with the Police but I would like to grab the phrase and thrust it in into the limelight of the numismatist. Among many there is the argument that numismatists are not investors.. they simply love their hobby.

Largely this statement is correct but somewhat misplaced. Just like any other collector they find the more sought after pieces harder to acquire so have to pay more for them - through the simple law of supply and demand. To think that serious collectors somehow sit in the shadows and miss out while the "investors" pay high prices is a rather simplistic point of view.

What sets serious collectors (including numismatists) apart from investors is their unique knowledge of their niche areas of interest. With the evolution of the Internet and online auction houses has come a whole new world of opportunities for the astute "investor"/collector to use his specialist knowledge to make some amazing investments while building his "collection".

I have been acquiring treasures through these online media for over ten years now but am finding it harder and harder to get that real bargain as more and more people enter my market, early South African history.

In 2000 I had my greatest find when I acquired my second original copy of Rev W Dower's "The Early Annals of Kokstad and East Griqualand" from a bookstore in Cape Town (RSA) for just $100. The dollar value Australian or US does not matter when you consider that with the extremely rare original Griqua One Pound note bound into this book it is worth US$10,000 today and has not been offered for sale since that time. (Although the 1978 Killie Campbell Library reprint can still be found selling for about US$50).

Yes, I used my knowledge of my market to acquire a bargain and why shouldn't I? When you strip away the facade this is just one of the many fruits of knowledge acquired through a lifetime of research.

So, to me, the thin blue line tears down this pompous and somewhat elitist view that "serious collectors" never collect for investment purposes because, by default, they do. It is their passion.

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