Thursday, December 4, 2014

Technology and the future of collecting

At Will perfect copies destroy values?  Pat Heller opines on the possibility that one day nanotechnology will make it possible to duplicate numismatic rarities.

Eventually it will be possible, for instance, to duplicate an 1804 Bust dollar right down to its atomic makeup.  Just about anything imaginable could be copied, such as the Series 1890 $1,000 Treasury Note nicknamed the Grand Watermelon, a 1933 $20 Saint-Gaudens double eagle, or a 1974-D aluminum Lincoln cent. The sky is the limit of what could be duplicated to such a degree that even an atomic analysis would not be able to find any difference between an original and its copy.
He ends with this:
I have been asked the question many times in my life what kinds of items do I think will have high value in the coming centuries. I’m not sure that any particular physical good would qualify if a copy is potentially easy to come by.
Of course this isn't alchemy. Whatever other expense may be involved, duplicating a double eagle still will require a double eagle's worth of gold. Nor do I think that duplication costs will be cheap - not at first and not that it would matter in the case of great rarities, of course.  And there will be laws against such activities, though again that won't matter to forgers.

Certification will become much more important and deep scanning and sniffing (see PCGS Secure) recorded against the certified coin means even more work for the counterfeiter because they would have to match those details, which means they must have access to the real coin. How many copies of a certified coin can they sell without arousing suspicion? I would think it would become nearly impossible to sell anything NOT certified and I also believe that buyers will immediately register all such purchases with the Set Registries, especially as that technology becomes less expensive.

As provenance would ultimately be the deciding factor, knowing who owned the real coin and when they owned it would become critical.  As new certifications of any coin would be effectively impossible, the grading services like PCGS could only depend upon their Set Registry databases to survive, which of course means that they'd have to charge for that service.  Obviously their need for graders would decrease markedly, as all they'd be handling is regrades, reholders, and possibly crossovers (although that would probably require access to information from the other grading service).

Obviously if you believe that this technology could become real before you are ready to sell, you should be certifying all your coins now and entering them in a database Set Registry.  This would also apply to those of us who want to pass our collections on when we die.

Note: All my coins are in a safe deposit box. I keep nothing in my home.

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