In its second-largest acquisition, Amazon buys the company for $970 million.
The launch of Collectible Coins follows the launch of similar stores—where Amazon itself does not offer merchandise—for art, wine and other items that catch collectors’ eyes.
Sports nuts, oenophiles, pop culture devotees, fine art fanatics and now numismatists—Amazon.com Inc., in its latest move into collectibles, wants to make itself into a major online stop for buyers and sellers of rare or otherwise desirable coins.
The Collectible Coins e-commerce store launched today represents the fifth niche category in which Amazon is offering merchandise exclusively from marketplace sellers—and not itself competing by selling products from its own inventory. Today’s debut follows the late 2012 debut of Amazon Wine; the February 2013 release of its Entertainment Collectibles store; the summer 2013 launch of Amazon Art; and the autumn 2013 introduction of a autographed memorabilia store called Prize Authentics. All five stores enable Amazon marketplace sellers to put up for sale items that usually deserve prominent places on consumers’ walls or inside glass classes—or, perhaps, years-long storage in safes or bank vaults. That is certainly the case with Collectible Coins, which, Amazon says today, offers a 1907 $20 MCMVII Proof Ultra High Relief—a U.S.-issued coin with ties to President Theodore Roosevelt and designed by sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens—for $3.75 million.
Amazon began planning for the new store after noticing that “coins” was a term shoppers visiting the other collectibles stores frequently entered into the on-site search box, says Steve Johnson, director of Amazon Marketplace. “Collectors of rare coins are passionate about the hobby because coins represent the intersection of history, collectability and wealth,” he says.
While he would not detail any potential future move Amazon might make into collectibles storefronts, he wouldn’t rule out the e-retailer launching other marketplace stores for niche products the retailer might find hard to source on its own.
It’s hard to get a handle on the size of the coin collection market, as there is no central registry that keeps tracks of such sales or the number of collectors, according to experts. "The main reason is that many collectors for security reasons wish to keep anonymous concerning their hobby," says a spokesman for The American Numismatic Association, a nonprofit educational group that says it has some 28,000 members. Jeff Garrett, founder of Mid-American Rare Coin Galleries, estimated in a December report in CoinWeek.com that at least 5,000 coin companies are active in the United States, with 10 companies taking in at least $100 million annually in sales. "I think it is pretty safe to estimate the market for rare coins in the United States to be well over $3 billion dollars per year,” he says.
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