Life-Long Student of Numismatics and president of GreatCollections.com
Editor’s Note: The COINage Welcome Mat is a column featuring new advertising partners. COINage welcomes Ian Russell, president and co-founder of GreatCollections.com.
GreatCollections.com was founded in 2010 by Ian Russell and Raeleen Endo to improve how coins and paper money are sold at auction. While there are many places to buy and sell coins and paper money, very few ensure that the transaction is conducted safely and securely while keeping both parties confidential.
Since 2010, GreatCollections.com has successfully auctioned over 800,000 certified coins, graded by PCGS, NGC, or ANACS, making it one of the leading certified coin companies in the United States. In addition to certified coins, GreatCollections.com also auctions certified paper money by PMG and PCGS.
Russell’s introduction to coins and collectibles happened when he was a 14-year-old living in Sydney, Australia. In addition to handling some storied collections, he organized the company’s first paper money auction. In the decade before co-founding GreatCollections.com, he gained further valuable experience working at Spectrum Group International, serving as President of Teletrade, Inc., and Chief Operating Officer of Bowers and Merena Auctions, LLC, two of the largest coin auction houses in North America.
COINage: How did you get involved with coins?
Ian Russell: I first started collecting stamps and paper money when I was a teenager and was offered a weekend job by a stamp dealer in Sydney while I was still at school. Stanley Gibbons, a well-known company in stamps that also auctioned coins, then approached me, and I helped launch its first paper money auction. When I moved to the United States almost 20 years ago, I started focusing on coins and haven’t looked back.
CA: Please explain the rise to prominence of GreatCollections.com and the role that your unique computer software platform played.
IR: Our software makes it easy to view and bid on coins of all values, and we do it with the lowest fees of all major auction houses. Our website has always worked on all platforms, including desktop computers, phones, and iPads, and it provides a lot more information: you can [enlarge] images of the coin to the size of your computer screen. Our auction archive, which contains every coin we’ve sold, now contains over 800,000 records and is growing very quickly. It’s likely the most useful auction archive for coins since it contains coins of all values, and it’s automatically increasing by over 100,000 records each year as new auctions end.
CA: Do exceptionally user-friendly software programs and systematized grading make coin conventions a thing of the past?
IR: Third-party coin grading, and high-quality images, like what we produce in-house, definitely makes it possible to bid on a $50, $5,000, or $500,000 coin online, without viewing the coin in person. We also offer our opinions about coins and explain coins in-depth to potential bidders as requested. There are also many coin buyers who do not attend coin shows. A great example of this is a client who spends more than $25,000 every month in our auctions like clockwork. A few years ago, the ANA was in his town, and we arranged to meet up. He picked me up outside the show, and we went to dinner. He never walked in the ANA, even though it was in his town. When I asked him why, he said he didn’t need to.
CA: Is there a future for coin shows and conventions post-COVID?
IR: Yes, there is still a need for coin shows; however, for some time, we had been predicting that there will be a few large shows a year and a lot of small shows. I believe the mid-tier will become more and more difficult to produce.
CA: What is the role of the American Numismatic Association, and what could it do to help expand the hobby?
IR: Many people have had ideas over the years at the organization, and I don’t believe they have achieved much. ANA has a lot of assets. I’d love to see [ANA] try new things to get the word out about coins. One thing that comes to mind: I’d like to see regular exhibitions at major museums around the country. Imagine walking into the Getty in Los Angeles or Met in New York and seeing a featured coin exhibit.
CA: Is your firm the future?
IR: I like to think our firm is “NOW.” We’ve already grown a lot over the past nine years, and clearly we’ve demonstrated there is a demand for what we do. We’re not resting. I think the coin market will continue to embrace online auctions, and it will become a bigger segment of the overall industry.