Collectors of old coins fill their vaults with nostalgia. Think of the Boy Scout who covets his first buffalo nickel, or the uncle who cherishes his special-edition set.
But a new class of collector is focused on the future: people who are clinging onto precious metals for fear that the nation's currency will implode.
And they were out in full force Saturday and Sunday to buy up freshly minted gold and silver U.S. coins at the Carolina Coin and Stamp Show, which was held at the N.C. State Fairgrounds.
These are Americans thinking that they're going to wake up one day ... and our dollar is not going to be worth a dollar," said Jim Neely, owner of Fuquay Coins & Jewelry in Fuquay-Varina. "They think that they may have to trade silver or gold to get by."
These aren't camouflaged survivalists holed up in bunkers. Many are engineers, programmers and other white-collar types who have lost faith in social structures, in governments and in those who run them.
"We're about up to here with promissory notes," said John "Doc" Yancho, a retired chiropractor and a co-owner of Rare Coins of Raleigh. "We want something tangible. It's the fear factor."
Demand for bullion - as the precious metal is called - is so strong that dealers are putting customers on waiting lists. Yancho said one man called hoping to buy $50,000 in coinage.
Gold and silver have long been valued as insurance against currency fluctuations. And the value of these metals rises when stocks, real estate and consumer confidence tank.
One popular benchmark - gold American-eagle coins - has climbed over $1,400 per troy ounce, rising more than 400 percent in the past decade, according to the Certified Coin Exchange, a dealers network. Silver coins also have surged to more than $30 per troy ounce.
Dealers this weekend said the recession has resulted in a surge of buyers who are amassing bullion.
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