I have to admit that I don't really watch much television anymore. In fact I cancelled my cable subscription years ago and have relied on Internet streaming since then. However, this doesn't make me immune to the deluge of reality shows that pervade the airwaves. Programs such as Ice Road Truckers, Pawn Stars, Toddlers in Tiaras, Jersey Shore, Storage Wars, and Duck Dynasty cover a huge range of, um, "interesting" topics that you can spend a weekend "binge-watching" if one were so inclined. Not that I ever have or would... Okay, that was a lie.
To be perfectly honest, some of these programs can be infectious and watchable; and others make you feel filthy after having watched five minutes of it. The question is could reality television come to the world of numismatics? Is it something the coin industry needs or even wants? Say what you will about the vacuity of such entertainment, there's no denying how it captures the public's imagination.
One reality show I find most entertaining is Storage Wars. Why? I'm not interested in participating in a storage auction ever. The idea of bidding on what usually turns out to be people's discarded trash is not appealing. However, the show relies on the personalities, passions and egos of its main characters, which makes it watchable. I want to see the flamboyant Barry Weiss pull off some weird stunt and find something cool, and I want to see the diabolical Dave Hester get burned on a bad locker.
Another problem of characterization in a coin reality show is that someone, invariably, becomes the bad guy or heel of the program. The cutthroat, the mogul, the "I didn't come here to make friends" contestant. Who wants to be seen as the bad guy when it could impact your business? One may not even attempt to be perceived as a bad guy, but that could be irrelevant when the footage gets chopped up in editing; a casual glance across the bourse floor could be edited into a tense stare-down when set to the right sinister music and footage cuts.
All in all I think the characters on this hypothetical program would be its greatest strength. If you've ever been to a busy coin show you'll know what I'm talking about (and I mean that in the most endearing way possible).
Aside from the characters of the show, you need a format. Storage Wars establishes the archetypes in the opening credits and then pits them against each other. The one who supposedly profits the most wins. It's a very simple premise. Although there are many, many facets to the coin business, our premise needs to be equally simple. Here's a bare bones outline of the show, let's call it "Coin Flippers"
1. Dealers buy and sell coins (establishment of characters).
2. Dealers must acquire a coin or coins. This would be the bulk of the program's content where rivalries between dealers can be established, and collectors and various coin experts can be introduced.
3. Dealers must come together and interact at a certain point and a "winner" announced. This would probably occur at a coin show where the coins they have acquired are sold, and whoever profits the most from a certain coin deal would be the winner. This would be a suitable climax to the show.
Add some exciting music and quick cut scenes and we've got ourselves a hit.
One of the reasons why there are so many reality shows out there is because they're so cheap to produce. Storage Wars mainly takes place in Southern California, which is probably convenient and cost effective for the producers of the show, even though a lot of it can take place in Orange County (outside of the so-called Thirty Mile Zone). Likewise for "Coin Flippers" (or "Numismaniacs" or "Coin Confidential" or some other sort of clever title), it makes sense to shoot it in Southern California. There are several local dealers, auction houses, three Long Beach Shows, experts, collectors, and PCGS of course. Las Vegas is nearby which is another potential shoot location, and has crossover potential with the popular series Pawn Stars. It seems to me that a network has all the elements it needs to put together a show. But will people watch it?
Of course people would watch the show, but I'm talking about broad appeal. Will it catch the attention of the general public? With all the recent articles in the news about the Walton 1913 Liberty Nickel, the SP66 1794 Silver Dollar and the Simpson 1943-S Bronze cent fetching multiple millions of dollars at auction I'd say we already have the public's attention. Now what we need is something to invite the general public into our world, and I think a TV show is the perfect medium to do that.
Imagine a Long Beach Show in the near future with thousands of new collectors anxious to get through the door, lining up to get an autograph from some of their favorite dealers on TV, hoping to be in the background while the film crew shoots, and buying a lot of coins in the process. I think it could happen.
So if there are any television executives reading this, you could have a potential gold mine on your hands. Also, if you are interested in producing this show you're going to need some top quality photographs of coins. Might I suggest PCGS TrueView? PCGS TrueViewTM, official photography service of the HIT television show COIN FLIPPERS.