Most Popular Hobbies

I am helping a company create a list of the most popular hobbies in North America and am finding it extremely frustrating. I may have to visit a library and check out some back issues of American Demographics magazine to find some good data.

Here’s what I found so far online about just one hobby, coin collecting:

  • American Numismatic Association had estimated that there were between 7 and 10 million coin collectors in the United States.
  • Today, the US Mint reports there are 125 million coin collectors in the United States.
  • The US Mint has estimated that there are now 60 million coin collectors in this country.
  • It’s estimated there are 20 million coin collectors in the US alone
  • In addition, the mint sees 600,000 tourists a year at its Philadelphia and Denver sites and has a customer mailing list of 2 million coin collectors.
  • The Department of Commerce estimates there are 100 million coin collectors in the United States.

This is ridiculous. I wonder if everyone just makes up whatever statistics they want to make up. The only reliable and verifiable number might be the Mint mailing list of 2 million coin collectors.

This reminds me of the ridiculous information passed around (with no original source) about genealogy being the 2nd most popular hobby in the United States, second only to gardening. I have heard this fact tossed around for several years. No one has an original source. They just cite one publication after another who heard that this was the case. Show me the original research on this. Otherwise, I don’t believe it for a second.

6 thoughts on “Most Popular Hobbies

  1. This is ridiculous. Personally I’ve never met someone that collects coins in my lifetime with the exception of my grandpa. And he collected coins from around the world, not from the U.S. Additionally, how are people even defining hobbies? I would want to consider hobbies to be past times, something you yourself spend time, energy, and money on as an aside from your daily life, something you find interesting. That being said: Sports center is not a hobby. Watching TV is not necessarily a hobby, because you put no vestment other than your time into it, or your money to buy the set, and the monthly subscription. Watching baseball is a past time, not a hobby. Trading collectible baseball cards is a hobby.

    But what about hobbies that can take up a lot of time? Such as mountain biking, where you have to become mechanically proficient to repair your own bike in the field, good at riding switchbacks and slopes and technically difficult obstacles? Bicycling, marathon running. What other hobbies are even out there? It’d be nice if people would not just talk about collecting as hobbies, that is something I’ve always considered a waste of money and effort and to be beyond bizarre. What are the activities oriented hobbies that are popular, that require a development of skill and a social interaction?

    I also only know 1 person that likes gardening, and that’s my step brother so he can grow some of his own produce.

  2. With the program “Who Do You Think You are?”, I don’t doubt there’s been a resurgence of interest in genealogy. It’s nearly impossible to distinguish between the fact that a very large number of people would like to know more about their ancestry, those that look into a bit, and those that actually spend serious hours over years such that they could call it their “hobby”.

    There’s no way to nail down specific numbers for most pasttimes.

    However, club membership, while it doesn’t measure numbers of hours, certainly indicates an identification and a reasonable determination that it’s a person’s “hobby”. Without a doubt, hunting / gun / skeet / target shooting occupies the time of a huge number of Americans, as does fishing and golf. A much larger list of hobbies than this could be compared through memberships, licenses and sales.

  3. Sean, your personal experience may not encompass many coin collectors or gardeners, but I assure you they are numerous. And despite your opinion of collecting as a hobby, it is one of the most popular hobbies around. True collectors spend incredible amounts of time building their collections, chasing after rare pieces, buying, trading and selling to get exactly the item their collections are missing. They also have an impressive store of knowledge about the items they collect, whether it’s coins, china, Hot Wheels or thimbles.

    However, there is a lot of confusion about what is a hobby and what is a pastime. I have seen sleeping classed as a hobby, which it most certainly isn’t. The same for TV watching. Eating isn’t a hobby, though cooking can be. The idea of a hobby is an activity in which one participates for pleasure and by choice that provides an avenue for learning, creation, or personal growth. Scrapbooking, macrame, needlepoint, building ships in bottles, collecting and such are all hobbies as are photography and amateur astronomy. Mountain biking and similar activities aren’t hobbies, they are sports, which is a different type of leisure pursuit. One can be just as involved with and passionate about a sport as one can be with a hobby, but they aren’t the same.

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