Beginners’ Guide to Coin Collecting

Why collect coins? People are attracted to the hobby for a variety of reasons, from taking an interest in a pile of coins found in Granny’s cupboard or inheriting a group of old coins in a bequest, to being interested in an old coin you found in the garden. Everyone handles coins on a daily basis, and some will take a few moments to look at them in closer detail. People often tell me they started collecting as a result of finding a specific 50p or £2 piece in their change. This is a cheap way into collecting, as you can always spend the collection for what it cost, should you get bored. A large number take up the hobby because they are interested in history, whilst others may go metal detecting and be curious about a find. Whatever your route into numismatics, following a few basic rules will enable you to get the most out of the hobby. When you decide to collect other than from circulation, it unavoidably involves spending money, but following a few basic rules means that money can be well spent and rewarding in many ways.

Knowledge is power, so……..

Buy books or search the internet for information about your chosen area of numismatics. There are many books available for the novice, mostly written by collectors of many years standing. The old adage ‘Buy the book before the coin’ is as pertinent today as it ever was, and so, a book on learning how to grade is far more useful than a price list when starting out, for example. Learning to grade correctly is a must as a coin’s grade will determine its price.

Forums can offer the novice impartial advice, as most members tend to be private individuals rather than those with a commercial agenda. Blatant plugging of a commercial product is usually frowned upon. A good forum for British coins is http://www.predecimal.com/forum/ which is hosted by Predecimal Coins, but not run as a marketing operation. Similar forums exist in the US.

Coin club members will be private individuals. http://www.coinclubs.org.uk/index.htm lists a number nationally that are affiliated to the British Association of Numismatic Societies. Membership is usually only a few pounds per annum, and for this will enable you to share information with collectors of many years standing. The modern way of life leads to insularity, sitting at the desktop.

Visit coin fairs and get to know the dealers. You will be under no obligation to buy, but you can ask questions and compare prices. This will give you a better feel for the market, as the prices will vary and will probably not be the same as the many different prices in the annual price guides. Coins are also very tactile objects, so holding one will give a better indication of whether you like it or not.

Many people acquire coins from a well-known internet auction site. This is a dangerous place for the novice. This is plagued with modern copies being sold as originals, over-graded coins to trap the gullible, incorrectly attributed coins to induce the uninformed to buy something it is not. These listing ‘errors’ rarely if ever work in the buyers’ favour. Be very careful.

Very few collectors know what they want to collect at the outset, buying a range of denominations, countries or types until they find an area that they like. This is normal.

Experience has shown that the novice will almost inevitably make potentially expensive mistakes that an educated one would avoid. It is essential for the hobby that collecting is enjoyable, because a bad experience helps neither the collector who will vow never to buy a coin again, nor the dealer who needs the collector to make a living. Both have a mutual interest in the success of our chosen hobby/business.

Happy collecting.
Robert Pearce
Robert Pearce

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