COIN COLLECTING: A BEGINNER's GUIDE
If you are thinking of taking up coin collecting as a hobby, or if you already have a few coins and would like to start building a serious collection of your own, we hope these pages will provide advice and inspiration.
Coin collecting - or ‘numismatics’, to use its technical term - is one of the most rewarding pastimes imaginable. We know of many collectors who have taken up collecting after inheriting a collection from their grandfather or uncle, and it is certainly a hobby that unites the generations in a shared fascination with the past.
Whatever type or period of coinage you choose to follow, coin collecting combines the thrill of the chase with a thirst for digging deep into history - and it can produce tangible long term rewards.
As a collector, you’ll become part of a wider community of coin enthusiasts who are generally more than happy to share information and expertise. You can also draw on organisations like The London Mint Office, who offer exceptional coins, a conveniant collectors' service and a guaranteed no-obligation viewing period.
So how and where should you start?
The first thing to decide is what you would like to collect. It is important to specialise, as trying to collect coins on many disparate themes or from many different eras can prove overwhelming. If you specialise, you are far more likely to be able to complete a collection over time and then perhaps move on to a different subject or period.
Collecting by theme
Taking a thematic approach can be a particularly imaginative way to collect coins. Following the announcement of a Royal baby and the 60th anniversary of the Queen's coronation, collecting coins with a royal connection has never been more popular.
Some collectors choose to collect circulating coins and commemoratives relating to previous royal reigns while others specialise in particular sources - Royal coins from the Commonwealth, for example. Demand for such coins tends to reach a peak around the time of a great Royal event or anniversary. The beauty of a themed collection is that you can always add to it with commemorative coins marking a royal milestone or birth, for instance, and that you document history for the next generations in precious metal.
The London Mint Office offers a number of popular collections that would be difficult if not impossible for an individual collector to source. Some such 'The Life and Times of Queen Elizabeth II' or 'The Great Monarchs Golden Proof Coin Collection' follow a Royal theme, while others centre on such diverse subjects as Britain at War, the Story of Gold, or the Most Expensive Coins of the World. Also Olympic coins and ingots are a theme extremely popular with collectors all over the world and new collectors are joining with every Olympic event.
Collecting coins in precious metals
Depending on the size of your budget, you may wish to specialise in specific precious metals when you collect coins. Some countries are famous for their gold- and silver coins, others are less well-known but also issue stunning coins in precious metals.
South African gold, for example, has been renowned for its quality for over 150 years and the South African ‘Kruger Rand’ is one of the ‘Magnificent Seven’, the seven most famous gold coins in the world. Collecting all of these seven gold coins does not take too long, but it can be challenging. Some of the gold coins in this collection are regularly sold out at the State Mints issuing them and the number of gold coin collectors is constantly rising, despite gold becoming more and more precious. The London Mint Office gives their collectors a completeness guarantee - once you enter in a collection, the London Mint Office will source or stock the coins for you until you add them to your collection - without any obligation for you to buy the coins. Whenever you decide to pull out of your collcetion, the coins are simply released for purchase by other collectors.
The rise in the gold price may be the reason why miniature gold coins are proving so popular among coin collectors. With a diameter of only 11-13 mm, these coins are minted in solid gold but are still affordable. The small size is a challenge for the minting process and only the most experienced mints in the world are issuing these small sizes. It is fascinating how detailed the designs can be on such small formats and many collectors have specialized in these small gold coins for the sheer pleasure of owning such fabulous pieces of minting art.
One of the most popular collections for silver coin collectors are the 'Fabulous 12’. This collection includes the most famous silver coins from around the world, including such iconic designs as the American silver Eagle and the silver Britannia. Click here to view some of the coins in this series.
Rhodium-Platinum, another precious coin metal used for striking coins, is much rarer than gold and silver and is usually sold at higher prices. Collectors can find coins layered with pure platinum, however. These are usually special editions only minted for collectors and would not be found in normal coin circulation. The mintage of these editions is normally low, as layering coins is a manual process and cannot be done for big quantities of coins. Click here for more details.
Collecting by currency
The collecting of vanishing currencies and coin motifs has hit new heights in recent years. Currency is ever changing and as soon as a legal tender coin disappears, demand for it tends to grow. Many collectors are currently turning to the pre-euro currencies of countries in the European Union, while others make a point of collecting every new euro issue as it becomes available.
Again, The London Mint Office offers collections that bring together such coins in one place - sometimes historic, such as the Britannia Magna collection which contains one coin of every coin type issued in the UK. The Queen Elizabeth II Portraits Collection is an outstanding series of best quality uncirculated coins from the nations of the British Commonwealth. British silver commemorative coins also form the basis of popular London Mint Office collections, and some coin collectors are systematically buying all year sets, which contain all the different British coins issued in one year.
If you collect on your own, older sets can sometimes be a challenge to find, but if you use a collector’s service like the one offered by the London Mint Office, professional purchasers will source them for you and send them to you, as they become available, so that you can decide conveniently at home.
There is also a thriving market for paper currency, a comparatively recent innovation in the history of money yet one that is richly collectable. In inflationary times, high value banknotes can be printed and circulated and very quickly withdrawn, making them collector’s items for years to come. This is a highly specialised area that is ripe with possibilities for the committed collector.
Collecting historic coins
Coins don’t just reflect they are part of its fabric. When you rub a Britannia penny between your fingers you are touching something that during its lifetime went through thousands if not millions of pairs of hands. Much of the joy in collecting historic coins is in imagining the tales that they could tell.
When you collect coins from a particular period, it comes to life in a way that no history book can ever quite capture. Studying the symbols, inscriptions and abbreviations displayed reveals much about the times in which they were made and circulated: think of the changing image of Britannia over the centuries, for example, or the way that Roman emperors were depicted across 500 years of coinage.
Old coins often have an aesthetic value that is just as important to collectors as their historical interest or rarity. Some are works of art in their own right, crafted by the finest engravers, designers and sculptors of their time, and are collectable on these grounds alone.
With our customers and collectors in mind, London Mint Office specialists are often able to purchase coins found during archaeological excavations or as a result of accidental discoveries. In some cases, the very story behind their discovery can add intense interest and actual value to the collecting of particular coins, such as the hoarding of Russian silver coins during Stalin’s reign of terror - when the penalty for discovery was death - or the capturing of caches of currency during wartime raids.
Collecting by coin type
Another easy way to start collecting is by choosing a specific coin or denomination - anything from a humble penny to a gold sovereign - and building a complete collection of year dates.
Issued by the Royal Mint each year, gold sovereigns are especially popular, not only with British collectors but all over the world. Going back in history to acquire the old issues as well as the new ones is a fascinating way of documenting the rich history of our nation.
For more of a challenge, try researching the different issues of obsolete coins such as pre-decimal halfpennies or ‘bits’ and starting a collection from there. Even among such commonly available coins there are rarities to be hunted down together with the occasional ‘error’ coin that made it to circulation before being quickly withdrawn.
Collecting by country
Some collectors are specializing on coins of specific countries only. Here in Britain of course British coinage is one of the biggest collection fields and many collectors document the history of our country by building up coin collections which follow through the nation’s coin history.
But also countries like the United States of America, Canada or China are sources for fascinating coins. Whereas circulation coins from other countries are a popular collection field, often started by accumulating coins on holidays abroad, more experienced collectors concentrate on commemorative minted in silver and gold, and often not many of these coins are made available for other countries. Especially the most popular silver commemorative coins are snapped up quickly by collectors and are often sold out just days or weeks after they are issued.
The London Mint Office is official distributor for most of the important state mints and national banks and will keep collectors of international coins informed about new interesting issues, often receiving significant parts of the total coin quantity that these mints make available for the UK.
We also employ dedicated purchasers to search out old foreign coins in archives, private collections and auctions - and we make these coins available to collectors in practical and affordable ways such as subscription-based collections, so allowing you to build up a portfolio of your own at the pace you choose.
Coin collecting: a beginners guide
- An introduction to collecting
- The joy of coin collecting: Why begin this exciting hobby?
- What are coins? A starter guide
- The anatomy of a coin