Coin collecting

Last updated
A coin collection, featuring coins loose and in various storage mediums. Coin collection.jpg
A coin collection, featuring coins loose and in various storage mediums.

Coin collecting is the collecting of coins or other forms of minted legal tender. Coins of interest to collectors include beautiful, rare, and historically significant pieces. Collectors may be interested, for example, in complete sets of a particular design or denomination, coins that were in circulation for only a brief time, or coins with errors. Coin collecting can be differentiated from numismatics, in that the latter is the systematic study of currency as a whole, though the two disciplines are closely interlinked.


Many factors determine a coin's value including grade, rarity, and popularity. [1] Commercial organizations offer grading services and will grade, authenticate, attribute, and encapsulate most coins.


Portrait of a Man with a Roman Medal by Hans Memling, depicting a Renaissance collector with a sestertius of Nero Hans Memling 054 small.jpg
Portrait of a Man with a Roman Medal by Hans Memling, depicting a Renaissance collector with a sestertius of Nero

People have hoarded coins for their bullion value for as long as coins have been minted. [2] However, the collection of coins for their artistic value was a later development. Evidence from the archaeological and historical record of Ancient Rome and medieval Mesopotamia [3] indicates that coins were collected and catalogued by scholars and state treasuries. It also seems probable that individual citizens collected old, exotic or commemorative coins as an affordable, portable form of art. [4] According to Suetonius in his De vita Caesarum (The Lives of the Twelve Caesars), written in the first century AD, the emperor Augustus sometimes presented old and exotic coins to friends and courtiers during festivals and other special occasions. [5] While the literary sources are scarce, it's evident that collecting of ancient coins persisted in the Western World during the Middle Ages among rulers and high nobility. [6]

Contemporary coin collecting and appreciation began around the fourteenth century. During the Renaissance, it became a fad among some members of the privileged classes, especially kings and queens. The Italian scholar and poet Petrarch is credited with being the pursuit's first and most famous aficionado. Following his lead, many European kings, princes, and other nobility kept collections of ancient coins. Some notable collectors were Pope Boniface VIII, Emperor Maximilian I of the Holy Roman Empire, Louis XIV of France, Ferdinand I of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor, [7] Henry IV of France and Elector Joachim II of Brandenburg, who started the Berlin Coin Cabinet (German: Münzkabinett Berlin). Perhaps because only the very wealthy could afford the pursuit, in Renaissance times coin collecting became known as the "Hobby of Kings". [8] [9] [10]

During the 17th and 18th centuries coin collecting remained a pursuit of the well-to-do. But rational, Enlightenment thinking led to a more systematic approach to accumulation and study. Numismatics as an academic discipline emerged in these centuries at the same time as a growing middle class, eager to prove their wealth and sophistication, began to collect coins. During the 19th and 20th centuries, coin collecting increased further in popularity. The market for coins expanded to include not only antique coins, but foreign or otherwise exotic currency. Coin shows, trade associations, and regulatory bodies emerged during these decades. [4] The first international convention for coin collectors was held 15–18 August 1962, in Detroit, Michigan, and was sponsored by the American Numismatic Association and the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association. Attendance was estimated at 40,000. [8] As one of the oldest and most popular world pastimes, coin collecting is now often referred to as the "King of Hobbies". [11] [12]


Two 20 kronor gold coins from the Scandinavian Monetary Union Two 20kr gold coins.png
Two 20 kronor gold coins from the Scandinavian Monetary Union

The motivations for collecting vary. Possibly the most common type of collectors are the hobbyists, who amass a collection primarily for the pleasure of it without the intention of making a profit.

Another frequent reason for purchasing coins is as an investment. As with stamps, precious metals, or other commodities, coin prices vary based on supply and demand. Prices drop for coins that are not in long-term demand, and increase along with a coin's perceived or intrinsic value. Investors buy with the expectation that the value of their purchase will increase over the long term. As with all types of investment, the principle of caveat emptor applies, and study is recommended before buying. Likewise, as with most collectibles, a coin collection does not produce income until it is sold, and may even incur costs (for example, the cost of safe deposit box storage) in the interim. [13]

A collection of various collectible coins, including several Indian silver coins and an American Innovation dollar graded by NGC, alongside a vintage sterling silver case. A little collection of precious coins, coin slab, fountain pen, and silver box, photographed in West Bengal, India, December 24, 2023.jpg
A collection of various collectible coins, including several Indian silver coins and an American Innovation dollar graded by NGC, alongside a vintage sterling silver case.

Some people collect coins for patriotic reasons and mints from various countries create coins specifically for patriotic collectors. One example of a patriotic coin was minted in 1813 by the United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata. One of the first pieces of legislation the new country enacted (after the revolution that freed it from Spanish rule) was to mint coins to replace the Spanish currency that had been in use. [14] Another example is the U.S. 2022 Purple Heart Commemorative Coin Program. [15]

Collector types

Some coin collectors are generalists and accumulate examples from a broad variety of historical or geographically significant coins, [16] but most collectors focus on a narrower, specialist interest. For example, some collectors focus on coins based on a common theme, such as coins from a country (often the collector's own), [17] a coin each year from a series, [18] or coins with a common mint mark. [19]

There are also completists who seek an example of every type of coin within a certain category. One of the most famous of this type of collector is Louis E. Eliasberg, the only collector thus far to assemble a complete set of known coins of the United States. [20] Foreign coin collecting is another type of collection that numismatics enjoy collecting. [1]

Coin hoarders are similar to investors in the sense that they accumulate coins for potential long-term profit. However, they typically do not take into account aesthetic considerations. [21] This is most common with coins whose metal value exceeds their spending value. [22]

Modern-day coins are a popular and important part of coin collecting. Modern-day coins across the globe.jpg
Modern-day coins are a popular and important part of coin collecting.

Speculators, be they amateurs or commercial buyers, may purchase coins in bulk or in small batches, and often act with the expectation of delayed profit. [13] They may wish to take advantage of a spike in demand for a particular coin (for example, during the annual release of Canadian numismatic collectibles from the Royal Canadian Mint). The speculator might hope to buy the coin in large lots and sell at a profit within weeks or months. [13] Speculators may also buy common circulation coins for their intrinsic metal value. Coins without collectible value may be melted down or distributed as bullion for commercial purposes. Typically they purchase coins that are composed of rare or precious metals, or coins that have a high purity of a specific metal. [23]

A final type of collector is the inheritor, an accidental collector who acquires coins from another person as part of an inheritance. The inheritor type may not necessarily have an interest in or know anything about numismatics at the time of the acquisition. [23]

A PCGS graded silver coin PCGS graded coin slab.jpg
A PCGS graded silver coin

Grade and value

This Deutsche Mark coin shows blemishes and rim dents that would detract from its grade in appraisal. 3D red cyan glasses are recommended to view this image correctly. Deutsche Mark Anaglyph 1.jpg
This Deutsche Mark coin shows blemishes and rim dents that would detract from its grade in appraisal. 3d glasses red cyan.svg 3D red cyan glasses are recommended to view this image correctly.

In coin collecting, the condition of a coin (its grade) is key to its value; a high-quality example with minimal wear is often worth many times more than a poor example. Collectors have created systems to describe the overall condition of coins. Any damage, such as wear or cleaning, can substantially decrease a coin's value.

By the mid 20th century, with the growing market for rare coins, the American Numismatic Association helps identify most coins in North America, numbering coins from 1 (poor) to 70 (mint state), and setting aside a separate category for proof coinage. This system is often shunned by coin experts in Europe and elsewhere, who prefer to use adjectival grades. [24] Nevertheless, most grading systems use similar terminology, and values and remain mutually intelligible. [25] [26]

Certification services

Third-party grading (TPG), aka coin certification services, emerged in the 1980s with the goals of standardizing grading, exposing alterations, and eliminating counterfeits. For tiered fees, certification services grade, authenticate, attribute, and encapsulate coins in clear plastic holders. [27] [28] [29]

Coin certification has greatly reduced the number of counterfeits and grossly over graded coins, and improved buyer confidence. Certification services can sometimes be controversial because grading is subjective; coins may be graded differently by different services or even upon resubmission to the same service. The numeric grade alone does not represent all of a coin's characteristics, such as toning, strike, brightness, color, luster, and attractiveness. Due to potentially large differences in value over slight differences in a coin's condition, some submitters will repeatedly resubmit a coin to a grading service in the hope of receiving a higher grade. Because fees are charged for certification, submitters must funnel money away from purchasing additional coins. [30] [31] [32] [33] [34]


Coin collectors and enthusiasts enjoying the taste of numismatic items at an exhibition organized by the Numismatic Society of Calcutta, in Ballygunge, Kolkata, West Bengal. Coin collectors and enthusiasts by Yogabrata Chakraborty, 2022.jpg
Coin collectors and enthusiasts enjoying the taste of numismatic items at an exhibition organized by the Numismatic Society of Calcutta, in Ballygunge, Kolkata, West Bengal.

Coin collector clubs offer a variety of benefits to members. They usually serve as a source of information and unification of people interested in coins. Collector clubs are popular both offline and online.

See also


Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Coin</span> Small, flat and usually round piece of material used as money

A coin is a small object, usually round and flat, used primarily as a medium of exchange or legal tender. They are standardized in weight, and produced in large quantities at a mint in order to facilitate trade. They are most often issued by a government. Coins often have images, numerals, or text on them. The faces of coins or medals are sometimes called the obverse and the reverse, referring to the front and back sides, respectively. The obverse of a coin is commonly called heads, because it often depicts the head of a prominent person, and the reverse is known as tails.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Numismatics</span> Study of currencies, coins and paper money

Numismatics is the study or collection of currency, including coins, tokens, paper money, medals and related objects.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1943 steel cent</span> U.S. currency

1943 steel cents are U.S. one-cent coins that were struck in steel due to wartime shortages of copper. The Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco mints each produced these 1943 Lincoln cents. The unique composition of the coin has led to various nicknames, such as wartime cent, steel war penny, zinc cent and steelie. The 1943 steel cent features the same Victor David Brenner design for the Lincoln cent which had been in use since 1909.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">United States Mint</span> Government agency that produces circulating coinage for the United States

The United States Mint is a bureau of the Department of the Treasury responsible for producing coinage for the United States to conduct its trade and commerce, as well as controlling the movement of bullion. The U.S. Mint is one of two U.S. agencies that produce money in the case of minting coinage; the other is the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which prints paper currency. The first United States Mint was created in Philadelphia in 1792, and soon joined by other centers, whose coins were identified by their own mint marks. There are currently four active coin-producing mints: Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco, and West Point.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Coin grading</span> Process of determining a collectible coins visual state

Coin grading is the process of determining the grade or condition of a coin, one of the key factors in determining its collectible value. A coin's grade is generally determined by six criteria: strike, preservation, luster, color, attractiveness, and occasionally the country/state in which it was minted. Several grading systems have been developed. Certification services professionally grade coins for tiered fees.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ancient Greek coinage</span> Greek coins from the Archaic to Roman Imperial periods

The history of ancient Greek coinage can be divided into four periods: the Archaic, the Classical, the Hellenistic and the Roman. The Archaic period extends from the introduction of coinage to the Greek world during the 7th century BC until the Persian Wars in about 480 BC. The Classical period then began, and lasted until the conquests of Alexander the Great in about 330 BC, which began the Hellenistic period, extending until the Roman absorption of the Greek world in the 1st century BC. The Greek cities continued to produce their own coins for several more centuries under Roman rule. The coins produced during this period are called Roman provincial coins or Greek Imperial Coins.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Professional Coin Grading Service</span> American coin grading organization

Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) is an American third-party coin grading, authentication, attribution, and encapsulation service founded in 1985. The intent of its seven founding dealers, including the firm's former president David Hall, was to standardize grading. The firm has divisions in Europe and Asia, and is owned by parent company Collectors Universe. PCGS has graded over 42.5 million coins, medals, and tokens valued at over $36 billion.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1913 Liberty Head nickel</span> Rare United States coin

The 1913 Liberty Head nickel is an American five-cent piece which was produced in extremely limited quantities unauthorized by the United States Mint, making it one of the best-known and most coveted rarities in American numismatics. In 1972, one specimen of the five cent coin became the first coin to sell for over US$100,000; in 1996, another specimen became the first to sell for over US$1 million. A specimen was sold for US$3 million in a 2004 private sale, then resold for US$3.7 million at a public auction in 2010.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Silver center cent</span> American bimetallic pattern coin

The Silver center cent is an American pattern coin produced by the United States Mint in 1792. As a precursor to the large cent it was one of the first coins of the United States and an early example of a bimetallic coin. Only 12 original examples are known to exist, of which one is located in the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution. Two more specimens exist but contain fabricated plugs added after minting.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">10 yen coin</span> Denomination of Japanese yen

The 10 yen coin is one denomination of the Japanese yen.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Civil War token</span> Privately minted token coins

Civil War tokens are token coins that were privately minted and distributed in the United States between 1861 and 1864. They were used mainly in the Northeast and Midwest. The widespread use of the tokens was a result of the scarcity of government-issued cents during the Civil War.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1974 aluminum cent</span> Proposed American coin

The 1974 aluminum cent was a one-cent coin proposed by the United States Mint in 1973. It was composed of an alloy of aluminum and trace metals, and it was intended to replace the predominantly copper–zinc cent due to the rising costs of coin production in the traditional bronze alloy. Of the 1,571,167 coins struck in anticipation of release, none were released into circulation. To encourage congressional support for the new alloy, the Mint distributed several examples to U.S. Congressmen. When the proposed aluminum cent was rejected, the Mint recalled and destroyed those coins.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Louis E. Eliasberg</span> American numismatist

Louis Edward Eliasberg Sr. was an American financier and numismatist. A native of Selma, Alabama, he is best known in the numismatic community for putting together the only complete collection of United States coins ever assembled, consisting of regular issue coins of every date, metal, denomination, and mint mark known to collectors at the time, with attention to coins in the best possible condition. He began the collection during the 1920s and finished the set by purchasing the last gold coin he needed in 1949 and the last silver coin he needed in 1950.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fugio cent</span> First official circulation coin of the United States

The Fugio cent, also known as the Franklin cent, is the first official circulation coin of the United States. Consisting of 0.36 oz (10 g) of copper and minted dated 1787, by some accounts it was designed by Benjamin Franklin. Its design is very similar to Franklin's 1776 Continental Currency dollar coin that was produced in pattern pieces as potential Continental currency but was never circulated.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sheldon coin grading scale</span> 70-point coin grading scale

The Sheldon Coin Grading Scale is a 70-point coin grading scale used in the numismatic assessment of a coin's quality. The American Numismatic Association based its Official ANA Grading Standards in large part on the Sheldon scale. The scale was created by William Herbert Sheldon.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Michael "Miles" Standish</span> American businessman (1964–2023)

Michael "Miles" Standish was an American businessman, author, rare coin expert, sports memorabilia expert and philanthropist. He was a co-founder of Collectors Universe and served as vice president of the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Saddle Ridge Hoard</span> Gold coins unearthed in California

The Saddle Ridge Hoard is the name given to a hoard of 1,427 gold coins unearthed in the western half of the Shasta Cascade region, of Northern California in 2013. The face value of the coins totaled $27,980, but was assessed to be worth $10 million. The hoard contains $27,460 in twenty-dollar coins, $500 in ten-dollar coins, and $20 in five-dollar coins, all dating from 1847 to 1894. The collection is the largest known discovery of buried gold coins that has ever been recovered in the United States.

The 20 yen coin (二十圓硬貨) was a denomination of Japanese yen. These coins were minted in gold, and during their lifespan were the highest denomination of coin that circulated in the country. The first coins were minted in 1870 following the introduction of a decimal currency system. Twenty Yen coins spanned three different Imperial eras before mintage was halted in 1932. Many of these coins were then melted or destroyed as a result of the wars between 1931 and 1945. These coins are now collected by numismatists for academic study, and by those with a hobby.

GreatCollections is an American numismatic online auction house founded in 2010, and based in Irvine, California. The company is an auctioneer of certified rare coins and paper money.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1893-S Morgan dollar</span> Key date in the Morgan dollar series

The 1893-S Morgan dollar is a United States dollar coin struck in 1893 at the San Francisco Mint. It is the lowest mintage business strike Morgan dollar in the series. The 1893-S is considered to be a key date in the Morgan dollar series: examples of the coin in both mint state and in circulated condition are valuable.


  1. 1 2 Garrett, Jeff (10 February 2023). "Pricing Hard-to-Price Coins". Coinweek. Retrieved 4 March 2023.
  2. "The Origins of Coinage:The earliest coin hoard". The British Museum:Explore/Money. Retrieved 26 August 2009.
  3. "Coin Collecting".]. Retrieved 14 December 2010. Quote: "The Nestorian scholars and artisans who served the princes of the Jazira (Mesopotamia, now Iraq, Syria, and Turkey) in the 12th and 13th centuries designed a magnificent series of coins with motifs based on ancient Greek and Roman issues. Some of these so accurately render the details of the originals that even the inscriptions are faithfully repeated. Others were modified in intriguing ways. [...] The great variety and the sophisticated use of these images reveal the existence of well-studied collections."
  4. 1 2 "Coin Collecting". Britannica Online. Retrieved 26 August 2009.
  5. "Tranquillus, C. Suetonius The Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Section LXXV". Retrieved 23 August 2009.
  6. Norwich, John Julius (1993), Byzantium: The Apogee, London: Penguin, p. 309, ISBN   978-0-14-011448-5
  7. "Ferdinand I | Holy Roman emperor | Britannica". Retrieved 28 September 2022.
  8. 1 2 "The Coin Collection History". Archived from the original on 12 September 2009. Retrieved 26 August 2009.
  9. "Brief History of Coin Collecting". Retrieved 26 August 2009.
  10. "Coin Collectors: Emperor Maximilian". Archived from the original on 10 February 2013. Retrieved 26 August 2009.
  11. "Coin Collecting". BBC. Retrieved 26 August 2009.
  12. "Brief History of Coin Collecting". Retrieved 26 August 2009.
  13. 1 2 3 "Collecting And Investing in Coins". Retrieved 26 August 2009.
  14. "First patriotic coins".
  15. "National Purple Heart Hall of Honor Commemorative Coins | U.S. Mint". 11 November 2021. Retrieved 28 September 2022.
  16. "10 Rules of Coin Collecting | Coin Collection Tips | American Numismatic Association". Retrieved 16 September 2021.
  17. "Coin Collecting Themes-One From Every Country". Retrieved 26 August 2009.
  18. Eggleston, Gary. "7 Popular Coin Collecting Themes". Retrieved 26 August 2009.
  19. "Coin Collecting Themes". Archived from the original on 15 September 2008. Retrieved 26 August 2009.
  20. Hall, David. "The Eliasberg Collection". PCGS - The Professional Coin Grading Service. Retrieved 14 October 2013. His goal was to assemble a complete collection of United States regular issue coins, of every date, metal, denomination, and mint mark known to collectors at the time. He accomplished this monumental feat by 1950, by purchasing the last gold coin he needed (1841 $2 1/2) in 1949 and the last silver coin he needed (1873-CC no arrows dime) in 1950.
  21. Ajaero, Tony Martins (30 January 2020). "Coin Dealer Business Plan [Sample Template]". ProfitableVenture. Retrieved 9 December 2023.
  22. "Coin Hoards". Retrieved 26 August 2009.
  23. 1 2 "What is a Coin Collector?". Retrieved 26 August 2009.
  24. Herbert, Alan (20 September 1999). "European Collectors Stick With Verbal Grading System". Professional Coin Grading Service. Archived from the original on 14 June 2011. Retrieved 26 August 2009.
  25. Guth, Ron (2009). "German Coin Grading". Retrieved 26 August 2009.
  26. "Grading Standards". Retrieved 26 August 2009.
  27. "The History of Rare Coin Grading". Austin Gold Information Network. Archived from the original on 6 September 2009. Retrieved 26 August 2009.
  28. "Coin Grading Services: Who They Are and What They Do". Retrieved 26 August 2009.
  29. "Coin Grading Systems - The History of Coin Grading Scales". Archived from the original on 16 November 2007. Retrieved 13 December 2009.
  30. "NGC". NGC.
  31. "PCGS Coin Facts". Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  32. Travers, Scott (10 October 2009). "THE 10 GREATEST MYTHS OF 'SLABBED' COINS". Retrieved 7 September 2015.
  33. "A Companion to Rare Coin Collecting - Grading Services". Retrieved 26 August 2009.
  34. "PNG, ICTA Announce Results of 2006 Grading Services Survey". Professional Numismatists Guild. Archived from the original on 21 September 2015. Retrieved 7 September 2015.