4 Ways To Start A Coin Collection4 Ways To Start A Coin Collection

Abstract: A brief guide to starting a collection that highlights four common strategies for collecting coins.

For beginners who become interested in collecting coins, there can be a lot of growing pains trying to figure out what direction you'd like to go. Anyone acquainted with the hobby can recount mistakes they made early on that landed them coins they didn't want, or a handful of unrelated coins. If you'd like to avoid such mistakes and get directly to collecting, you can try out one of the strategies below.

Where To Begin?

Ideally, collecting ought to bridge your personal interests and your identity with large collective concepts such as culture, community, and history. It is both a deeply internal as well as an external process, reunifying both your self-concept and your connection to the outside world.

All of that flowery stuff aside, you will want to choose coins that appeal to you. Take a look at their designs; do some research. Once you've decided what coins or kinds of coins draw your interest, you can consider the most appropriate way to approach your newfound collection.

1. Constructing Type Sets

This is perhaps the most tried and true stratagem among coin collectors, and has many advantages for the novice. Type sets entail getting one example of each different denomination during a particular era. For example, a current U.S. Type set would include a Lincoln penny, Jefferson nickel, Roosevelt dime, Washington quarter, and Kennedy half dollar. Rather than amassing a huge, complete collection of any single coin, you look for one of each type of coin from a specific country and time period.

Think of a Type set as a snapshot in time. It's a tangible record of the coinage of the past--a window into a bygone reality. Maybe the best thing about Type sets is that they require just one nice example of each coin type, cutting your costs while still representing all the designs of a distinct point in history. For these reasons, Type sets are always attractive for resale, or for passing on to your children.

2. Collecting By Theme

Settling upon a broad theme and sticking to it is also a good way to begin, because it offers you an incredibly wide range of collecting possibilities. There are commemorative coins and modern collectible coins that touch upon nearly every subject under the Sun, whether you're into animals, sports, popular culture, world history, or just about anything else.

Moreover, following a theme places your own personality squarely into your collection, and allows you to connect to disparate cultures and an array of topics. If you take an interest in one country or one region of the world, for instance, you can simply collect by national theme. Perhaps you only collect Chinese coins, or French coins; you can even make it as broad as collecting "coins from around the world." The various options to choose from are practically limitless.

3. Completing a Series

If you feel particularly strongly about the collectible or artistic merits of a single coin design, you may also attempt to complete the series. This means acquiring each and every variety of a coin, including all dates and mintmarks. Entirely filling in a series is what comes to mind when most novice collectors think of a "complete set."

Completing a series can sometimes become mundane, as you're going to be encountering the exact same design (or slight variations of it) over and over again. Yet, part of the fun is searching for the missing pieces to the puzzle, upgrading your collection with coins in better condition, and getting to know the history, key characteristics, and curiosities of a series. If one coin design especially grabs your attention, become an expert on it! Collecting by series also ensures that you will have plenty of work ahead of you to keep you occupied for the long run.

4. Targeting "Only the Rarest and the Finest"

Now, this strategy is actually more suited for the collector who is not only experienced, but also has deep pockets. However, if you apply this high-level principle to your collection from the start, it can still have the same benefit, even for the more modest investor or hobbyist.

This model is exactly what it sounds like: don't buy anything besides the rarest dates and varieties of the coin you're looking for, and don't settle for examples in poor condition just because they're cheaper. One glance at the prices for "key date" and Mint State coins--from virtually any series--proves that this can be an exceedingly expensive endeavor. Yet, it pays huge dividends in the long term, as serious collectors will always be more interested in "the rarest and the finest" if you wisely focused only on these coins.

Go Forth and Collect!

The truth is that there are many more strategies than the four listed here; nonetheless, you'll do fine if you stick to one (or more) of these approaches. Most importantly: have fun with your hobby! Numismatics can be an incredibly enriching field for those who choose to explore it.

by Everett R. Millman
References and Bibliography
Everett R. Millman is a coin and content specialist helping Gainesville Coins' customers choose and build their coin collections.
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