Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Collecting coins as a hobby

Collecting coins as a hobby can be fun and it usually starts that way. For majority of the coin collectors, it is usually traced to one common story - it is likely that you have inherited some coins/banknotes from your parents or grandparents or relatives and that sparkled the journey of numismatic hobby. Others might have started because of peer influence or curiosity but whatever the diverse reasons are, coin collecting can fun and also a worthwhile investment. To go beyond just the "fun" part of collecting, you must have a theme, a goal, an objective that defines your coin collection. You have to increase your knowledge about coins, research, buy magazines, attend coin show etc.

Bottom line - to keep this coin collecting hobby or numismatic hobby fun and lasting, you must have a passion for coins (or banknotes). That's the basic requirement. If not, then your collection will lack a theme and basically, what you are doing is just collecting coins for the sake of collecting. If you can define the goal of your collection, it can end up as a potential investment.

So .. how do I start?

You can start with a theme, as a guide, ask yourself "What excites me?". Are you intrigued by historical events? Fascinated by certain countries or culture, an interest in artistic designs, passionate about Gold and Silver coins etc. You can try starting with historical coins, or modern coins of the world, or perhaps archaic designs or certain countries or kingdoms that interest you. That will define your theme and gradually, you will gradually extend your range of collection. In my opinion, the most basic thing to have if you want to start this numismatic hobby is "PASSION" and also "THEME" (Objective)

If you do not have the passion, the "fun" will eventually fade away. Passion will inspire you to learn more about the coins, the history behind the coins, the theme of the design, the mintage, the key dates etc. Perhaps, you might want to consider building a complete year set, hunt for scarce or rare dates, how to protect the coins, buying books and magazines to increase your knowledge. That passion will keep this hobby alive for many many years. It did to me

What about Objective?

Many coins collectors that I know started with an interest in coins but with no direction, no clear objective. It was just collecting coins for fun. Nothing wrong with that but you will end up with a coin collection with no "theme". It's just collecting coins "randomly" for the sake of collecting coins. It usually ends up as piles of "bags" somewhere in the house. I have known many people who collect coins just for the sake of "collecting coins" and it just piles and piles of coin albums with "nothing interesting" to talk about. If they were to talk about their coin collection, their usual conversation would be that they have coins "from all over the world" - US, Britain, Ireland, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, France .. the list goes on.

It would be nice if you have a theme like - This is the pillar dollar, the first US dollar ....

Coin collecting has to be fun, not ending up with stacks and stacks of coin albums and some in plastic bags, jars, tin cans. Coins are heavy and when you are just "collecting coins" randomly, the entire pile of collections can go to hundreds of pounds in weight. Eventually, it could be an eyesore.

One of the easiest way to start coin collecting is with Modern Day issues. These are Mint Sets issued by the Government Mints e.g. US statehood quarters started in 1999. Or you can try precious metal bullion like Silver e.g.  the American Silver Eagles, Silver Pandas from China, Kookaburras from Australia or Britannia from Britain etc.

These coins are easily obtainable and you can build a complete year set in a relatively short time. Meaning, the first series until present. For example, the American Silver Eagle started in 1986, the Britannia started in 1997 etc but then again, there are key dates which will cost much more. Key dates are those in that particular year or years which the mintage is low and there is a demand for it. Then there are normal mint and proof coins

Next is to do your research about the coins and the mintage. Read up about the story of the coins, who are the designers, whether the coins are uncirculated mint or proof mint for that year etc. Find out the current trend of the coins that you are collecting. Buy books and magazines. Then when you have built a complete year set, it will be more interesting to talk about it then just having stacks upon stacks of coins with "No theme" except that "these are coins from all over the world". When you have a nice coin collection, you will be excited to share a story like "It took me quite a while to build this complete set of American Silver Eagle, especially this key date 1996 ...... "

I have been collecting coins for over 30 years. It started when I was a kid, perhaps out of curiosity. Whenever my relatives returned from traveling overseas, I was given the "loose change". Coins and paper notes from Britain, USA, Greece, Italy, Taiwan, Thailand, China etc and over the years, coinages from many other countries were added to my collection. I started out by collecting every thing (mistake) because I wanted a build a collection of world coins and paper notes. In the end, I realized that it became a heavy pile of "burden". There was "no theme" to my collection. Like most people, I collected everything.

But as the collection grew, so did my interest in the historical background of these coins. I began doing research and bought magazines, books and read more about the history of the coins, the countries, the rulers, the mintage ... everything was exciting to know. Then I started going to flea market for 'cherry picking', networking with other collectors to exchange knowledge and tips. Soon, I began to understand about "scarce" and "key" dates and that brought me to another level of coin collecting. I soon realized that there were coins which were not easily obtainable and the excitement grew and I started hunting for these kinds of coins. It was challenging.

Then I had my encounters with counterfeit coins and those were costly lessons to me. Because of the demand of these scarce coins, e.g US Trade dollar, Japanese Trade dollar, there were many counterfeits in the market, I had to learn to how to differentiate the real and the "bluff". I bought loupes and weighing scale and more books

I started focusing on building up a collection of key dates. My collection soon included a Straits Settlements Queen Victoria 1899 50 cents coin. One of the hardest key dates to find. Along the way, I managed to purchase 2 pieces of the 1934'b' British Trade dollar, both graded MS64 by PCGS.

British Trade Dollar 1934b

There are about 150 - 300 pieces known to exist for this particular date. I got 2 of them and managed to sell them years later. One to an advanced collector and another was consigned to an auction house

It occurred to me that what started as a hobby soon because an investment. There were buyers who were interested in my collection and were willing to pay a high premium for some of my coins. To date, I have sold some of my prized coins and at the same time, added some new purchases to my collection.

I am building this website to share my numismatics hobby and share about my mistakes and lessons that I have learn along the way

The picture you are looking at is the British Trade Dollar dated 1934'B', graded by PCGS MS64.

What started out as a numismatic hobby has also became an investment