By Louis Golino for CoinWeek….
A new modern coin collector can very easily become overwhelmed. Whether attending a coin show, perusing hobby websites and periodicals, or checking out dealer stores and websites, new collectors quickly discover that with so many coins out there it’s easy to become lost when you’re just starting out.
It is natural for collectors to be periodically tempted by coins outside of their specialty that attract their fancy, but it’s critical to figure out as early as possible what area has the greatest appeal for you. Otherwise, in a couple of years you’ll end up with a hoard or an accumulation (as opposed to a collection) with no real coherence to it.
Luckily, figuring that out could mean focusing on anything from a specific country or region to a time period or particular theme. The possibilities are limitless.
Some new collectors quickly realize they have a strong interest in perhaps American Silver Eagles or another coin series and stick with it for many years. But many find it difficult to know early on where to focus their interests.
World Bullion Type Set
If you discover that modern world coins appeal to you, a good strategy is to start out with a modest collection to gain exposure to the field. There is an economical way to do that and facilitate the process of finding a series in which to specialize. And that is to build a world bullion type set of the leading one-ounce silver coins consisting of the latest issue of each since those are less expensive than past issues.
There are many different ways to go about building such a set since so many mints around the world currently produce silver bullion coins, and new coin series are being issued all the time.
But in my experience, it is advisable at least initially to purchase the series that tend to be in the highest demand and that have an established track record.
In terms of coins, there are two main categories. First, there are the silver bullion coins that derive their demand primarily from silver investors even though many collectors also build sets of these coins.
These coins include especially: American Silver Eagles, Canadian Silver Maple Leafs, Austrian Philharmonics, and Silver Britannia coins from The Royal Mint. Each of these issues sells for a low premium over silver content, has no fixed mintage, and currently features the same designs every year, though prior to 2013 Britannias had changing designs.
Based on the current silver price of $14 per ounce, the coins in this first group will each cost $20 or less for the latest issue.
The second group includes coins that are more typically bought by collectors rather than silver stackers, and if purchased when first issued sell for only a little more than the coins in the first group. The coins in this group have limited or low mintages and new reverse designs each year (except for Libertads).
This group can theoretically include a very wide range of issues, but when limited to the most widely traded and collected coins would include: Chinese Pandas, Mexican Libertads, and the Perth Mint’s extensive silver series, including the Chinese Lunar Year Series II, Kookaburras, Koalas, Kangaroos, and three newer series: the Wedge-Tailed Eagle, Funnel Web Spider and Saltwater Crocodile.
In addition,you may want to add the Royal Mint’s Chinese Lunar Year series, the Somalia Elephant, and Turtles and Takus from the New Zealand Mint. Other series to consider are the Rwanda wildlife coins, which are the only bullion series that sports an incuse design, and the Armenian Noah’s Ark coins, which are mainly for silver buyers.
Based on the current silver spot of $14, these coins typically cost about $25 each for the current release with some issues running $30. Previous releases are usually more costly.
A good way to start is to purchase ungraded or “raw” examples of each coin you decide to include–as well as protective capsules for those without, and some way to organize the coins such as an album (some now exist for coins in capsules), a tray, or a display box.
After this, you may wish to upgrade the coins with graded examples in the top grade of Mint State 70, which is a popular area of modern coin collecting. For some issues, 70-graded coins are quite scarce and cost much more than 70-coins of more common series. For example, a 2015 MS70 Britannia will run you about $200, while a 2016 MS70 Kookaburra is about $60. It all depends on how frequently the coin is found in the top grade.
Over time you will likely discover that one or more of these bullion coins are of greater interest to you than the others whether because of the design, theme, low mintage, or other factors. Once this decision is made, you can begin to specialize in that series.
In most cases, this means you will want to first build a complete date set of that series, which, especially for the coins in the second group, means spending in some cases several hundred dollars per coin (such as for the key date 1998 Libertad, which has a mintage of just 67,000 coins, runs about $300, and is difficult to obtain). Similarly, many of the earlier Panda coins are several hundred each and hard to locate. With other series like the Kookaburras, no coin is over $100 and all dates can be obtained with some searching.
As with the basic type set, you could either build a full set of ungraded coins or you could put together a graded set in either the top grade of Mint State 70 or in Mint State 69 (which would be substantially less expensive). Whichever way you go, it is best to build a matched set of coins of the same grade.
Almost all of the silver bullion issues discussed here also come in special versions intended for collectors such as proof coins, reverse proofs, larger and smaller coins, high reliefs, privy marked issues, etc.–including some aimed at the Asian market. Once you have more experience with your series of choice, you will want to focus on some or all of these coins next. In some cases, such as with American Silver Eagles, this means possibly acquiring a large number of coins because of the various versions, but unless you are buying 70-graded coins, only one coin will run more than a couple of hundred dollars. That coin happens to be the key date proof-only 1995-W coin, which costs at least $3,000 and is missing from most collectors’ sets.
If you are looking for coin series that have perhaps the greatest potential for long-term appreciation due to high demand and low mintages, I highly recommend Chinese Pandas, Mexican Libertads, and the Lunar Series II from the Perth Mint. Each offers a variety of sub-specialties.
Modern silver bullion world coins offer something for everyone, and whichever route you choose, you are likely to have great fun building an organized set of that series.
But remember, there are no guarantees about the future value of your collection. So buy coins that give you the greatest enjoyment, and you can’t go wrong.
Louis Golino is an award-winning numismatic journalist and writer specializing on modern coins. He has been writing a weekly column for CoinWeek since May 2011 called “The Coin Analyst,” which focuses primarily on modern U.S. and world coins and developments at major world mints. In August 2015 he received the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG) award for Best Website Column for “The Coin Analyst.”
He is also a contributor to several magazines, including Coin World, American Hard Assets and The Numismatist, the American Numismatic Association’s monthly publication, where he writes a monthly column on modern world coins. He is a founding member of the Modern Coin Forum.
He has collected classic and modern U.S. and world coins since he was about 10 and first joined the ANA in the 1970’s. He has also worked as a congressional relations specialist and analyst at the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress and has been a syndicated columnist and news analyst on international affairs for a wide variety of publications. He has been writing professionally since the early 1980s.