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Jeff Garrett: What to Give a Numismatist for Christmas

A coin, book or membership can make a memorable gift

By Jeff Garrett for Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) ……
If you’re like everyone else, you are probably searching for holiday gift ideas to please that “hard to buy for” friend or relative. It seems like the world revolves around something electronic these days, and there are not many electronic gifts for coin collectors.

Numismatists can be very hard to surprise with a gift other than that impossible-to-find rare coin they have always coveted. Buying rare coins for the holidays is not something I would recommend. Collectors are usually very particular, and it is highly unlikely you could find something they have been looking for themselves. Rare coins are also quite expensive in many cases and are usually considered an investment at some level.

Below are some alternative, interesting gift ideas for that collector in your life that will not break the bank, and should bring cheer for the holiday.

1. Numismatic books: Every collector likes to read about the hobby they love, and there are many great books to choose from. I could name dozens of interesting and educational titles, but I will start with a couple of my favorites: Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea by Gary Kinder. This book is a fascinating study of the California gold rush, the sinking of SS Central America, and its recovery in the 1980s. The story rivals that of HMS Titanic and is an absolute page-turner. It is also newly relevant with the recovery of more gold, and the recent legal travails of Tommy Thompson.

Next, I would recommend my book, 100 Greatest US Coins. The book has been my best-selling numismatic publication and is now in its fourth edition. My recommendation is based on the fact that every collector, from beginner to advanced, enjoys reading about awesome coins. This segment of the market has exploded in recent years, and understanding the stories behind these great coins will give you a better understanding of the rare coin market.

2. Gold or silver coin dated 2018: The giving of a coin from the current year has a long tradition in the United States. I have bought dozens of gold coins in beautiful boxes and other packaging from the 19th and early 20th century. There are actually collectors who covet these quaint relics of the past. One of the greatest aspects of giving a gold or silver coin? Your friend or relative will probably save them for a long time. Most gifts these days have very short shelf lives, and it’s great to know you have given something of true value. You may also consider making it an annual tradition.

3. Birth Year Proof sets: These always make great gifts for collectors and non-collectors. Who wouldn’t want to have a beautiful set of coins struck in the same year they were born. Prices for most Proof Sets are at all-time lows and are extremely affordable, unless you’re buying one for an 80-year-old relative!

4. High-quality magnifying glass: This may sound simple, but a quality magnifying glass is one of the most important tools for any collector. Every collector needs to examine their coins up close when grading or making a purchase decision. I recommend a 5X power loupe made of glass and not plastic. Plastic magnifying glasses are less expensive, but they often have areas of distortion. Buy a quality magnifying glass that can be used for years to come. Most local coin shops or online numismatic supply dealers carry a large selection.

5. Membership to the ANA: As past president of the American Numismatic Association (ANA), I am obviously biased in my love for the organization. I have been a member since the early 1970s. Membership in the ANA is one of the best buys in all of numismatics. It is the only national numismatic club devoted to numismatic education and promotion of the hobby. The Numismatist magazine is one of the best publications, and worth the price of membership itself. I highly recommend the platinum membership, which is only $46 per year and includes a subscription to The Numismatist. Another great option is the life membership for that serious collector in your life. It will literally provide a lifetime of enjoyment and numismatic camaraderie.

6. Subscription to Coin World or Numismatic News: Both of these old-line numismatic publications still offer readers lots of interesting and timely news about the hobby. I eagerly await the next edition to find out the latest news and numismatic discoveries. There are lots of online numismatic news options these days, but I still enjoy a cup of coffee and my latest edition of Coin World or Numismatic News.

7. Chocolate Coins: These may sound silly, but there are actually a lot of really interesting and beautiful chocolate coin options. Many companies also offer custom-made options. Every collector that I know loves chocolate coins, and they make great stocking stuffers.

8. Ancient Coins: Regardless of what your numismatic-inclined friend or relative collects, they will love owning a genuine 2,000-year-old ancient coin. Many are amazingly affordable and easy to purchase. One of my favorite recommendations would be a silver Drachm or Tetradrachm of Alexander the Great. These start at around $200 USD in Very Fine condition. The classic “Widow’s Mite” (made famous by the story in the Bible about the widow who gave all that she had) is another popular choice. Regardless of what you buy, be sure to purchase a coin that has been certified authentic by NGC.

9. Donate to their favorite numismatic organization: Many collectors have everything they could possibly ever need and are impossible to buy for. Donating to a numismatic organization in their name is a great way to honor their interest and help to promote the hobby they love. Organizations like the ANA, American Numismatic Society, or the Smithsonian all need donor funds to survive.

10. Membership in a local coin club: This is a really great gift for any young person on your list. Hopefully, there is a coin club in your area. If there is, find out when the next meeting is, and take them along and buy them a junior membership. Most clubs have programs or information for young people and encourage their participation. This is a great way to introduce the hobby of numismatics to young people. A local coin club in central Florida jump-started my interest over 45 years ago.

Regardless of what gifts you choose this year, I hope this list proves helpful. I also wish everyone a happy and healthful holiday!

Jeff Garrett bio

Jeff Garrett
Jeff Garrett
Jeff Garrett, founder of Mid-American Rare Coin Galleries, is considered one of the nation’s top experts in U.S. coinage — and knowledge lies at the foundation of Jeff’s numismatic career. With more than 35 years of experience, he is one of the top experts in numismatics. The “experts’ expert,” Jeff has personally bought and sold nearly every U.S. coin ever issued. Not a day goes by that someone doesn’t call on Jeff Garrett for numismatic advice. This includes many of the nation’s largest coin dealers, publishers, museums, and institutions. In addition to owning and operating Mid-American Rare Coin Galleries, Jeff Garrett is a major shareholder in Sarasota Rare Coin Galleries. His combined annual sales in rare coins and precious metals — between Mid-American in Kentucky and Sarasota Rare Coin Galleries in Florida — total more than $25 million. Jeff Garrett has authored many of today’s most popular numismatic books, including Encyclopedia of U.S. Gold Coins 1795–1933: Circulating, Proof, Commemorative, and Pattern Issues; 100 Greatest U.S. Coins; and United States Coinage: A Study By Type. He is also the price editor for The Official Redbook: A Guide Book of United States Coins. Jeff was also one of the original coin graders for the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS). He is today considered one of the country’s best coin graders and was the winner of the 2005 PCGS World Series of Grading. Today, he serves as a consultant to Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC), the world’s largest coin grading company. Jeff plays an important role at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Numismatic Department and serves as a consultant to the museum on funding, exhibits, conservation, and research. Thanks to the efforts of Jeff and many others, rare U.S. coins are once again on exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History. Jeff has been a member of the Professional Numismatic Guild (PNG) since 1982 and has recently served as president of the organization. He has also served as the ANA President and as a member of the ANA Board of Governors.

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