By Peter Mosiondz, Jr.….
 

Fundamentals of Coin Collecting

In my opinion coin and stamp collecting are the greatest hobbies ever conceived. Those of us involved in numismatics, or the study of coins and money already know that we have a wonderful pastime to relieve the stress and pressures of every day life.

Coinage mirrors the advancement of civilization, informing us of political reigns, upheavals and daily life. They let us know of social triumphs and important events in the country’s history. What stories they tell us!

Ever since coins were first struck, which history tells us was in the vicinity of 500 B.C., fascinating vignettes of history, geography and world events, depicted in tiny discs, have been held in our hands. And, let’s not forget the romantic aspects of coin collecting. For instance, what king or celebrity once spent that coin which you now hold in your hand? Was that 19th century gold coin ever part of a pirate’s treasure? Other interesting questions come to mind as we lovingly ponder these magnificent metallic discs. If only they could speak to us.

moderncoinsAs you can see, it is not too difficult to understand the fascination we coin collectors have with this king of hobbies. We are able to place history right in the palm of our hand. We take an imaginary journey to far-off lands. We’re encouraged to learn more about the subject matter that is portrayed on the coin. In short, we’re driven not only to collect and inquire but to learn much more as well.

This brings us to the realization that we are born with any inherited faculties, adeptness or special knowledge of coin collecting. We must start somewhere and that happens to be at the beginning. If you have followed these Collecting 101 columns from their inception, you have read about the “language” of coins, or the terminology of the hobby. We have also discussed grading, methods of acquiring coins and the fun of belonging and participating in coin clubs. We’ve also discuss coin shows and auctions. There is still much more to come.

What this column will not tell you is what you should collect. My advice is to never pose that question to anyone. You must decide on your own to collect whatever it is that interests and fascinates you. What I will try to impart will be helpful hints and the experience that one accrues from having been in this hobby for seven decades now. I began collecting coins way back in 1954. My first purchase was an uncirculated set of 1954 Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco Lincoln cents that cost one dollar in the first-floor coin department of Gimbel Brothers department store in downtown Philadelphia. As you can see, they have not advanced in monetary value today. But the sentimental value of those coins is still present as I ponder on those so-called good old days. Maybe we’ll do some reminiscing down the road about earlier times.

Back then we had no coin publications such as Coin World, Canadian Coin News to enlighten and inform us. The only mass marketed coin publication was the venerable Numismatic Scrapbook Magazine which appeared monthly and consisted primarily of advertisements. There was not much available in the way of how-to collect books back then for the embryonic collector. Today we are blessed with a multitude of publications and books from which to learn, not to mention the internet and sites such as CoinWeek with literally thousands of articles covering all areas of numismatics.

Collecting 101 will attempt to provide insight and helpful pointers. If you are already an established collector I would ask that you consider mentoring a new collector, young or old, with these tidbits.

Fundamentally speaking, collect what you would like to collect or “whatever floats your boat” as I am fond of saying. The one thing I will suggest is that you learn about coin collecting before rushing out to buy a whole slew of coins. A small numismatic library is strongly suggested. The first acquisition should be The Charlton Standard Catalogue of Canadian Coins. It is now published in two sections each year. The first volume deals with circulating coinage while the second volume is concerned with collector products that emanate from the mint.

There are three key letters in the word “fundamentals”. That’s right – fun. One thing to remember is that the hobby is designed for enjoyment; not for speculation or investment. It is not an “industry”; it’s a hobby.

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