Coin collection is perhaps among the oldest practiced hobbies in the world and is popular among both old and young alike. It has also been termed as ‘hobby of Kings’.
The origin of this hobby dates back to the Renaissance period and Petrarch is credited as the first renowned coin collector of the time. Coins are collected for rarity, beauty, depictions as well as the metal of which they are made. Coins reflect the socio economic as well as the political conditions of the era from where they come from. For instance in history during the reign of different rulers, they popularized coins bearing their face, or marks of their religious beliefs. Collectors consider these factors as they go about their collection. Some collectors also look for error coins. Some collectors study the history behind coins with great interest. Also the study of coins has emerged as an academic discipline. The study is termed as’ Numismatics’. Coin collectors or dealers are often called Numismatists. The motivation for coin collection may be pure fun or professional or academic interest.
Coin collectors, who collect ancient coins based on historical significance, select their collectibles based on the historical backdrop of its manufacture rather than its beauty. They often refine their preferences by eyeing coins made during the reign of a particular ruler. Some of the coins prized by collectors are Greek, Celtic, Roman, Israelite, Ostrogothic etc
Some coin collectors collect coins based on the place of their origin. The simplest approach towards forming such a collection is to collect a coin bearing every year and the mint mark from an assortment of coins that were issued during an era. Some collections are truly an uncommon combination mint mark, date and type. Collectors usually have an exhaustive set of special coins from their own motherland. Louis Eliasberg is a renowned coin hoarder who has collected the complete set of coins of United States.
Some collectors collect coins from various parts of the globe. They are explorers at heart who collect coins from every country possible, perhaps to somehow gain the satisfaction of globetrotting.
There are other coin collectors who collect error coins that have some deformation or fault that have rendered them useless in trade but definitely not valueless. These coins are mainly man-made coins from the 19th century. They are distinguishable from machine made coins. The types of error coins maybe off-metal coins, clipped coins, double strike coins, displaced coins, etc. Some error coins have different denominations on either side. They are called ‘mules’.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, coin collection was an undertaking of the affluent class of the society. With time, the sophisticated and at the same time simple charm of coin collection has popularity among the middle class.
In the collection of coins, another deciding factor is the state of the coins, though there are exceptions to this. Some systems effectively grade coins according to their state. The grading of coin is a process that involves analysis of various factors such as the rarity of coins, quality, interest factor and the liquidity factor. While an older system qualitatively graded coins ranging from ‘poor’ to ‘uncirculated’, a newer system grades coins on a scale of 0-70. The coins in the range 70 are considered flawless. The American Numismatic Association is one such organization which grades coins according to this new system.
Coins are graded and then enclosed in plastic containers bearing labels. This process is termed as ‘coin slabbing’. Professional grading has notably diminished the problems of counterfeit coins finding way into the market. Numismatic Guarantee Corporation and Professional Coin Grading Service are two reputable grading systems. However many controversies remain over the grading of coins as different organizations grade a coin differently depending on the opinion which may vary from that of another organization grading the same coin. It is not unusual to find a coin collector who submits the same coin for gradation again in order to get a higher grade than in the previous assessment.
Coin collecting as a hobby can often encourage healthy competition. In the first international convention of coin collectors from across the globe held in Michigan in 1962, organized by the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association and the American Numismatic association, the response was favourably impressive as over 40000 people participated in the meet.
Coin hoarders are sometimes investors working toward a long term profit. Sometimes they are just working to increase their collection and pass on the hobby to the next generation.