Getting started in numismatics

Young or old, affluent or not, all sorts of people find coin collecting an accessible hobby. Many famous collectors started as children or young adults, and this is also the kind of hobby and vocation that gets passed to generations within families and shared with friends. Because studying numismatics also involves learning about history, politics, art and much more, this hobby has educational value. Of course, coin collectors also find this hobby exciting and sometimes, profitable. The first step for novice coin collectors usually includes learning the language of coin collecting. Special terms describe a coin's condition, type and appearance. Mastery of basic terms opens the door to gaining more knowledge.


collectionStart Your Collection

Learning coin terminology and acquiring basic collecting knowledge are important first steps for those entering the numismatic hobby.




historyCoin History

From the U.S. Mint’s first facilities, to the discovery of the Saddle Ridge Hoard, read about the historical places, people and events that have shaped numismatics.




metalsPrecious Metals

Bullion investing and coin collecting go hand in hand. Learn all about the basics of investing and the many different bullion coins available.




coinsKnow Your U.S. Coins

What’s so special about the Morgan dollar? How many different types of Lincoln cents have there been? Get familiar with all U.S. coins, past and present.



Making coins come alive

The very first American colonists had little need for coins in the wilderness. They bartered with trade goods, Native American wampumand tobacco. As civilization grew, the British did not always give the Americans permission to mint their own coins, but the colonists found alternative sources of coins and on occasion, struck coins without royal authority. For example, the Massachusetts Bay Colony set up its own mint in Boston in 1652 during a period when England lacked a king and continued striking 1652-dated silver coins for decades. Thus, early examples of U.S. Colonial coins were born. In April of 1792, the U.S. Mint was established in Philadelphia, the nation's capital at the time.

Numismatics, the studying of coins, and the collecting of coins both stand apart from investing in coins for their bullion value. Still, the bullion value of most collectible coins still needs to get considered. Even today, the U.S. Mint and mints of other nations’ produce bullion coins that are different from regular coins intended for currency. Through much of history, coins derived most of their value from their metal content. While people used coins as currency for thousands of years, the practice might have been closer to trading small bits of copper, silver, gold and other precious metals. However, as gold and silver rose in value, the intrinsic worth of the precious metals in the coins began to exceed their face value. In the U.S., for example, the replacement of 90 percent silver coins with base metal coins began in 1965.

Learning about U.S. coins means learning about the history of the country. Very often, decisions about a coin's content, value and design were made because of political, economic or social events of the time that they were minted. In some cases, political figures or mint executives even made decisions because of favoritism, nepotism or personal competitions — and learning these details makes old coins come alive.


Numismatics and coins: Stay updated with news about coins

When it comes to coin collecting or the science of numismatics, the discipline extends far beyond merely valuing coins for the intrinsic value of base or precious metals that they contain. People who collect coins usually also learn about economics, history, politics, art and even the personal relationships of people during the time when a particular coin was first designed and struck. Successful collectors keep up with news about coins, and that is exactly what this resource about coins here on Coin World provides. The value of numismatic, or collectible, coins usually exceeds the mere value of whatever base or precious metal that they contain. Rather than simply collecting coins for their precious metal content, numismatists value coins because of their beauty, historical significance, and/or rarity. Of course, a good number of collectible coins also contain precious metals, commonly silver or gold, and this only adds to the coin's value.

Collecting coins as an investment in bullion has probably been in existence since the first ancient civilizations figured out how to hammer rough tokens out of bronze, copper, iron, silver, gold and other metals. Historians believe the first bullion coins used as a standard currency came from ancient Lydia (in modern Turkey), but even more significant to coin collectors, they believe that the value of certain coins departed from the bullion value fairly early, and so it is possible that the hobby of viewing coins as collectibles was born thousands of years ago.

The fact that coin collecting is probably an ancient hobby is good news for contemporary collectors because it means that many ancient specimens survive. This is similar to knowing that some specimens of more recent historical coins probably survived because coin collecting increased in popularity at certain points in history. For example, coin folders were introduced in the United States in the 1930s, and this is believed to have helped preserve many U.S. coins from the late 1800s and early 1900s during the Great Depression and World War II — a time when many coins were melted.

In any case, coin collecting as a hobby appeals to people of all different generations and economic classes. While many kings, captains of industry, U.S. presidents and even sports figures and other celebrities have enjoyed numismatics as a hobby and source of profit, the hobby is still accessible to young and old people without great fortunes at their command. When it comes to coin collecting, the most valuable currency is knowledge, so stay tuned to Coin World for constant updates.


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