Coin Collecting: Know Everything About the Hobby of Kings!

Coin collecting ranks among the world's top hobbies. It is the first hobby that comes to the mind of teachers who are giving ideas for students on writing an essay on 'Hobbies'. Such a popular hobby apparently does not require any explanation. But do you really know how vast this hobby can be?
Coin collecting is not known as the 'Hobby of Kings' for no reason. Historically, the hobby was started by the early Romans right at the time the coins were first invented. But common people could never pursue the hobby as the nobility and the regality could. The elite people of the community had all the resources needed to collect the kinds of coins they wanted. That is why coin collecting became concentrated in the hands of the rich people of society with time, money, and other kinds of resources at their disposal.

It can be said that the first true coin collector of the world was the famous Italian, Petrarch. He lived in the 14th century, and was a great scholar and poet. Other notable coin collectors who are famous in history are King Farouk of Egypt, Louis the XIV of France, Emperor Maximilian, and more recently, Louis Eliasberg who had a whole set of all American coins ever minted, till the time he was alive. In fact, he was the only person to have such a set.

This article deals with some common aspects of the hobby of coin collecting, things that an avid coin collector would want to know.

Is Coin Collecting the Same as Numismatics?

Most coin collectors confuse themselves between the terms 'coin collecting' and 'numismatics'. But these two are quite different, though they are related by concept. Coin collecting refers to the act of collecting coins, while numismatics is the study of coins. A coin collector will want to add different coins to his or her collection for various reasons, but not necessarily for studying them. A numismatist, on the other hand, will look at coins only from one point of view―for studying about them. Also, the study done by a numismatist will not necessarily be restricted to the coin. In some cases, the study of a numismatist will go beyond the coin itself, and border on other aspects, such as the history and geography of when and where it was minted, etc. In short, a coin collector and a numismatist are different people, but each can fit in with the definition of the other depending on the way they are treating their coins.

Are All Coin Collectors One and the Same?

No. Coin collectors can be of many different types depending on what the focus of their collection hobby is. The following are some of the different types of coin collectors.
  • Completists―Completists are collectors who want to complete a set. For example, a person who wants all the coins minted in 1965 in France would be termed as a completist. The completist will choose for him- or herself what they want to complete.
  • Year Collectors―The name suggests the meaning. These coin collectors look for coins of a particular year. They may select coins of their own country or of foreign countries too, but they will want coins to be from the year they have chosen. Some people choose a significant year of their lives, such as all coins minted in their country in the year of their birth.
  • Country Collectors―Again, the name is suggestive. Some people focus on collecting coins of a particular country, preferably their own. There are also people who want to collect only foreign coins, and also people who collect coins of all countries of the globe.
  • Theme Collectors―These are a rare type of coin collectors. They will collect coins centered on a particular theme. One example could be collecting coins featuring comic book characters on them.
  • Precious Coin Collectors―These are the most elite type of coin collectors. Ordinary coins do not interest them. They collect coins for some value, probably due to a fault in them, or some historical significance associated with them.
Why Do People Collect Coins?

There are many reasons why people collect coins. Collecting coins for a hobby is, of course, the prime reason. But then, true hobbyists are those who collect coins only for collecting sake, and do not use them for any other purpose.

There are people, however, who collect coins as an investment. These people will buy coins at a particular sum and then sell them over to other collectors at a profit. There are people who collect coins on their trips abroad and sell them back home to collectors at good prices. Also, some people procure rare coins and then auction them at very high prices. This category also includes people who have inherited a coin collection, but do not want to pursue the hobby.

Numismatists collect coins for an entirely different reason. They study coins, and several times study details pertaining to the coins, such as place of minting, the historical relevance of the coin, etc. In schools, teachers insist students collect coins as it is regarded as a very good method of improving knowledge of the countries of the world and their currencies.

What Do Coin Collectors Look For?

Coin collectors look for certain things when acquiring coins for their collection. The first and most important thing in their opinion is the physical condition of the coin. Coins that are in excellent condition are called 'mint condition' coins. In fact, there's a scale for judging the condition of the coins. This scale is known as the Sheldon Scale and is developed by the American Numismatic Association. This scale rates the physical condition of coin on a scale from 1 to 70, with 70 being mint condition.

The value of a coin is enhanced when the coin has something special about it. For example, coins that had a fault with them, coins that had some rare motif on them, or coins that were in circulation for a very short time have more value. There have been instances when extremely rare coins have been sold for millions of dollars, in secret deals. It is evident that the coin investors are always on the lookout for such coins.

Sometimes coin collectors are looking for personal value in a coin. For example, a completist collector might want only one coin to complete a set. Such a collector would not mind paying several times the value of the coin to acquire it and to complete the set.