When it comes to coin collecting, every investor will have their own personal set of motivations and reasons for investing. Not every coin collector is a numismatic, (someone who studies coins from a historical, social, or artistic point of view) but they will all have their own set of criteria that determine which coins they wish to invest in.
The motives of a coin collector can vary from being a hobby, for sentimental value or as an investment. The type of coins purchased will differ for each of these types of collectors.
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Many numismatists don’t necessarily understand the philosophy of numismatics when they start out. They simply start out by default as a collector. During this period, which often starts at school for many, they come into contact with other collectors and compatriots who are at best interested in the field as a hobby. At this stage, they start trading coins, giving away their duplicate coins in exchange for other coins which they perceive as adding value to their collection. Many understand that their coins may have a certain value at this point in time, as they start to sell off their duplicates and manage to get a fair price for it. Enthused by a monetary angle, in addition to their passion for coins, they start to take numismatics more seriously. For many such numismatists, they start to attend major numismatic events across the country from their late teens to their twenties, gathering knowledge and expertise on the subject of coins.
For those who manage to keep their passion alive through their work lives, they will start formulating their own investment strategies. Through their vast network of contacts, they are able to now source coins of value, as well as identify these gems with a seasoned eye. These numismatists soon start to view precious metal coins as a preferred class of gold investment. Numismatists appear to prefer bullion coins instead of bullion bars, simply due to their passion for coins and banknotes. For some, their passion, in fact, becomes their work, and they align themselves with big-ticket coin dealers and play the dual role of buyer for some and supplier to others.
Many numismatists start to focus on certain areas of collecting, specialise in these areas and are soon well known for their expertise. For example, many specialise in old coins prior to 1838, often known in numismatic circles as ‘Early Date Gold’. These are typically British and American gold coins which are full of history and are highly sought after by investors and collectors alike. The pre-1838 ones and the pre-1800 ones are difficult to come by and command great value. Of course, apart from the monetary value, there is great joy and satisfaction to be had in the heart of a numismatist when he/she can make a rare ‘find’.
Then there are ‘key date’ coins, based on mintages around certain key historical dates, like the fall of the Berlin Wall, Man on the moon, etc. The key date is represented in the mintmark on the coin. Numismatists often collect key date coins years in advance as part of a set building strategy. Then they play a waiting game for the specific event to gain historic importance. They also capitalise on the scarcity of the coins from these dates as it slowly builds up. A simple example could be the 50p coins that were circulated in the UK to commemorate the London Olympics. At the time, everyone had them, but as the years went by, they have now grown scarcer and are worth a fair bit of money today.
Coins that are issued to celebrate a special key date are often known as commemorative coins. A good example from recent times would be the Brexit coin. This commemorative coin is minted in silver as a proof coin by the Royal Mint and marks the date of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union in 2020. The coin was struck using silver with a purity of 92.5% and had a limited mintage of only 47,000. Since the coin has already been sold out, its value is likely to escalate in the future, as demand for the commemorative coin rises.
Commemorative coins of even greater value can be found within British coinage of the 18th and 19th centuries. For example, the Queen Victoria Jubilee head is a commemorative coin issued in 1887 to celebrate the Queens. Golden Jubilee. Its mintage lasted for only six years, and the coin was last struck in 1893. Similarly, the 1871 Queen Victoria young head Sovereign is also a commemorative coin that celebrates the inauguration of the Royal Albert Hall by the Queen in 1871. These older commemorative coins are now becoming scarce and collectors willing to pay hefty premiums for these commemorative coins in an unscathed, mint condition.
Other thematic specialisms developed by numismatists include collecting proof coinage of the American Civil War. These are hard to come by today and is a coveted area of coin study. Many numismatists who are good at sourcing and have great contacts collect ‘pedigree coins’, i.e. coins owned by someone famous, like a Hollywood film star, royalty, business tycoons, etc. The American gold rush is another historic area of interest for many collectors, as these coins are rare to come by. The San Francisco mint opened in 1854, during this period and many of the gold rush era coinage was struck at this mint.
Coins are bought by certain collectors because the commemorative event or the specific year they were produced may bare a nostalgic value to them. It may represent the year of marriage or birth or signify a specific event such as the Olympics or a sovereign’s anniversary. Most of the World’s commemorative coins were produced from the 1960s onward and have a distinct design with reference to the occasion on which they were issued. Collectors are often not concerned with the resale value it is just a coin that may mean something to them and that they just want to own. They tend to be expensive as they require a high cost of production and usually include a presentation box.
Hobby collectors may be interested in specific dates or releases, where a substantial premium will be added for their uniqueness or appeal. They may be purchasing to complete a set or just because they appreciate the coin for its beauty. Often hobby collectors buy proofs or sets of proofs that may come in a display pack of limited issue, these often have an additional premium which they will find difficult to recoup when they come to sell.
For other collectors, coins are very much an investment. These types of collectors look at coins primarily as a way of making money and hope to profit from particularly rare or hard-to-source coins. Often these investors will methodically research particular dates or mintmarks of rare coins in order to find some defining characteristic that makes them of value. Perhaps there weren’t many coins minted one year Or there may be a coin has a slight defect leftover from the minting process that makes it unique or of higher value.
Some investors also like to focus on a particular sub-category of coins such as Lincoln cents or Victorian sovereigns. This is partly because investors like to collect complete sets of coins and also because by narrowing their focus to concentrate on a particular area of coins, they can research them in far greater depth.
Some investors look at ancient or very rare coins that bare much larger premiums, up to 200% higher than its intrinsic gold value. The term ‘numismatic coin’ is given to those worth a substantial premium over their simple gold value due to rarity and history. These coins can be bought at auction or from specialist numismatic coin dealers.
Investing in rare and ancient coins is a much riskier investment as the coins are less liquid and their perceived value may be very different from their market value. We do not recommend investing in ancient or numismatic coins unless the purchaser has experience of this market and can afford to potentially wait some time for the right buyer. Gold coins minted pre-1800 and those sold at premiums that exceed 180% of the intrinsic gold value may also be subject to VAT, whereas newer coins (which meet certain criteria) are exempt. In the USA pre-1933 gold is extremely popular as it is non-reportable and non-confiscatable.
At Physical Gold, our team consists of highly experienced and capable numismatic experts who have great knowledge and experience in the field. Whether you are an amateur hobbyist or an intermediate level numismatist, you would surely gain by having a discussion with our team about your goals as an investor and a collector. Call us on 020 7060 9992 or drop us a line through our website. A member of our team will be in touch with you to have a friendly chat.
Daniel Fisher formed physical Gold in 2008, after working in the financial industry for 20 years. He spent much of that time working within the new issue fixed income business at a top tier US bank. In this role, he traded a large book of fixed income securities, raised capital for some of the largest government, financial, and corporate institutions in the world and advised the leading global institutional investors. Daniel is CeFA registered and is a member of the Institute of Financial Planning.