The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide To Coin Collection

The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide To Coin Collection

Coin collection is one of the most popular hobbies in the world today, even though it has been around for centuries. 

Over the past few hundred years, modern people have been discovering the joys of coin collecting and famous faces (such as, the Roman Emperor Augustus, Jack Black, Louis XIV and more) have also jumped on the bandwagon. 

The great thing about coin collection is that it can be enjoyed by people from all walks of life. Whether you are young, old, a girl or a guy, fit or unfit, chances are you will discover the joys that this hobby can bring you if you give it a try. 

This ultimate beginner’s guide to coin collection will discuss everything you need to know to get started off with this fun pastime! 

How did coin collection start?

How did coin collection start

You will be amazed to know that coin collecting started several centuries ago in ancient Greece. In fact, it dates back to the early 12th century where the first records of coin collecting exist. It started to become very mainstream in this region when people would give special coins to friends and loved ones as gifts. 

In Italy, coin collecting also gained traction around the same time when the Pope (Boniface VIII at the time) made it known that he loved collecting coins. The famous Italian philosopher, poet and thinker, Petrarch was also responsible for making coin collection popular and he would often talk and write about his coin findings. 

In ancient times, coins were very elaborate and the designs extremely interesting. Many of the contained popular etchings of the time, as well as intricate visual references to important events and objects. 

A few hundred years after coin collecting first began in ancient Greece and Italy, European royalty would often take it up as a hobby. It was not uncommon for queens and kings to hire agents to scour the globe to find them the best and most beautiful coins around. It soon become a roaring trade and became even more popular, even in the most far-flung regions of the world. 

Many of these coins still remain today and people around the globe now enjoy practicing this relaxing hobby and love tracing the origins of their coins. 

Coin collection is also called numismatics and you will find that there are millions of coin collectors in the world today. There are thousands of coin collecting clubs, events and online forums that new coin collectors can join. 

Why take up coin collecting?

Why take up coin collecting

There are countless reasons why coin collecting can become a thoroughly enjoyable hobby for you. However, if you chat to any coin collector, they will tell you that it is so much more than just a pastime. 

In addition to being an enjoyable way of spending your time, coin collecting can offer great financial rewards, especially if you take care to look at the value of your coins and you focus on collecting rare and coveted coins. 

Of course, making money is not the primary reason that folks love to collect coins. Most avid coin collectors love simply holding their coins in their hands and admiring their beautiful designs, the satisfying weight of the metal (gold, silver, etc) and reveling in the amazing history of their coins. These factors alone should be plenty of motivation for starting your coin collecting career. 

Coin collectors (or numismatics, as they are also known) love to find out more about the coins they own and treasuring them as special items. 

Let’s take a look at the main reasons you would want to take up coin collecting: 

1) It doesn’t cost much to get started. 

As surprising as this may sound, starting a coin collecting hobby is not that expensive at all. There are no special items or kits required and you can start it from the comfort of your own couch. 

If you would like to start collecting rare and expensive coins, obviously this will be a little expensive, but if you are a beginner, there is no reason to have to spend a fortune to get started. 

You can easily start your coin collecting by gathering together some interesting and different coins at very reasonable prices.  For example, if you are interested in ancient Roman coins, you can buy a few for a very cost-effective amount. 

Many people choose to focus on a specific type of coin. For example, some folks enjoy collecting 2p coins and the benefit of focusing on a particular coin is that while there is consistency, you can still enjoy the wide range of coins in the same denomination. 

2) You will learn a lot about the world.

Even if your coin collecting is done in the comfort of your own home, you will likely learn a lot about the world around you. 

Each coin that you collect contains a wealth of information about a wide variety of subjects. With a bit of research, you will learn all about the particular history of the coin you are collecting, what important events occurred at the time and who the most notable figures during that time were. 

3) History buffs love coin collecting. 

Are you a history buff? If so, you will love the amazing history that each coin offers and this will bring a whole new dimension to your history enjoyment. 

4) It’s very exciting. 

Coin collecting can be very exciting, especially if you are on the lookout for a complete set of coins. Many coin collectors put a lot of effort and research into finding individual coins to have a complete collection. 

When you set yourself goals in coin collecting, it is very rewarding when you finally achieve your goal and acquire the coins you have been searching for. 

How do I start coin collecting?

How do I start coin collecting

It can be difficult to know where to start your coin collecting career. However, if you consider that you probably have at least a handful of coins in your wallet or home already, you are already a coin collector! 

Some people were given commemorative coins as gifts during the lives, while others still have a handful of foreign coins from vacations abroad or travels. 

This is where you would begin your coin collecting career! 

The next step would be to think about which kinds of coins you like the most and if you would like to collect them. 

Many people simply decide to collect coins that relate to a period in history that they love learning more about. For example, if you’re very interested in World War II, you would naturally want to collect coins from that period. 

If you are not too fussed about a particular period in history, you might like to collect commemorative coins from special historic events. 

At the end of the day, it is entirely up to you how you decide to start your coin collection and the most important thing to remember is to have fun doing so.

We recommend buying a coin collection folder to keep all your coins neatly displayed in one place. These are available at coin collector’s fairs, as well as on major online shopping portals. They are also not too expensive. 

Some coin collectors like to keep their coins in special folders that have been organized according to year and type. If you would like to organize your coins in a very specific way, why not take a look at the Royal Mint’s range of coin collector’s folders and albums? 

When you start looking for coins is up to you but there is not time like the present so start today! A great way to begin is to join a local coin collector club in your community. If you are unable to do this, there are hundreds of coin collector groups on Facebook, where you can network with other coin collectors, share information and learn some valuable tips. 

Most coin collectors on these groups would be more than happy to give you advice and help you along, so don’t be shy to ask questions or ask for help! 

It is also a good idea to always be on the lookout for new and interesting coins as the best ones always come at the most unexpected times. 

Coin collecting basics. 

In this beginner’s guide to coin collecting, we will also cover some of the basics to this fun hobby. 

Before you start, it is advisable to become familiar with some of the most common coin collecting terms. There is a lot of information out there that explains the most common terms but the following is a succinct summary of each term:

Commemorative coins.

These kinds of coins are normally minted and distributed to celebrate a specific historic event. Sometimes, commemorative coins are made to mark the birth of someone special (usually royalty) or to memorialize a special person once they have passed away. 

Proof coins.

Proof coins are also coins that have been made (or minted, which is the correct term for manufacturing coins) for a special occasion. Very often proof coins are limited edition coins and feature unique properties and are very popular coins to collect.

Bullion coins.

Bullion coins are very often worth a lot of money was they have been minted using precious metals, including gold, silver, platinum and palladium. Generally speaking, you can’t use a bullion coin as form of payment but there worth a lot of money as a collectible coin. 

Error coins

Error coins, as their name suggests, are minted in error. Error coins can be any kind of coin. 

Business strikes.

These are the most common types of coins and are coins that are in circulation as forms of payment. If you are starting out as a coin collector, most of your coins will probably be business strikes. 

What are the various parts of a coin? 

If you want to start coin collecting, it is important to understand the various parts of a coin. 

A coin obviously has 2 sides: one is the head and the other the tail. The head is sometimes called the obverse side and the tail end can be called the reverse. 

Many coins have a bust image of an important figure on the head, as well as information such as the year it was minted. On the tail side, you will see details around the value of the coin. 

The area surrounding the coin is known as the rim. It is a slightly raised surface that can be felt on the head and the tail side. 

The legend of a coin is the inscription (or the lettering) that refers to the coin’s country of origin and its value. 

A coin’s field is the flat surface that acts as the background for inscriptions, bust, etc. 

Coin collecting ideas and themes.

Coin collecting ideas and themes.

Many coin collectors like to specialize in a certain area. There are various themes and ideas that you could get involved in and the following are a few great examples to consider: 

International Coins.

In addition to collecting coins from your own country, why not start an international collection for more variety? You would be interested to see the different languages and designs on international coins, as well as their differing styles. For example, some foreign coins have holes in them. 

Coins with important historical importance. 

If you are a lover of all things history, you may love collecting historically significant coins. In this case, you may want to specialize in a specific era, such as the Victorian era or the Tudor times. 

Ancient Coins.

Ancient coins are incredibly interesting and people are often fascinated at how an ancient coin has survived century after century. Many ancient coins were handmade, making them even more special and collectible. 

The most commonly collected ancient coins are from ancient Greece and ancient Italy. 

Type Sets and Series.

Typesets and series involve collecting coins for a specific historical period. Some coin collectors like coins from a specific year and aim to collect a wide range of coins in this category. Other ways that you could collect would be to look at specific designs or denominations and then collect coins accordingly.  

Composition Coins.

Coins come in a wide range of compositions. In addition to copper, you might want to consider collecting coins in each major metal category, i.e. silver, gold, platinum, etc. Collecting coins according to their metal composition is very popular and it is rewarding to see groups of coins with the same metal. 

Mint Marks.

Every coin type has its own, unique mint mark. This refers to an extension in the mint year for that coin and it can be interesting to see the variations. 

Coins by Year.

Another very popular way of basing your coin collecting is to focus on they year the coin was made. Sometimes, people collect coins around a specific event. For example, a coin collector might collect coins from a number of countries that commemorated Queen Elizabeth’s coronation. 

A good idea also is to collect coins from the year you or a loved one were born, or the year you got married: whatever you find special! 

Error Coins.

Such coins have mistakes in the minting process but these errors can actually work in your advantage and are extremely valuable in the coin collecting world. 

The coin collection process.

The coin collection process.

Once you have a few coins and a coin folder, you are ready to begin! Let’s take a look at how coin collecting works:

Baby steps. 

Don’t be dismayed if you don’t make huge amounts of progress when you first start coin collecting. The key is to start small and to look for coins that you already have. 

Take a look in your wallet and in places you normally keep old coins, loose change and foreign currency. You would be surprised at how many great coins you already have and you will be motivated to take it one step further. 

View this as an opportunity to learn more about coins: look at the most distinctive features and try and point out any peculiarities to yourself. 

Being an expert coin collector will take time, patience, a lot of learning and loads of enthusiasm. It will take time to build your collection and learn more about the process so try and enjoy every step along the way!

Specialize in coins you love. 

If you are still at a loss as to what kinds of coins you should start collecting, think about what you love most in life. Is it history, is there a specific year that is important to you or do you simply like a specific design? Answering these questions will help you to decide in which direction you should be headed. 

Some of the most commonly collected coins include those from ancient Rome and Greece, Civil War themed coins, Byzantine coins and old US coins. 

Make sure you handle your coins correctly and store them safely.

Even though coins are, on the whole, hardy and durable, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take care of them. Old coins especially are prone to damage and scuffing so be sure to handle them gently and store them in your coin folder when not in use. 

Coins that show signs of damage or are scuffed are generally less valuable than coins in a better condition. 

Maintain your coins.

Your coins should be neatly organized and stored safely away, In addition, they need to be maintained and do well with regular and very gentle polishing with a soft, microfiber cloth. 

Be aware that old coins can be vulnerable to nicks and scuffs and gentleness is always very important when cleaning and polishing your coins.

Buy your coins for the sheer pleasure of it and not to show off. 

A common mistake with rookie coin collectors is that they sometimes buy coins simply to show off or to impress. This is not the goal of coin collecting at all and you should be collecting coins because you love them, not because you want to others to think that you’re amazing. 

Think carefully before investing in a specific coin and consider if it would fit into your current collection well. Coin purchases should never be done on the fly and you should definitely not be purchasing every single coin that you can. 

Over time, your coin collection is likely to appreciate with value but it is not the monetary value that is most important, it is how much pleasure you derive from the process. 

Remember that fellow coin collectors also do the hobby for the sheer pleasure of it and if you are in doubt, rather ask the advice of a coin collecting expert, than make a hasty and poor decision. 

Read coin collecting material.

The more you learn about coin collecting, the more you know about coins and the more you will enjoy the pastime. 

We recommend reading books and magazines about coin collecting as these contain a wealth of interesting and useful information for beginners. In addition, there are countless coin collecting forums that you can join where you can also pick up useful advice and tips. 

Alternatively, there are many coin collecting websites and blogs and it will all depend on how much time you have to devote to learning more about coin collecting. 

Some coin collectors subscribe to coin collecting magazines, while others read as many books as they can on the subject.

Whichever medium you choose to learn more about coin collecting, remember that the learning process should be ongoing. There is so much information out there about coin collecting and it is impossible to know everything, but you can definitely make a start by reading a few books. 

Consider joining a coin collecting club.

If you really want to take your coin collecting to the next level, you should definitely consider joining a coin collecting club in your area. 

Coin collecting is a very popular hobby and, as such, there are clubs throughout the world, celebrating this specialty. 

Joining a club has the advantage that you can network directly with other, likeminded coin collectors. You can pick up some very useful information and as all the questions you’ve been meaning to ask about coin collecting. 

In addition, you will be presented with opportunities to buy and sell coins and to simply enjoy the learning process. Many coin collecting clubs offer lessons for beginners and also offer regular talks by coin collecting experts, so it is definitely worth joining one in your area. 

If your area doesn’t have a good coin collecting club, another option is to join an online club. A simply Google search will show you that there are many such clubs throughout the world. 

Go to coin collecting shows, exhibitions and specialist shops. 

These days, a lot of coin purchases and sales are made online. However, there is only so much that an online coin collecting experience can give you. If you are interested in delving much deeper into the coin collecting area, regularly attending coin collecting shows, exhibits and visiting local coin shops can really bring you a lot of pleasure and teach you a lot. 

Here, you will be exposed to a wide range of different coins and you will have the opportunity to chat with other coin collectors. 

Antique fairs also often have coin booths and they also often feature guest speakers in the area of coin collecting. 

Keep up to date with the latest happenings in the coin collecting world.

Despite what many people think, coin collecting is actually quite a dynamic and fast-moving hobby. The most common element that changes frequently in coin collecting is the market value of specific coins. 

It can be very interesting following the market prices of coins you are interested in and you can do this by going to a coin club often or consulting magazines or websites. 

There are also often new coins being minted to celebrate historic events and it is important to learn about these if you want to be at the forefront of coin collecting. 

How are coins valued and graded?

Coin collectors and experts use a certain tool to help them to value coins. This is known as the Sheldon Scale. It begins with a minimum value of 1 and can go up to 70. The higher your coin is valued, the higher price you will be able to fetch. 

Coin shops and antique dealers use the Sheldon Scale as well and this involves the mint year, condition of the coin, how rare the coin is, the metal type, any interesting or special features and inscriptions. 

Your coin could fetch a high rating on the Sheldon Scale if it is in a very good condition. Points are deducted if some of the inscriptions are no longer legible, if the tone of the metal has deteriorated and if it shows signs of damage or wear. 

The Sheldon Scale should be a good enough reason to always keep your coins protected and safely packed away in a special coin collecting folder. 


Coin collecting is a wonderful hobby and you don’t have to be particularly fit, intelligent or unique to join in the fun. 

If you find that your life has been particularly stressful lately, coin collecting can be a very effective way of helping you to relax and remember what the important things in life are. 

We hope that this beginner’s guide to coin collection has given you some insight into this great pastime. Remember that you can start immediately so gather up all those old coins in your drawer! 

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Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.
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