Originally published on August 16, 2013 For the next few weeks, lets rewind a bit and get back to basics. Many clients come to see us who would like to start a collection but are unsure how to go about it. Doing a little homework and planning beforehand will go a long way to make sure you get the most enjoyment out of collecting, and get the best value for your limited collecting budget.
The biggest problem most collectors (beginners or advanced) face is that they do not know what to collect. Numismatics is a very vast field, and there are many ways to go about things. Here is a tiny example of areas you could focus a collection on…Canadian Coins (many will focus on one denomination, pennies, nickels, etc), Canadian Tokens (this is a huge area on its own), Canadian Paper Money (Government, and private bank issues, or merchant script…), other specific countries, ancient coins (Roman, Greek, Byzantine). People can also focus on a topic. For example some collect coins from the various Olympics (this is a fun one), or coins with trains on them, or coins issued by famous historic figures like Napoleon. Some of our customers only like to collect gold coins, and get one from each country. We even have a few very brave souls who try to get one of every coin type (design…not date), from every country on the world!
Here is my suggestion based on decades of collecting coins…do not try to collect everything. This will be fun for the first week, and then lead you to a boring unfocused, and meaningless accumulation of coins. The best way to get started is much the same way you might plan a trip overseas…do a bit of research before you fly. Firstly, how much are you willing to spend on your hobby? If your resources are limited, this will also limit what you can collect. Secondly, what do you like? Perhaps you have an interest in the country your parents came from, or you remember a jar of coins from your youth, or a certain period in history appeals to you, or new coins from 2011 is where you want to start…
Next, once you have an idea or two of what you like…do not buy any coins! First buy a book on the subject you are interested in…..and READ IT. This is a very important step, because it will help you make a checklist of what will be in your collection when it is finished (some collections never get completed…but that is the fun of the hunt), and lets you know what is a fair price to pay for the coins you will be looking for. Where do you get these books? Coin shops (like ours!), local books stores, or even online. When you get your references, make sure they are the most recent editions. Old coin books often contain old information which (especially for pricing) may not be correct.
Regardless of what you decide to collect, always buy the best quality you can afford. Very few people enjoy looking at damaged, cleaned, or heavily worn coins. There is a reason these will be much cheaper than the good quality stuff, and they will likely be only worth the same (and is a lot of cases much less) if one day you decide to sell them. The reason for this is that in the case of older coins (before 1940), very few were saved brand new, and stored by collectors. Many however exist (as most people do not throw away money) in not saved condition…circulated. Therefore collectors are always competing to get the best examples, and there are rarely enough to go around. By owning great looking items, you will both enjoy your collection more, and have little problem when it come time to sell.
So now you have decided on an area you like, purchased a reference or two on the subject, read them cover to cover, poked around online to see what is available, and made a preliminary checklist of what your ideal collection will look like. Time to go shopping right? WRONG! There is more to do… Wait for our write up next week in Part 2.
Michael Joffre is owner of Carsley Whetstone & Company Inc. a firm that buys and sells rare coins and related collectables. He is always interested in buying older coin collections. CWC also carries a full line of books and collecting supplies, available in stock in their retail store. Michael can be reached at 514-289-9761, or at email@example.com.