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Criteria for Collecting Coins

One of the most enjoyable aspects of collecting coins is specialising in a certain period or era of interest. Most coin collections start as an all-encompassing collection from many periods and countries. This is an excellent way to build a collection and build experience. Many collectors, however, reach a point where they want to build a more specific and coherent collection. For this reason, they specialise and chose coins to collect based on criteria. These criteria can depend on the collector’s interests, budget, location and level of knowledge. In this article, I will try to write a concise and helpful guide to choosing criteria for coin collecting and provide examples.

One first general criterion for a coin collector is to collect by country and many collectors choose to collect coins from their own country. In this way, they can establish an intimate link with their history and that of their ancestors, or learn about other countries, whilst enjoying the challenge of collecting a substantial amount of the country’s coinage. This criterion is quite broad however and many collectors prefer an even more specific mandate for their collection. Some focus on a broader historical period from the country’s history (e.g. British decimal coinage, Greek coinage from the period of the monarchy or French 3rd republic coinage). This approach can also be based on ruling authority, with a collector focusing on a specific monarch or president.

Another useful criterion is the age of coins. Some collectors prefer to build a collection with a variety of countries from the same era. An excellent example would be a collector of Latin Monetary Union coins. The Latin Monetary Union (19th and early 20th century) was a union of mostly European countries (France, Italy, the Vatican, Greece etc) with common denominations of coin, making trade easier (for example a 20 Drachma from Greece had the same gold content as a French 20 Franc coin). As such, a collector could enjoy a variety of countries while limiting the collection to a specific period of time.

Collectors can also collect coins based on other more unusual criteria such as the metal used, special features, for example, holed coins, or distinguish between commemorative and circulating coinage. A common criterion is the denomination of a coin (e.g. collecting just pennies or just shilling coins). One of the most common tactics is to combine criteria to fine tune a collection to the collector’s exact interests and budget.

Last, but, by no means least, there is a form of collection popular with stamp collectors which can be applied to coins. This is collecting coins by theme, for example collecting coinage featuring wildlife or coats of arms.

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