Curious About Starting a Silver Coin Collection? Consider These Limited Items

coin collecting

Curious About Starting a Silver Coin Collection? Consider These Limited Items

Collecting coins is one of the world’s oldest hobbies. Long before there was paper money, rulers, emperors, and kings had their noble visages stamped on precious metals like gold and silver. Scholars of ancient Roman history have long believed that Caesar Augustus (63 BC—14 AD), the first Roman Emperor, was an avid coin collector. According to the great Roman historian, Suetonius, the emperor often gave them as gifts to his friends and loved ones.

There is even archaeological evidence that suggests people have been collecting coins since at least the Roman era, and possibly even earlier! Coins may have been collected as far back as the 4th century BC. And since coins of that era were considered works of art, it stands to reason that some connoisseurs would have collected them.

Eminent collectors speculate that coin collecting most likely became a demotic hobby when Emperor Trajanus Decius (249-251 AD) had the Roman mint issue coins of all the Roman Emperors that came before him.  These coins inspired rulers of future generations to do the same. Most U.S. coins, for example, are based on the old Roman currency with the side profile of a president on the obverse, instead of an emperor.

During the 15th century, coin collecting became known as the “hobby of kings,” because many members of the European nobility enjoyed it.  These royal family members had the wealth and influence to purchase ancient coins from all over the world. Like most hobbies that involve collectibles, the rarer and older the item, the more people wanted it.  Coin collecting became so popular that great artists were commissioned to make replicas of famous ancient coins, which were then added to impressive personal collections.

Because of its popularity, forgeries were quite common. As a result, major collectors were forced to employ scholars who had studied the history of ancient coins and could spot a fake. This was when coin collecting became numismatics, a word that means the collection and/or study or coins.

By the 17th century, huge collections were assembled, studied, and cataloged. The former hobby soon became a respected academic pursuit and many of its top scholar published popular and influential books during this period.  Now called numismatics by most, the study of coins was considered a science.

With the decline of rigid class structures in Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries, more and more middle class and even lower class people took up coin collecting as a simple hobby. Others recognized that coins were a great investment opportunity, since their value seemed to always increase. Basic handbooks and coin guides were created for the non-academic novice during this time.

Modern Collecting

The internet has been a great boon to coin collectors everywhere as it has connected experienced numismatists with interested neophytes from all over the globe. Huge internet auction sites like eBay also make it easy for collectors to buy and sell coins. The only problem is that most people don’t know very much about collecting coins, which means they often make bad choices. If you are interested in starting a coin collection, there are several things you should know.

What to buy?

Just as in any new endeavor, the novice should never pretend to know more than he actually does. While it can certainly be tempting to dive in head first, most experts strongly suggest that you start small and learn a bit about the hobby before you buy anything.

One of the more reliable ways to get value for your money is to purchase a coin that is stamped on a precious metal, like gold or silver. But with the price of gold at a record high, few new collectors can afford gold coins, which is why silver coins are such a popular alternative. Over the past two decades, the price of silver has risen rapidly, faster, in fact, than the price of gold. It currently stands at around 17 dollars per ounce.

The U.S. Mint is well aware of the rise in popularity of silver as both a precious metal and a collectible and they offer several silver proof sets each year. These sets start at about and obviously are tied to the price of silver. Probably their most popular offering is the U.S. Silver Eagle.  The Eagle is made from one full ounce of silver bullion and they are generally sold for just a few dollars over the present spot price of silver.

Because of its purity (99.9 % pure silver), the Eagle remains the most collectible modern silver coin on the market. Though the Mint does not normally release print runs, they have issued limited addition sets in the past. For example, their 20th anniversary Silver Eagle Set was limited to 20,000. The set was a huge hit and almost all of them sold. Because silver bullion prices have increased, these limited edition sets have become quite valuable. Most limited sets are only available for a short period of time, often for only a few months. So, when the U.S. Mint announces a special set, coin collectors line up.

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