Numism > For the New Ancient Coin Collector

Common Mistakes for Beginners

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Lucas H:
As this thread is for beginners, I thought some of the experienced collectors could share some mistakes they made as beginners or common mistakes they see beginners make.  I think my biggest two mistakes were:

1.  Trying to get a bunch of lower grade coins instead of a fewer nicer coins, and
2.  Buying from popular auction sites (ebay) before having a clue what I was doing.

To help our other new collectors, and new collectors to come, please list your first mistakes or common mistakes you see beginners make.  Nothing like learning from the mistakes of others.  If we come up with a meaningful list, this might make a good thread to stick near the top of "for the New Ancient Coin Collector."

Perhaps it should be mentioned that a common mistake for beginners who clean ancients is to strip all the patina to bare metal.  This makes the coin look unattractive and will reduce the cost.

A common mistake is to copy-paste reference numbers found in the various databases, or in the collections of others, usually on reference works they do not own.
In the vast majority of cases, these reference numbers are inaccurate , because they only refer to a similar variety. This mistake usually leads to a chain disaster, because another inexperienced collector will copy-paste this wrongly given reference number for his own similar variety, and the same mistake is done again, and again, having as a result a plethora of wrongly referenced, misattributed coins.

Best regards,


I'll second what Rover said, the mistake in that is thinking that you need a reference number to be a collector.
A reference to a catalog you do not own is useless and will likely be wrong. Trust (almost) no one, don't copy references you can't check. There are a lot of coin sellers (and of course collectors) that also just copy and paste references and know little, sometimes nothing about the coins they sell. I once bought a Provincial coin from Phrygia from a known seller that was described as a sestertius of Livia, with a very obscure sounding reference. If you're a new collector you might think, 'here's a seller that has an extensive library and really makes an effort' when in reality he didn't have a clue.

Sure, the majority of dealers are not like this one but I try to list only references I have checked myself or people I trust have checked for me, when I put others in my gallery I enclose them in brackets, to check later when I have the book in question.

If you're a new collector learn to describe the coins as precisely as you can, identify emperor, mint, legends, bust, reverse type etc. You don't need a reference number at this point.

Of course there are numerous other mistakes but use your brain and some common sense when shopping and you'll do ok.

- Don't assume a coin is from Julius Caesar just because the name "CAESAR" appears on it (not a mistake I have seen from beginners, but a ploy I've seen from some sellers).
- Don't buy coins from ancient sites as a tourist. They a) are most likely fake and b) might offer you a visit in the local jail. Possibly even both.


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