Numism > For the New Ancient Coin Collector

Common Mistakes for Beginners

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Take it in small bites! It is easy to go overboard.

I originally went the way of US Modern Coins, specifically Indian Head Cents. To say the least, that's a world in itself. Spent too much collecting coins I couldn't touch. And, the more I delved, the more I realized, most modern collectable coins seem to go straight from the mint to the shelf. Where is the history in that? I wasn't "getting it." When I spoke on modern coin forums, I could feel the stares on the back of my neck. "They" don't care about the history behind the coin, just the current market value and how to keep it highest. (I'm sure some of that exists here as well, but no where near the same intensity.)

Started realizing that wasn't me. So, I got a digital microscope and started looking at my dirty coins, thinking, I can clean these up. The uproar was phenomenal. I was going to destroy my coins.

Well, the patinae on my coins are fine, but "hairline" scratches make them worth less than they were dirty. BUT, I really enjoyed working with them, learned a lot about cleaning coins without damaging them, and now they look great. (Display worthy.) Eventually, someone suggested if I want to work with the coins, I needed ancient coins. I guess he was concerned I was going to ruin his future investments. It is a different mindset on modern coins.

That led to this forum. Coins I can work with, hold the history in my hands... okay, it is not just me... I see a bunch of you in here. So, I chose to start out by buying a "better" bronze coin from the shop as my initial coin so that I could have the "goal" in my possesion when I start working on these uncleaned "rocks". As for the crusty coins, they are guaranteed authentic. Cost a little more than the ebay relatives, but look in the fake coin postings and you will notice a trend. You get what you pay for. Can't beat the guarantee and they were not picked over twenty times before being listed. (I might have a real treasure in there...  ;D )

I didn't buy a hoard, but just a few of the more common coins so I could learn the cleaning process. (And, if I damage a few, then I didn't destroy some magnificent piece of history.) Taking it slow on the cleaning as I want to achieve a coin or two that look like my "goal" coin. Plus, if I don't have the patience for cleaning them, then I shouldn't.

Attribution is the final goal. I'll be back here for more information as I get closer to that point, but I'm already starting to collect a few books to help me out.  I am hoping that once I've put in the work on a few coins, I'll find a time period I like best and settle into this hobby. From just looking in the shop, I'm already more strongly attracted to the animals and gods of the greek coins.

Of course, it is a very personal hobby as one can tell by the look from my wife and the shake of her head indicating a failure to understand as I hunch over a microscope with a toothpick, cotton swab or fine needle cleaning my coins. And, trying to spark interest in others over a dingy green coin that isn't stamped very well... it's a slow process... but, when you tell them this coin is over 2000 years old... They're eyes light up, at least for a moment or two.


--- Quote from: Robert_Brenchley on August 27, 2011, 04:10:32 pm ---Get some books. More general ones to start with, until you know where your interest is going to be. Get both coin identification books and history; most of the interest is in understanding the coins and the historical background, rather than mere possession.

--- End quote ---

Many great comments here, but for me this is the single most important piece of advice and NOT just for beginners.  The corollary is to actually spend some time reading/reviewing things once they arrive.  I collect US currency and it always amazes me that folks will pay many $k for a note but balk at buying a book or other reference to really learn what they are doing and understand the difference between rare and popular (and how each impacts price/value). 

And there are a few areas where I've bought a book only to decide that the area wasn't going to work out for me (generally non-western issues, just can't get the hang of the legends).

What fun!


Andrew McCabe:
I bought my first Seaby RCTV guide following 3 LRBs which I purchased in Egypt in the 1970s as a kid. The coins cost me perhaps $1 each, the guidebook about $20. That was about the right ratio of coin-to-book-investment, wholly appropriate for a new collector, study your book(s) until you can recite your Seaby (now Sear) handbooks by heart! That's how I got to know each Roman emperor and Roman history in general from the small blurb at the start of each Sear section. However internet resources perhaps means it's a little less essential nowadays. The Seaby Greek guidebook didn't have such a clearly laid out story, and furthermore all of the first few Greek bronzes I bought were missing from GCTV. Hence I went Roman. I don't know why I stumbled on the Republic.

Two related common beginner mistakes:
1. Collecting ancients as an investment.  If you are paying retail or auction prices for your coins, don't expect to make big profits within 10 years-although individual results may vary!
2. Putting too much money into your collection under the mistaken impression that you can sellcoins quickly any time you need cash. It is not that easy to find quick buyers for your ancient coins unless you are buying highly desireable, high quality coins. This ia a corollary to the "buy the quality over quantity" advice given earlier on this thread. It is easier to sell quality,  if you need to sell.


--- Quote from: Carausius on June 11, 2013, 01:19:57 pm ---1. Collecting ancients as an investment.  If you are paying retail or auction prices for your coins, don't expect to make big profits within 10 years-although individual results may vary!

--- End quote ---

I recall seeing an article a year or so ago (can't remember where the link was from, probably here somewhere) about a collectors $60,000,000 collection. The comment that has always stuck in my head was "probably cost him $100,000,000 to acquire it!"


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