Numism > For the New Ancient Coin Collector

Collection Strategies for the New Collector

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Andrew McCabe:
Collections indeed need to change but that doesn't always mean more, it can also mean fewer. My own collection has undergone a metamorphosis in the last 5 years. It had grown to a point of virtual completeness as regards rarity, with examples of hundreds of extremely rare coins, all in deplorable condition, but had no consistency on quality, with just a random scattering of nice coins. I have gone through a systematic process of weeding out poor condition commoner coins, and/or coins where, though rare and identifiable, key design features are completely missing (and thus are of dubious value for educational purposes), selling all such (but only after I photographed and loaded them on my website) and am now infilling with better examples. I was at 2000 coins and am now at 1000, but really the collection of 1000 is so much better than that of 2000. I've now fixed the size of my collection - based on my safe box - and operate under a one-coin-in-one-coin-out rule.

What relevance does this have to beginners? Well, by my approach I chose to specialise deeply first, and only afterwards transition to quality. In that way I got to handle a lot of extremely rare coins, and through handling and examining coins with identification difficulties and missing design details I was forced to spend countless hours going through the plates of Crawford to recognise the details of Roma's helmet or prow design or lettering. Once my education was done and I'd achieved virtual completeness, it was time to change direction. Coins can be sold (though probably for less than what you paid for them) so whatever course a beginner sets out on can be changed over time. Just, whatever that direction is, do it properly, seriously and with careful study. And of course the old adage applies - buy the book before the coin.

Andrew McCabe:

--- Quote from: Andrew McCabe on May 02, 2012, 05:02:04 am ---.... examples of hundreds of extremely rare coins, all in deplorable condition, but had no consistency on quality.... I have gone through a systematic process of weeding out ....coins where, though rare and identifiable, key design features are completely missing (and thus are of dubious value for educational purposes)...

--- End quote ---

NB any coin that I know in fewer than five examples never gets weeded. Including the one below, which is the second finest example and almost the nicest known, whilst at the same time being the very worst known example. Count what that means:

160/5 #10219-64 dolphin Mercury Prow dolphin Sextans not listed in Crawford[/url] by [BROKEN IMAGE LINK REMOVED BY ADMIN], on Flickr

(RRC 160 dolphin sextans, not in Crawford)


--- Quote from: curtislclay on May 01, 2012, 02:44:26 pm ---I think there are two fundamental motives behind almost all collecting, which may help determine how a new collector sets about collecting ancient coins.

1. The desire to arouse envy in other collectors, by possessing rarities or coins in superb condition that they wish they themselves owned.

2. The second fundamental motive. Bargain-hunting; the delight in acquiring a coin for much less than it ought to be worth.
A third motive for a good number of collectors: possessing a coin can be a powerful spur to investigating its rarity, chronology, and historical background, so educating yourself about the relevant culture and time period.

--- End quote ---

Very interesting observations Curtis.  They surprised me somewhat.  Especially the first one.  Working as a professional in the trade you obviously have a very different experience than I do and I guess it must be this experience that leads to your list of motives.

Though I understand fully the human propensity for envy I would not have put it on the list - or at least not in the top few.  Maybe that is because my collecting experience is much more "solitary" than yours.  I have no real group of live humans whom I have ever been able to get together with and discuss / share collections.  There have either been subject issues (no one interested in ancients) or language issues with any "coin clubs" where I have lived.  My wife and kids are polite but really don't care.  So I am limited to a set of online friends and contacts through things like the forvm.  Even here I have been woefully negligent in posting my collection - mainly as I have few photography skills (still can't stitch images of obverse and reverse together). 

Instead one of my motives is a much more internal "collecting instinct" which fuels the "need to complete".  In a way I guess I am in competition with myself.  I "need" to fill in the next gap in my trays.

This "need to complete" facet of the collecting instinct is I think a major driver among many collectors.

So if you collect the "Roman Emperor set" there is always someone out there you need to complete your collection.  Despite the fact that I have more chance of becoming Pope than I do of owning a Dryantilla she is still one of many "gaps" in my collection.  Nowadays my focus is one rare late Roman reverse types I don't have and mints I am still missing for the types I do have.  Thus even though I love the bargain hunt and the never ending research there is a big component of gap-filling.



David Atherton:
I came to collecting coins by way of the history behind them. When I was 13 or 14 I bought Robert Graves' translation of The Twelve Caesars and have been hooked on Roman history ever since. The Flavian period has always particularly held special interest for me - it's hard to beat an era that contained the Jewish War, the siege of Masada, the opening of the Colosseum, and the eruption of Vesuvius.

Early on I decided to collect cleaned, identifiable coins from an era I found fascinating and have pretty much stuck with it. The very first coin I purchased was a common Vespasian denarius in VF+ for $100...yes I did my research on both the seller and the coin before jumping in with both feet.

So, my advice - collect a niche you're interested in (historically or theme wise), try to specialize in that area, and choose quality over quantity (when possible). This advice may not be everyone's cup of tea but it works for me.

Joe Sermarini:
Collect what you enjoy.  That is my best advice for a new collector.  

For me, I like coins with a good story.  The ultimate story coin is the EID MAR denarius.  Fortunately, since I cannot afford an EID MAR, almost every coin has a story.  I like to get a coin and then learn the story behind it.  That is what I enjoy.  

Every collector should collect what they enjoy most.  


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