People have been collecting coins almost ever since the first coin was put into circulation. Coin collections come in a wide variety of types and in a huge range of value, from less than circulation value to priceless. Not surprisingly, collectors range from the casual collector - the one who glances at his or her handful of change to see if there are any special quarters - to serious collectors who will spend thousands of dollars to buy a specific coin in order to complete their collection.
Coin collecting as history
One of the great things about coin collecting is that the history of most civilizations can be traced through their coinage. Modern states especially have the habit of depicting important cultural or political events on their coins. Older coins show the progress of technology, as the first crude coins made from gold, silver and bronze have developed into today's refined pieces of art.
Coin collecting as a hobby, as opposed to just a means to collect wealth, first developed during the Renaissance. One of the greatest figures in the Renaissance, Petrach, was known to have included coins in his art collection, recognizing the beauty they possessed. Coin collecting as a hobby soon spread to the wealthy and church leaders, which is why it is often known as the 'Hobby of Kings'.
Various types of coin collecting
Most coin collections start when a prospective collector comes across a unique or interesting coin in the course of receiving change. For that reason, the most common collections are those that focus on the domestic coinage of the collector. A collection that focuses on the coins of one specific country is just one type of coin collection. Some collections focus on specific trends or styles. Some more focused collections will even just focus on a specific type of coin or series within a country's coins. For instance, a coin collector could try to collect every state quarter that the US mint produces, or a penny from every year in the history of the United States.
Another variation in coin collecting is the value of the collection. Coin collecting can be quite inexpensive, or outrageously expensive. For some collectors, the hobby is simply a matter of collecting the coins that they come across through standard circulation. This is would definitely be on the inexpensive side of the scale. However, other collectors will seek out rare and hard-to-find coins. As a result, they can end up spending very large sums of money. In the end, what this means for a prospective hobbyist is that coin collecting is a varied hobby with options and methods available to collectors on a variety of budgets.
How much is a coin worth?
The value of a coin in any collection will be influenced by a range of factors, such as the country of origin, the production date, the length of time the coin was in circulation (or if it was even in circulation), and most importantly, the condition of the coin. Obviously, the better the condition of the coin, the more valuable the coin will be. Within this laundry list of factors, collectors will come across coins worth anything from less than a cent to rare coins that are valued at over a million dollars!
If you have a coin that you think might be valuable, the best thing you can do is to get a price guide. These guides will be readily available at any large bookstore or hobby store. A number of websites also keep updated directories of coin values. If you do not trust your judgment in appraising the condition of your coin, most coin collection stores will offer appraisal services, for free or a nominal cost, that will give you an expert opinion on the value of your coin.
Grading a coin
As discussed above, the most important factor in evaluating the value of a coin is its condition, or "grade." New collectors can be overwhelmed by the number of different grading systems in use around the coin collecting world. The best way to learn how to grade coins is to try it yourself and then talk to professional appraisers at your local coin collecting store or hobby group to see what they think.
Coin collecting resources
Since it is one of the most popular collection hobbies, there are endless resources for individuals interested in coin collecting. Coin collectors have huge conventions in major site cities. These are great events to attend for new collectors, as you will be exposed to more experienced collectors, who can help show you the ropes. It will also give you the opportunity to view rare and beautiful coins that at this point you could only dream of having in your collection. It is also a good idea to join coin collecting groups on the Internet, to keep you busy between conventions.