According to the United States Mint, coin collecting is one of the oldest hobbies, once practiced mostly by kings and the wealthy. Coin collecting thus came to be called the “king of hobbies” and the “hobby of kings.”
Ed Reit, co-owner of Gold, Silver and Coin located at 1301 West Pine Street has been in the coin business for 10 years and at the current location for a year
Known as the “coin guy,” Reit recommends coin collecting for both enjoyment and for financial purposes.
“For anyone who is younger, it is a good idea to collect silver specifically because it is an opportunity to capitalize on an expanding market.” With the price of silver down, it is a good time to buy and for beginners to begin investing in the hobby of coin collecting, said Reit.
Reit recommended coin collecting as an alternative to stock market investing. He said a trend in investing is the investor looking to hold tangible assets.
Sometimes, a stock certificate is never seen or held by the owner. In contrast with coins, people are able to hold them in their hands, said Reit.
Clientele in the coin world are an eclectic group with different views and are usually detail-oriented, said Reit.
There is sometimes surprise at high prices commanded in the world of numismatics. Reit noted at a recent Heritage coin auction, the rare 1792 half dime sold for $1.4 million.
The first official United States coin was the silver half dime or “disme” and it was struck on July 13, 1792, before the construction of the U.S. Mint.
According to www.us-coin-values-advisor.com, the half dime was struck in the basement of Philadelphia resident John Harper. Some historians believe the figure on the coin represents Martha Washington. Legend has it that President George Washington provided the silver for the half dime. There were 1,500 struck and they were known as pattern coins. The half dimes were not meant for general circulation but some reached the public anyway.
In addition to potential financial or investment benefits, Reit said people develop a zeal for coin collecting based on many reasons. One is because they like history and in coins, they are able to keep pieces of it near them.
Others collect based on nostalgia related to events surrounding the date of a coin; still, others choose to collect commemorative coins, such as the American Eagle.
Reit said his dad based his coin collection on the nostalgia of the Buffalo, or Indian Head, nickel.
The United States Mint states that commemorative coin collecting became increasingly popular in America during the 1930s after the coins became widely available in the United States.
Commemorative coin programs are created by acts of Congress to honor a person, place or event according to usmint.gov.
The Peace Dollar was minted from 1921 to 1928, then again in 1934 and 1935. The coin commemorated the end of World War I and was meant to showcase the ideals of democracy, liberty, prosperity, and honor. It was the last silver dollar minted for circulation in the United States.
“People should take coins seriously because of their historical references to the destiny of the United States,” said Reit.
He cited the El Cazador Wreck (coinage) as an example and held up a certified piece of eight salvaged from the wreck.
In the shipwreck that “changed the world,” President Thomas Jefferson was able to eventually purchase the area from the Mississippi to the Rockies from Napoleon in 1803 in a transaction known as The Louisiana Purchase.
Historically, King Charles IV of Spain had agreed to cede Louisiana back to France. Originally, in a battle between the old and the new world, King Charles IV tried to boost the Spanish-owned port of Louisiana and surrounding area with silver coinage. After the wreck and an insufficient economy for the Spanish and the French to uphold the port, America capitalized by gaining the purchase.
“So with the piece of eight reales, you are able to hold a giant piece of history in your hand,” said Reit.
There are millions of coin collectors in the United States. The coin collecting community includes clubs and organizations throughout the United States and the world.
The forum provides numerous opportunities for meeting and trading with others adding to enjoyment of the hobby.
Some collecting groups include the American Numismatic Association (ANA), top-tier professional coin grading groups like the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) or the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC).
Youth may join groups like the Young American Numismatic Association and find out more about coin education and collecting at usmint.gov.
Collectors go for paper, too
Reit displayed examples of the history of paper currency as it has evolved in the United States in the form of gold and silver certificates. Silver certificates were issued from 1878 to 1963 and backed by silver dollars held by the U.S. Treasury, In 1933, the domestic economy was taken off the gold standard and until March 1964, the silver notes could be redeemed for silver at banks or at the U.S. Treasury in Washington, D.C.
Certificates are still lawful money but can be only be spent at face value. They may be sold to collectors at higher prices. Some are valuable as collectibles.
At coincollector.org, Tony Davis of Atlanta Gold and Coin list reasons a hobbyist or collector should establish a relationship with a local coin dealer. Davis states local coin dealers place a high emphasis on customer relationships and are often willing to meet or beat leading online rates. The Davis article stated that coin dealers take pride in meeting the demands of their customers and will often notify customers once they receive coins on a buyers wish list.
Reit agreed. “I do wish lists all the time, my job is to provide that for them.” Reit said another advantage of doing business locally is because it keeps money in local economy.
Other reasons clients favor coin dealers is because they have the ability to inspect the coins in person and can make transactions in privacy.
The New York Times recently recommended the following books for those interested in numismatics: The New York Times Guide to Coin Collecting by Ed Reiter, 2002, The Coin Collector’s Survival Manual, 5th Ed, by Scott Travers, 2007, 100 Greatest American Medals and Tokens by Bowers and Jaeger, 2007, Double Eagle, The Epic Story of the Worlds Most Valuable Coin By Alison Frankel, 2006; and Standard Catalog of World Coins 1901-2000 35th Edition by Krause, 2007.