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Coin Collecting: 5 Tips for Beginners

Posted by Amit Bhandari on

Most people start collecting coins when they find an interesting coin in their pocket change or have some coins left over from an overseas trip. In some cases, the numismatic journey starts with a few old copper coins found with a grandparent. A few lucky ones get to inherit collections – either from an older sibling/cousin or a relative. Regardless of where you start, as in any journey, the direction is more important than speed. So you want to collect coins. What are the dos and don’ts?

Collect what interests you

You will be spending a lot of time and some money on your hobby. You will not be able to sustain it unless you are interested in what you do. It won’t be worth your time or energy otherwise. Your starting collection doesn’t have to be very fancy. A good place to start (in India) is by collecting the commemorative 5 & 10 rupee coins – dozens of which are already in circulation. Many of these coins are already circulating – and you can get them by closely examining any coin that passes your hands. Over time, you will realize that some coins are common, others rare. If you have a higher budget, you can go to collecting proof-sets of new coins that the Indian Government Mint sells at various counters. Another option is to collect British India coins – these are no longer in circulation, but are available in large quantities as they were minted in hundreds of millions. Some of them, copper and silver, are not very expensive – always an important consideration for a beginner. So you have an antique – which is over a hundred years old, on a budget.

Quality over Quantity

This is true in every sphere of life – including your hobbies. Coins come in several grades, starting from mint-state – coins which have never been circulated and retain their luster, to coins where most of the design has worn off. If you are a beginner starting with commonly available coins, you should strive to improve the quality of your collection. For example, if you have a 5 rupee commemorative coin your collection – and come across a coin of better grade which is almost uncirculated, replace what you have with the new coin. Unless you are collecting very rare/old antique coins not available in high grade, try to always choose better grade coins.


There is no substitute for first-hand knowledge. There are always books and collectors clubs – or online communities of collectors where knowledge can be shared and gained. Websites such as numista.com are a great source to start. Know more about the coins you have – not just the face value but also details such as where they were minted (watch out for mint-marks), how many were minted and the years they were minted. All of these can be variations in your collection. Sometimes, two otherwise similar coins can have a big difference in value (10X) because of rarity – rarity could be because of year, because of different mints or many other factors.

Don’t Rush

Unless you are a professional sportsperson, direction is more important than speed. You have started collecting coins, but your collection is growing slowly. Doesn’t mean you go all out and start buying coins. If you are buying coins in a rush, you may end up over-paying or get coins of a poor grade. This can be very frustrating – avoid this.

Set a Budget

It is easy to go overboard in buying coins – especially if you are collecting rare or high value items. Just as you keep a sharp eye on your other expenses, decide on a budget that you will not exceed. There are tens of billions of coins and some of them can cost tens of lakhs of rupees – you can’t buy them all. So you need to set limits and stop yourself.

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