Where did coins first appear? Coins appear in archaeological record around 650 BC and the ancient civilizations in Anatolia, Greece, India and China are likely candidates of coin collecting. Prior to the appearance of coins, precious metals were commonly used for trading and had to be weighed at each transaction, as well as have the purity of the metal verified.
From the first days of coin production, coins were considered an accumulation of wealth. It was in the 14th century that modern day appreciation and collection began and an active market developed. At the time, it was an interest only of the “privileged class” and it was coined (pun intended) “Hobby of Kings.” In these early days of coin collecting, it was associated with art collecting. They were valued as much for attractive or interesting imagery, as they were for scarcity or historic significance.
It’s in the 17th and 18th centuries that numismatics really appeared as an academic discipline. Scholars started to publish extensive studies as collectors became more systematic in their approach to building collections. Also around this time, coin collecting began to spread into the middle class—it became a mark of sophistication and wealth.
By the 19th century coin collectors began to broaden their horizons to not only ancient coins, but to foreign and exotic currencies as well. Books on collecting began to be published which made research for the general public a lot easier. It’s in the 20th century that collecting became more systemized with coin conventions and shows, and a network began to develop. Coins naturally began to be viewed as investments and an entire new network of collectors, dealers and investors grew.
Today, collectors have access to resources that were unimaginable before because of access to the Internet. The online community has provided a platform for collector-to-collector sales and trades as well as exchange of information. It also allows dealer inventories to be available to everyone across the globe.
Now, coin collecting has retained some of the original reasons for collection, but gained some new. They are typically collected for wealth building, value or even just an interest in shiny coins. One of the MCM Forum members said they still collect for the artistry and history that coins represent, which were the original reasons behind coin collecting in the 14th century. This particular member said, “I have coins in my collection from Ancient Greece all the way to present time. I find the history about various coins to be fascinating.”
Another forum member said, “I can appreciate a generic bar, nugget, something a friend melted down and made or something as nice as a Panda. I suppose for me it's more about scratching the itch of the burning fiat in my pocket by spending (saving) it in a productive and very enjoyable way.”
||Kelsey graduated from the University of South Florida in Tampa with a B.A. in mass communications. She is new to the world of numismatics, but as the Marketing Specialist for MCM is dedicated to learning all there is to know.|