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Bullion | 03.08.2021

Ten Reasons People Collect Coins, Medals and Tokens

An old rare coin adage goes, “People are like crows, they like things big and shiny.” I don’t know a lot about corvid habits, but I have met literally thousands of collectors. Take my word for it, humans do like shiny objects. Every collector approaches the hobby with an individual slant. Most fall into predictable collecting patterns or follow distinct blue prints. And some will walk around the shop or a coin show and buy whatever strikes their fancy. Coins and collectibles offer a unique mix of history, value, nostalgia, and visual appeal. This allure has kept millions of world-wide collectors hunting for that special “shiny” bit for literally centuries.

Coins, tokens and medals are in some ways interchangeable but each is a distinctly different category. Coins are struck by a nation’s designated mint for the purpose as a monetary device. They are authorized by a government and monetized for use as currency. Medals have no denomination and are created as a commemoration of an individual, event or action. And tokens are just keepsakes. Some may serve a function of payment, but they are not exchangeable and are not considered currency. These three categories encompass a large number of collectibles and each are sought with varying demand. Following (in no particular order) are ten ways people collect coins, medals and tokens.

1. Keepsakes

Probably the number one reason that tokens, medals and old coins are purchased or saved - as a keepsake. A subway token from a trip to New York, a souvenir medal from a trip to a famous museum or that silver eagle grandpa gifted you at graduation all offer cues to memories that are cherished for a lifetime. Often keepsakes don’t have much worth outside of sentimental value, but these memories are priceless.

2. Precious Metal Content

A lot of non-collectors buy coins for their precious metal content. Morgan and Peace dollars are often purchased in bulk for the silver. Investors looking into gold buy $20 gold coins taking advantage of the protections numismatic demand offers. Pre-1965 coinage offers similar protection adding the convenience of portability and small increment purchasing.

3. Thematic Buying

Many enthusiasts of ships don’t just buy boats. They seek out trinkets with nautical themes. Coins, medals and even tokens offer a wide range of items to feed that interest. Owning a silver dime from the S.S. Central America is a thrill. And many of the classic commemorative series, modern commemorative quarters and uncountable medals depict famous ships or maritime events. And this concept holds true for many other themes such as automobiles, firearms, photography, and countless more.

4. Era Buying

Similar to thematic purchases, some collectors focus on an era and buy items associated with that time frame. Individuals that study the depression era may find themselves buying period coinages, Hoover and Roosevelt presidential medals, tokens from the great fairs of the 1930’s or even the wooden nickels of the time. WWII buffs may seek circulating coinages from Axis and Allied powers or medals and tokens in memorial of significant battles. Exonumia offers tangible insight into past eras and historians both novice and professional often decorate their bookshelves with the baubles of times past.

5. Collecting A Series

Most serious coin collectors gravitate toward a particular design. They work within this series trying to obtain one of each date. Yet collectors of other items use this strategy to flesh out accumulations obtaining examples across a particular sequence or category. Political historians seek presidential medals. Native American enthusiasts cherish the Peace Medals of the 19th A well-traveled soul may accumulate bus and subway tokens from major world cities. Many events offer official annual tokens or medals and those that frequent these events collect the current offerings and will seek out examples from times past. Whatever the intent, working toward a specific collection with a series framework provides an obtainable goal.

6. Collect By Denomination 

While most collectors focus on a particular series, many will reach outside and obtain examples across the denomination. A Morgan Dollar enthusiast may cross collect all US dollar types or even expand this to include dollar sized examples from around the world. While the term denomination implies circulating currency, collectors of bus tokens from major cities or of one ounce silver medallions are also assembling denomination sets of a sort.

7. Build a Type Set

Similar to the denomination collector, a type set builder works to obtain examples of every type within a given date range. But unlike the denomination collector they work outside the constraints of size. The 20th century type set is a popular set for U.S. coin collectors, (read more about that here). A precious metal buyer may look to obtain official silver or gold bullion coins from all major national mints. The gold buff can seek out various gold coins from different nations or one of each focused on an individual country.

8. Commemoratives

The modern commemorative quarter programs of the U.S. Mint has reawakened the concept of collecting from pocket change. But, the concept of commemoratives is not exclusive to this century. The classic commemorative halves of the 20th century are popular among U.S. numismatists and many large events of that time offer a variety of medals and tokens commemorating grand undertakings. World Fairs, celebrations like Mardi Gras or even regional events like the Houston Livestock and Rodeo, offer numerous medals and tokens commemorating these events. Collecting these related items offers often affordable ways to remember the past and look forward to future events.

9. Box of 20

While a predominately rare coin concept, this strategy can be carried over to any collectible from coins to fine art. The idea is to limit oneself to a set number of items - in this case 20. Coin enthusiasts using this strategy disregard any denomination or series architecture and instead focus on value or profit potential based on population data and historical demand. The constraint is quantity, keeping inventory fixed and selling overages when reaching limits. This game plan is employed by individuals that want to collect, but their intent is preservation of value and profit without nostalgic ties or the desire to dive into the deep pool of numismatics.

10. Hey that’s cool!

This is perhaps our favorite reason people buy. Many of our clients are not looking for anything particular. They just want something that will tickle their collector muse. This is true about collectors beyond just coin, medal and token buyers. Many people are just looking for interesting pieces to add to their collections. And our store keeps them coming back. At U.S. Coins and Jewelry we pride ourselves in having a distinct wall to wall cool factor. A quick tour of our storefront or website offers items as old as the revolutionary war and as new as the most recent U.S. Mint release. We have something for everybody.

So whether the folklore about magpies stealing jewelry reflects real avian tendencies, the truth remains that people collect, and they do so for a variety of reasons. The ten reasons above are not set in stone and are not relegated to just coins, medals and tokens. At U.S. Coins and Jewelry we cater to collectors and whether you seek that unique piece of jewelry, a fine watch or specific rare coin, we have something that fits the bill. Visit today and find out why locals continually visit our store, and national collectors constantly check our website.

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US Coins hosted my son’s BSA Scout Troop to help them work towards earning their Coin Collecting merit badge. They were very helpful and willing to answer all of the questions that they had. My son wanted to get as much written down on his worksheet as possible before leaving, and Ms. Johns was kind enough to sit down with him and go through the remaining requirements that did not involve actually building a collection. A lot of us parents looked at buying US Mint Proof Sets for our Scouts, and their prices were very good. Thank you to US Coins for being great community members!