Coin News

Volume 38, Number 1, January 2001

A point of issue

Volume 38, Number 1, January 2001

COLLECTING NEW ISSUES, indeed any modern coinage, is always an emotive issue amongst collectors. As I have mentioned before on this page many so-called "serious" numismatists regard the collecting of modern coinage as an entirely different hobby from their own, and to a certain extent they are right. Today's New Issues are relatively easy to amass, all you need is the money to buy the sets as and when they are produced, and many people are happy to do just that. The Royal Mint alone has a mailing list of over 200,000 people, many of whom would never consider themselves serious coin collectors but prefer to buy proof sets, gold sets, silver piedforts, etc., for entirely different reasons than the ones usually put forward by readers of this magazine. However, many of that number are serious collectors, buy COIN NEWS regularly and would consider themselves "proper" numismatists - so how do they collect? What do they collect? Those who search for hammered or early milled will often be searching for that elusive die variety or rare date and claim that the search is as important as the collecting itself but, with rare exceptions such as the unplated 1999 two pence that I came across recently, or the mis-strikes offered at a DNW auction last year, modern coinage will not be collected in that way. Certainly the New Issues pre-packaged by the mint or issuing authority and checked vigorously for quality will never see such variants, so what do collectors look for? To answer that question one must look to the current United States "States Quarter Programme" to realise that any variety, any new coin, is avidly collected - on the other side of the pond a whole industry has grown up around this programme, with albums, books, cases, etc., all being manufactured to house the quarters (which will be in production for another eight years before the series ends) and reams of information and histories being published to tell the public more about what they are collecting. This, along with a similar but less far ranging quarter programme in Canada, is a prime example of how modern coinage can form the basis of an interesting and exciting collection, with the public constantly checking their change for that elusive state or design they are missing. What though of the United Kingdom? We do not have such an ambitious series to draw upon so what do our modern coin collectors look for? Many will of course be searching for the rarities, the mistrikes, the mistakes, whilst others will embark on a similar method of collecting as their US counterparts by trying to obtain "one of everything" - either design (in the case of the £I and £2 coins) or date. This latter method of collecting is often the preserve of the young beginner and it is soon realised that such an undertaking is relatively easy to achieve, and once it is achieved, what then? Many collectors will, at this point, start looking back to history and having collected all coins minted in the present monarch's reign will look to George VI, George V and so on to expand their collections whilst others will focus purely on denominations. However, there will always be those who will stay with modern coins but look further afield to other countries to extend their collections. This may be done perhaps by collecting the lowest denomination from as many lands as possible or, as is often the case, by collecting thematically. This method of collecting - looking at the subject of the coin and collecting other coins with similar subjects - is proving more and more popular (for example a simple collection of five pences might lead to a far larger assortment of coins featuring other plants whilst the lion on the ten pence piece may very well inspire its own new collection to take "pride" in) and in this month's issue Alex Matheson takes a look at thematic collecting in more detail. Many purists will undoubtedly frown upon such methods but in philatelics it is this form of collecting that has proved most enduring and, with the success of the States quarters programme (itself an exercise in thematics as much as varieties) and the ever increasing vigilance of mints making mistakes less and less frequent, it may well be that this is the only way forward for collectors of modern coins - and given the scarcity of good hammered and milled pieces in the hobby at the moment, who knows, it may very well be something more and more of us turn to. We shall see. John Mussell .

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