How to form a great collection

How to form a great collection.

Believe it or not – A great collection need not cost a fortune.

This may sound contrary to what you may hear in the coin press or media, but it is true.

I can speak first hand of fine collections being formed with little cost. I myself have formed really nice collections (in my view) on a limited budget.  I am going to show you how.

My first suggestion is buy with quality in mind. I will say that is more than just a grade on a holder. I have seen many coins graded MS60 that were not attractive at all.  Conversely, I have seen many AU50 coins that were nicer. You must go further than the grade, especially with US Coins and Tokens.

How to form a great collection

Ancient Coins are a little bit tricky and quality and eye appeal must really be considered more than an actual grade.  A coin must be attractive and a good candidate for your collection for you to consider the purchase it. In fact, I recommend recording what attracted you to that coin in a notebook. (Read about my obsessive note taking).


How to know what coins to add to your collection?

Here is where the fun starts. This is where the creativity comes in and allows you unlimited potential without the need to spend a fortune.

I recommend forming collections around a theme.

For instance, with US Coins I recommend collecting by type (I wrote on Type Collecting if you’d like to read up on some ideas). This is inexpensive and a great start.

For Civil War Tokens (CWT) a small set of Patriotic would do well. Or perhaps collecting by city. I had formed a nice collection of NYC CWTs in the past.

Also consider Biblical Coins – coins with references in scripture.  This is always an exciting endeavor.  You would be surprised at how affordable these can be.

I formed a Christmas themed biblical coin collection – featuring Herod, Caesar Augustus, client kings and coins representing places in the infancy narratives.

But here is the key to forming great collections – “Go-Withs”

This is a term an old numismatic friend had shared with me years ago. It was about adding something to you collection that is complementary but not of the same series or form.   Let me give you some examples.

I was interested in the Cold War, Cuban Missile Crisis, and Vietnam. 

I had formed a small collection of Robert McNamara memorabilia. If you recall, McNamara was the Secretary of Defense under Kennedy and Johnson, the first non-Ford family member to head up the Ford Co., and President of the World Bank.  The collection consists of some autographs on photos, books, and postcards; some First Day Cover (FDC) postcards autographed while he was Secretary of Defense.  Really cool stuff. But I really changed the collection and added tremendous value to it when I had the opportunity to add a 1939 Harvard Business School Yearbook, featuring none other than Robert Strange McNamara.  Autographed by his fellow classmates, this is truly one of a kind.  Now my collection, is unique and I doubt anyone has one like it. (Email me if you have an interest in this collection, in part or whole).

Other examples of “Go-Withs”

A Civil War Token collection I formed featured a few Patriotic Tokens along with some Civil War Bullets and Buttons, an authentic period newspaper, and all the bound volumes of the Civil War Token Society Journals.   Needless to say, when I bring it out for display it is impressive and many family friends think it cost a small fortune.  But it only costs me a few dollars each!

The key take away here is think about what you are trying to accomplish.

I would love to sell you coins but I definitely don’t want you to just buy anything and everything without a plan in mind.

That being said, plans changed.

I have started out forming one collection and had it morph into another.  Bottom line – before you think you should form a “complete” collection of Roman Coins, start with smaller collection that can be a standalone or part of a larger, later, collection.  Like maybe a portrait collection of the first 10 emperors, or the Severan Dynasty, or anything else that is small and measurable.

Remember these 5 key point:

  1. Form your collection over time.

  2. Buy with eye appeal – if you like a coin, others probably will too.

  3. Think about what you’re trying to accomplish – think thematically, think about the goal.

  4. Consider “Go-Withs” as a way of rounding out your collection and making it personal and special.

  5. Most importantly – have fun and enjoy the process.

That’s it. Now get out there and form a great collection.  And of course, please check out my site to see if I can help.

As always, would love to hear comments.

Happy collecting!

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