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Spare coin

Angela Catterns
Friday, October 23, 2015

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Of all the things to collect, old coins seem a strange choice.

One collects coins, I would have thought, to spend.

It’s money. You amass it, you save it, you spend it. But there are those people among us who like to collect coins and there’s a special name for them – numismatists. Which is not one of those words you use often, or that slips easily off the tongue.

The hobby itself seems rather joyless. I don’t imagine there’s much giggling going on when the numismatist gets out his or her coins and looks at them, over and over, into the wee small hours of the morning. Or when a group of numismatists get together over a few drinks and break out the coin albums. I just don’t get it. If you’re a coin collector (I’m already sick of that unpronounceable n-word) perhaps you could enlighten me as to the hidden pleasures of this centuries old pursuit?

There’s undoubtedly a world of coin collecting out there.

I recently had reason to dip my toe into it, having come upon a small stash of coins during the process of packing up and moving house.

I’ve carried these coins around with me since I was about 20 because frankly, I don’t really know what to do with them. If they were legal tender I would have spent them long ago but they were gifts from my late aunt, a massive fan of the British Royal Family. And a valued customer of the Franklin Mint.

Here’s my accidental collection:

  • 1982 50pence Falklands Islands Liberation Crown
  • 1982 50p coin celebrating the birth of Prince William of Wales, 21st June on one side and the 21st birthday of H.R.H the Princess of Wales on the other.
  • 1978 silver $1 coin from Western Samoa commemorating the Pacific Flight of Charles Kingsford Smith
  • 1980 Great Britain crown commemorating the 80th birthday of the Queen Mother and
  • 1977 10Kina coin celebrating the visit of QE2 to Papua New Guinea.

Am I sitting on a goldmine? If I sell them, will I be rich beyond my wildest dreams? Somehow I doubt it.

A quick browse through the coin category on eBay reveals a lot of coins going for not much money. A ‘rare’ 1934 penny has so far attracted only 2 bids, the highest is $1.58.

But there’s one coin listed with a buy-it-now price of $6,800. It’s a 2000 Aussie dollar described as a mule. Apart from being a cross between a donkey and a horse, the term means a numismatic mismatch – a coin struck from dies not originally intended for use together. Sadly, none of mine fit that description. The Franklin Mint would never have been so careless.

When I was a kid, it was always the 1930 penny which was said to be the rarest of all. Turns out it still is. The current market valuation is $1.65 million – and they’re still scarce. One of these ‘golden’ pennies sold recently to an investor, not a collector. He saw the coin, admired it and then locked it away in a safe where it will remain for the next 10 or 20 years, untouched, while its value continues to rise.

According to Coinworks, the Australian experts, the buyers of rare coins tend to be wealthy businesspeople looking for a relatively safe, long-term investment. The returns are similar – if not better – than beachfront properties. In some cases, the coins are bought as inheritances for children.

Financial advisers can now suggest that rare coins, banknotes and stamps be included in investment portfolios.

I’m not sure that my motley collection of coins courtesy of Aunty Dorrie actually fits that bill. It’s not worthy of locking away in a safe, but it’s stashed away carefully, just in case. One day it might become valuable. You never know.

Published: Friday, October 23, 2015

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