Pros and Cons of Collecting World Coins
World coins are commonly overlooked by collectors, dismissed as having low value. But contrary to these beliefs, world coins encompass a huge area including countless rarities and a series for just about any interest.
There are worlds of variety to explore. World coins comprise any coin made outside of the US since roughly 1500. (Prior to this is the separate genre of medieval coins, which will be discussed later.) Across over 500 years of history there has been an incredible range of designs, types, and sizes minted. Perhaps the giant copper slabs of Swedish plate money grab your attention, the sharp rectangles of Edo-period Japan, or the intricate portraits on older Austrian coinage. Whatever your interests, there’s certain to be something out there that piques your curiosity.
Bargains are out there. Fewer US-based collectors focus on world coins. As a result, prices from US-based dealers and auction houses tend to be lower when compared to US coins of similar rarity. The cost of a top-pop Morgan dollar may extend beyond the confines of your pocketbook, but you could get a top-pop example of a world crown from the same time period for a fraction of the cost.
Cherrypicking opportunities abound. Specialized information about world series can be challenging to come by. But locating the information you’re after and learning a series well is often worth the effort. The door will open to cherrypicking opportunities, and you may be able to find a rare piece for a fraction of the price it should be.
Fewer registry sets means less competition. Fewer people are competing for top spots in registry sets, and the highest sets usually aren’t nearly as untouchable as those for US series. It’s fully within reach for a collector of average means to obtain a #1 ranked registry set for many world sets without having to take out a second mortgage.
Research can be a challenge. Because world coins are such a massively broad area, there are many series that haven’t been thoroughly researched in English. If you latch on to one of these, be prepared for challenges figuring out the ins and outs of the series. Specialized guides are out there, but oftentimes, those examining more obscure coins have not been translated to English. This can be a delightful challenge or a frustrating hindrance depending how you look at it!
Rarities can be hard to find locally. Rare types of world coins can sometimes be difficult to find in the US. Purchasing from dealers or auction houses overseas may be an option. Just be sure that involved parties have a clear understanding of all elements of the transaction. If, on the other hand, you’re not willing to look overseas and prefer sticking to US-based sellers, you may have to wait some time for key dates to come up for sale.
There are fewer price guides. For older world coins, you may be hard-pressed to find a price guide that answers all of your questions. Some guides offer pricing suggestions that provide a ballpark range, but it’s not always specific enough to determine if a particular piece is a good deal. When this proves to be the case, tenacious collectors may choose to hunt down auction records from overseas companies and determine what a fair price is.
Overall, if you’re looking for a fascinating and fun challenge, world coins are an excellent option. To learn more about world coins, explore the ANA Money Museum's virtual exhibits on money.org.
About the American Numismatic Association
The American Numismatic Association (ANA) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating and encouraging people to study and collect coins and related items. The Association serves the academic community, collectors and the general public with an interest in numismatics.
The ANA helps all people discover and explore the world of money through its vast array of educational programs including its museum, library, publications, conventions and numismatic seminars and webinars.
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