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Collecting Is Not the Same as Investing

Question: I’m new to numismatics and want to know the best way to get my feet wet without wasting money on coins with little or no collector value.--J.L.M.

Answer: You sound more like an investor than a collector. There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as you know what your goals and objectives are. The main difference between collecting and investing is that collecting can be a lot more fun. Even so, it’s possible to make a profit either way. Collectors, however, usually purchase coins that interest them because of their beauty, design or historical significance. Investors will buy anything that they believe will appreciate in value.

First and foremost, arm yourself with knowledge. Along these lines is the just-available 12th edition of “High Profits From Rare Coin Investment” by Q. David Bowers. It contains price data and performance charts for the investor. The book is $14.95 plus $2 for handling from Bowers and Merena Publications, Box 1224, Wolfeboro, N.H. 03894. Another good reference is “The Coin Collectors Survival Manual” by Scott A. Travers, published by Prentice Hall.

Beyond this, the biggest breakthrough in numismatics recently has been grading services, which authenticate, grade and permanently seal coins in tamper-proof plastic holders. Since grading is a key element in determining value, this has helped take the guesswork out of pricing. Other pricing factors are rarity, eye appeal and collector interest, which can be fickle, shifting from silver dollars to gold pieces to commemoratives to type coins.

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Also, it is important to establish a good rapport with a dealer who can offer advice and guidance. Predicting the coin market is as tricky as predicting the stock, bond and commodity markets. In fact, coins are now being offered by some stock brokerage firms, which means that more and more investment dollars will enter the numismatic market. This will most likely boost the value of high-quality coins, which are the most desirable to collectors and investors alike.

Coin News

The 500th anniversary of the British gold sovereign is being marked this year with a 5 uncirculated coin containing 1.177 ounces of gold. The 22-karat piece (pictured) has a worldwide mintage of 10,000. Proof versions offered only in a four-coin set sold out within a month of availability. The obverse depicts Queen Elizabeth II at her coronation. The inscription reads: Elizabeth II Dei Gra Reg Fid Def. (“Elizabeth II, By the Grace of God, Queen and Defender of the Faith”). The 1989 5 legal tender coin costs $795 from the British Royal Mint, P.O. Box 2570, Woodside, N.Y. 11377-9864; telephone (800) 221-1215.

Coin Calendar

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Saturday and Sunday--More than 40 dealers are expected at the 31st annual Santa Barbara Coin and Collectible Show at the Miramar Hotel and Convention Center, Highway 101 at San Ysidro Road. Hours are 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. Admission and parking are free.

Alpert cannot answer mail personally but will respond to numismatic questions of general interest in this column. Do not telephone. Write to Your Coins, You section, The Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053.


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