Developing a specialty important

By Jeff Fournier

As a collector, you’re probably aware of the many different numismatic items available to you.  There is much to collect: Canadian silver dollars, one cent to 50 cent pieces, government or chartered banknotes, medals or tokens, for example.

You may be inclined to assemble date sets – a complete run of Canadian one cent pieces perhaps, or maybe a gem uncirculated set of coins struck during your birth year.

Then, of course, there are world coins.These might be collected topically, by date, by country, metal and so forth. You’re only limited by your imagination. The decision as to what you will collect is a personal one; but it’s also one which you should put a little thought into.

It’s nearly impossible to acquire expertise in every area of numismatics. By trying to collect too many items in too many different areas, you run the risk of burning yourself out.  Moreover, you will never gain an expertise in any one area. You’ll simply have a small amount of knowledge about many different coin series. Collectors should, instead, develop a specialty in one area. Experienced collectors should encourage this for those new to the hobby.

Sometimes, an overzealous novice will begin by collecting nearly anything he/she can afford to buy. This will quickly lead to discouragement because of the sheer magnitude of the undertaking.

Wouldn’t it be better to undertake a more goal‑oriented and channeled approach – to develop a specialty?

The benefits of choosing a specialty and sticking to it are many and varied.

First, and most important, is that by sticking to one area (such as five cent pieces for example), you are not setting yourself up for failure, but rather for the achieving of your goal. Carrying this example a little further, you might initially decide that a collection of every five cent piece from 1922 to date will be your chosen specialty. You might then set criteria as to what your minimum acceptable grade will be.  It doesn’t have to be carved in stone.  Obviously, it’s more likely you might accept MS‑60 or higher for the later series (say 1937 to date, for example), while settling for VG to EF for the earlier dates such as five cent pieces from the King George V era. Naturally, this will be determined by your financial means.

Now you should concentrate on learning, as much as you possibly can, about this series. By doing so, you will be better able to make an informed and educated decision when buying pieces for your collection. You may one day reach a point where your expertise in the field exceeds that of most other collectors or even dealers. This will place you in a very advantageous situation. You may be, for example, one of the few who truly realize the scarcity of a particular piece. You will likely derive great satisfaction in knowing this and in being able to put together a truly superb collection.

When you’re satisfied with the collection you have put together, set yourself a new goal – choose something else to collect. Perhaps you’ll attempt an about‑face and collect commemorative medals, tokens or world coins. This will keep your collecting interesting, but not overwhelming!

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