The many faces of the collector

While the hobby of numismatics has been around for literally hundreds of years, many mysteries remain.
One of those mysteries is why some people collect coins. The answer is not as simple as it may seem. For one thing, there are many sorts of collectors. While we in the hobby tend to work on the assumption that a collection must have some sort of objective and collecting plan, many people who did little more than set aside interesting or old coins call themselves collectors. One common feature is value. Collecting coins means buying coins, and even the most inexperienced collector has an instinctive sense that “good coins” should be worth more. It makes sense. Coins are first and foremost a method of storing wealth, and are often made of precious metal, so financial value has to be a consideration.

However, if all you are interested in is making money on your coins, you’re really an investor and have different goals. The collector, regardless of the profit and loss aspect, has other motivations. Again, there is not just one “hot button.” Some collectors are interested in the historical aspects of their holdings, others see them as tiny pieces of art. Some collectors, the true numismatists, study coins, and others just grab stuff that catches their eye. There are date collectors, type collectors, theme collectors, and more.
Yes, I know people who collect dogs on coins, and there are monarchist fans, the world of paper money is full of collectors who just have a thing for certain serial numbers. There are collectors who inherit collections, who start collecting with a parent or grandparent, and there are collectors who don’t have a single collecting relative.

There are serial collectors; by that I mean coin collectors who also collect other items, such as stamps or record albums. In fact, some collectors would probably be considered pack rats. There are also collectors who collect coins only within a specific area. Some people buy things because they like the story they tell, others because they are pretty, and still others because they need them to complete their collection. At one time, I used to talk about a collecting gene. It was sort of a numismatic version of the old behavioural scientist’s question of environment versus heredity. It seemed like a sort of elegant answer, and it may be true in some cases, but I suspect the real answer is more complex.

Collectors are a diverse group of people with an equally diverse group of motives, and that’s a good thing.
Variety is, they say, the spice of life.

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