An Introduction to Commemorative Coins
This website serves as a basic introduction to commemorative coin collecting and coin collecting in general. These pages do not attempt to list coins and values as there are already some very fine directories that do that. Over the coming months I hope to add more pages to this site.
If this info piques your interest then please check out the further reading recommendations.
Collecting commemorative coins is an enjoyable relaxing hobby that can be as cheap or expensive as you can manage. But be warned this hobby can be extremely addictive and can lead to a ‘obsession’ with coin collecting. Take it too far and you may even start calling yourself a numismatic!
If you buy sensibly then coins can be a great place to store money value and indeed if you buy and hold, you may strike lucky and make a profit on your collection.
Collecting coins can teach history, economics, heraldry, politics etc….. as all of these subjects and more have been celebrated with commemorative coins. It can help to develop analytical skills that can migrate into other areas of life.
Because of the vast quantity and variety of coins issued many collectors choose to focus on one aspect of coin collecting. Commemorative coins are just one possibility. Other collectors will concentrate on error coins (very rare mistakes during the minting process) or maybe a country or historic period.
Commemorative coins are often thought of as royal event markers such as for a wedding or jubilee and although this is true commemorative coins have a much wider scope often celebrating sporting events and scientific achievements.
The above coin is a Queen Victoria 1887 Jubilee sixpence – flickr photo by woody 1778a
Commemorative coins are also often thought of as separate from normal circulation coins but this isn’t strictly true. UK currency is usually split into three areas.
Normal issue coinage:
The normal coins intended to be used in trade.
These can be used in normal instances but the commemorative design celebrating, for example – the Olympics, will be released for a small length of time.
Non-circulating legal tender commemoratives:
These are legal tender coins and could in theory be used for trade to purchase items but they are really intended for collecting and holding intrinsic values or simply as souvenirs.
Commemorative coins are often confused with commemorative medals. Medals have never been used as coinage but are often mistaken for coins due to their similar size and form. Medals themselves can be well worth collecting as they often have a fascinating and compelling history and an intrinsic value.
The first coins were made from electrum (the ancient Greeks called it gold or white gold) a natural alloy from silver, gold and trace amounts of copper and originate from Asia Minor seven centuries before Christ.
Over the two hundred years, coinage spread across the Mediterranean, eventually to Greece. The Greeks took coin manufacture to new levels of craftsmanship. Gold Gaulish coins made it to Britain at about first century BC. Soon after Celtic influenced gold coin manufacture begun in Britain.
Roman influence for the next seven centuries is truly astonishing, they produced an enormous variety of coins and in Britain coins can be found stretching across the period from AD43 to the fifth century.
It could be argued that we can find the first instance of commemorative coins within the Roman currencies as many of the designs refer to winning military campaigns and the conquering of foreign lands.
Emperor Claudius is depicted on the above coin, the coin was minted by the Roman Empire between 41-54 A.D – flickr photo by woody 1778a
Occasionally a lucky metal detector operator still strikes lucky and finds incredible hordes of roman coins.
After the dark ages and the artistic influences of renaissance art a new level of craftsmanship and technology led to a better minting processes.
As the major European countries started to become stable states the variety of coinage produced was greatly reduced with one nation now finding it preferable to produce one currency system.
Since this time, commemorative coins have been produced often and in enormous numbers. To enjoy and profit from collecting commemorative coins we must not only understand the best coin issues to seek out, we must also find coins in ‘mint condition’.
Before the 1950’s commemorative coins were almost exclusively made of precious metals but this has now become increasingly rare and with the Nixon shock of 1971 the direct conversion from us dollar to gold (the gold standard) ended resulting in all reserve currencies becoming fiat currencies.
Precious metal coins became more and more restricted to Commemorative status with gold and silver now almost exclusively traded as bullion coins or Royal Mint Britannia’s in the UK.