Featured For beginners who ask "What should I collect?"

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Valentinian, Dec 30, 2017.

  1. Valentinian

    Valentinian Well-Known Member

    Beginners sometimes ask "What should I collect?" Our members have been generous with good advice and I give links to some relevant old CoinTalk threads below. Actually, I'm not sure a beginner can do much better than to watch CoinTalk threads for a while and get a feeling for what they like.

    However, they might wonder about reference works. I have been assembling pages of sale-catalog references organized by collecting theme for many years. I finally decided to improve those theme pages by including relevant books. To link the themes together I created this web page
    with two goals:
    1) Give beginners an idea of the wide variety of ancient coins and potential collection themes.
    2) List reference works collectors could consult to learn more, or much more, about those themes.

    I hope to improve those reference pages (I solicit your suggestions).

    For example, one theme might be "specific victories":

    Denarius of Marcus Aurelius (AD 141-161-180) citing his Sarmatian victory with "DE SARM" in exergue and the date TRP XXXI = 176/7. A pile of arms from the defeated foe.

    Here are some old threads with advice for beginners:




    Here is one more piece of advice. If you have some idea of what you might collect (maybe by viewing my page, or reading a CoinTalk thread) that you can describe in words, enter those words in the CoinTalk search engine (upper right) and see what has been shown and written using those terms.

    My main page for beginners of "Frequently Asked Questions":
    and my main educational site:
    which has a page of links to other sites.

    I invite you to post your advice for beginners on this thread.
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  3. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana

    Warren, your page on collecting themes is fantastic! I really enjoyed reading it.

    Frankly, I’m not sure a beginner can do better than to thoroughly go through yours and Doug’s sites. They helped me a lot when I was starting out in ancients and continue to do so. The linked CT threads contain tons of excellent advice and insight and are a great resource, too.
  4. Gil-galad

    Gil-galad I AM SPARTACUS

    Your website is loaded with information that I have read many times and you have a very good selection of coins for sale as well. One day I will buy a coin from you when my spending budget returns to former levels. For now I'm window shopping, lol.

    Here is what I think but ultimately, each person will develop their own method.

    The great thing about collecting ancient coins is that there are so many things to do and so many regions to collect. At first it may seem confusing and over-whelming about learning and obtaining ancient coins. Once you have just five years experience you will know what to do.

    Information can be obtained in many ways including online websites, literature and books, word of mouth on forums and Facebook type of social communities.

    I started with Roman Imperial for several practical reasons as well as liking the coins a lot to begin with.

    1.) Roman Imperials are the most common and affordable coins.

    2.) Imperials have a Latin letter set and are easier to read in the beginning.

    3.) Learn how to clean ancient coins from lower cost Imperials.

    4.) Imperials are arguably the best documented out of all other regions. So it makes it easier to obtain information.


    Here is another tool that I am using to learn. It started as a mini-gallery and I added other sections to it and it's evolving as I work on it but I'm staying with the plain white look. I have changed the organization several times already.

    Due to the fact that there are so many websites with just about every topic is covered so it's difficult to come up with new original ones. I will add a few more as time goes on. So far it's my gallery and it always helps that I am reading books, websites and other information that helps me learn with each coin added.

    I'm also working on a UNESCO chart for regulations on exporting antiquities. I won't cover everything, anything relevant to ancient coins. Haven't posted it yet.

    For now it's just random subjects, links and a gallery.

  5. NLL

    NLL Well-Known Member

    Thanks! I will look at the websites. Cool looking silver coin @Valentinian .
    David Eugene Swiger likes this.
  6. Jwt708

    Jwt708 Well-Known Member

    Really enjoyed your page and the links you provided. Well done!
    David Eugene Swiger likes this.
  7. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member

    When Warren and I began posting thoughts on coins in the late 90's (mine was February 1997; I believe Warren was earlier but I did not discover it until later) there was not much online about anything by today's standards. I started with two essays on coins (one Severan and one not Severan) with the intention of replacing them periodically destroying the old ones making the site something of a newspaper with no back issues. Someone asked why I would no just leave up the old ones until I used up my available space so I fell into a pattern of posting a new page every Friday. This was before they started using the term blog and I ordered things by subject rather than date written. Most of those early pages showed a coin and explained why I thought it was interesting. Later I added some larger essays on more general topics.

    Today, even a beginner could start a page like my first one by showing his first coin and telling why he thought it was worth having. There is enough material online now that most coins can be researched with ease and you could even explain where you found the information on your coin. These pages might help some other beginner but the effort would definitely help the person who wrote them. This would be a lot like posting on Coin Talk. We each gain something when we see and help answer beginner questions.

    "What should I collect?" The standard answer is: "Whatever you find appealing." I admit prejudice toward some sections of ancient numismatics over others and you might figure out which ones did not interest me simply by looking at what I did not cover in my first hundred pages. At some point I started broadening my interests just to have something new to post but I never found it necessary to say anything about some collecting specialties. I would be honored f one among you started a set of pages called "Things Warren and Doug skipped over." I have my interests (Severans, Oddball coins, Photography etc.), Warren has his (RIC IX, Books, Imitations etc.) and you still have a thousand other topics that would make a great answer to "What should a beginner collect?"

    We have had many threads here on CT where some of us gave our opinions on what someone else should do with their hobby budget. I most certainly do have strong opinions on things beginners should NOT do (buying fakes from obvious crooks, starting with rarities and ignoring more common great coins etc.) but it really is none of my business if you want to collect what I find boring. Maybe if you start a web page on your passion, I will see the error of my ways and regret not having been interested in that coin decades ago.
  8. Youngcoin

    Youngcoin Everything Collector

    Wow! Great page! This will help a lot of newbies (such as yours truly ;)) just like all of your other pages! I have read a handful of your articles on there about certain emperors and denominations ect, as I have received coins with those denominations and emperors.

    David Eugene Swiger likes this.
  9. David Eugene Swiger

    David Eugene Swiger Active Member

    I've got it. The best advice for beginners. Have fun and don't be concerned to make mistakes. Be careful of those deals that look too good to be true... (you know). Take a listen to all the friendly advice out there but do what you think is best (of course you also should be taking responsibility of your actions). AGAIN, most of all have fun (or else why do it)?!. Lastly, this is a great place to start for examples, help, etc., but it's not the only place, check them all out and then, reread this......
    Valentinian likes this.
  10. David Eugene Swiger

    David Eugene Swiger Active Member

    Great stuff and a big help, thanks for the share.
  11. Finn235

    Finn235 Well-Known Member

    I've always loved both of your pages, @Valentinian and @dougsmit ! They both helped me get my feet wet, and continue to be valuable resources.

    I've worked on my own beginner's guide on and off, but keep scrapping it because I have the tendency to get drawn off on tangents or lose focus.

    My best advice for beginners:
    - For a first coin, buy something nice from a dealer you trust, even if you pay a little too much. Check with a neutral party first to ensure you aren't paying much too much!

    - Buy at least one junk lot of ancients and identify as many as you can - this forces you to become familiar with the tools at your disposal, and makes you appreciate high quality coins.

    - Dabble in many areas and don't pursue a single course until you find your calling.

    - "Rare" means diddly squat. When perusing ebay, "If all of their coins are rare, none of them are."

    And I haven't seen a lot of explanation on exactly what the different "categories" of ancients are:

    - All coins of the pre-Roman, non-Celtic Mediterranean, 650 BC - 1st century AD.

    - Most beautiful coins ever made (I said it, fight me.)
    - Many are quite affordable
    - Medium learning curve, inscriptions aren't difficult to figure out
    - Good documentation and ample online resources

    - Some of the most expensive coins are Greek
    - Variety is staggering; there are almost no "sets" of Greek coins that are possible to assemble.
    - Many types (Athens Tetradrachms) are far too expensive because they are popular
    - Rampant fakes of most popular types
    - Suffer from "everything is rare" syndrome

    - All coins of the Republic through the collapse of the Western Empire in 476

    - Very common and affordable; the commonest types can be had in mint state for $20-30.
    - Exhaustively well documented, free resources allow you to identify down to varieties in line breaks for many types. Some types can be dated to a window of just a few months!
    - Common household names like Augustus, Nero, Trajan, Hadrian, Constantine etc
    - Easiest learning curve; most have the ruler's name in plain Latin letters, and later types even have mint marks.
    - Many pre-defined sets: 12 Caesars, Five Good Emperors, Severans, Barracks Emperors, Tetrarchy, Constantinian dynasty

    - Many "key" rulers that are out of reach for most collectors; most sets have at least one emperor or empress that costs upwards of $1,000. Romulus Augustulus, the last emperor, will set you back as much as a Ferrari or a small house.
    - Fakes of these scarce personages are rampant on ebay
    - Coins of the 12 Caesars in particular are way more expensive than they ought to be.

    - Indigenous cultures of non-Roman or Greek Europe

    - Fascinating and beautiful designs
    - Better studied and understood than most other fringe areas of ancient numismatics

    - Still not as well documented as Greek or Roman coinage; tough to find online resources
    - Generally expensive
    - Fakes exist and are well made

    - Coins made in ancient or Medieval China and its neighbors, usually utilizing Chinese scripts

    - Exceedingly affordable; most types cost only a few dollars or even a few cents!
    - Very well documented; books (Hartill) are widely available and cheap
    - Possibly include the oldest "coins" ever made
    - Coins of many colorful characters well-documented in contemporary historical records

    - Learning curve; they cannot be collected without a limited understanding of the language
    - Rampant fakes of everything worth faking

    - Everything else, generally the areas that use variants or derivitives of Aramaic; e.g. Persia, India, Silk Road

    - Surprisingly cheap as these are not yet popular among most collectors
    - Fascinating variety and many beautiful designs
    - Online references are growing
    - Much remaining to be discovered for a pioneer-spirited collector

    - Steep learning curve; easy to get overwhelmed
    - Print resources are scarce, expensive, often contain obsolete attributions, and sometimes exist only in foreign languages.
    - Some types rival Greek or Roman coins in terms of price, especially Indo-Greek, Parthian, and Sassanian coins
    - Many blanks and gaps in our knowledge; many rulers are poorly attested or entirely absent from history.
    - Scarcer types are getting the attention of crooks who sell fakes to American GI's in Afghanistan under the guise of "I just found this in my field. Will you buy it?"

    For newbies, my two favorite sets to recommend are:
    1) Constantine and his immediate family
    - Constantius I, his father
    - Theodora, his stepmother
    - Helena, his mother
    - Fausta, his wife
    - Crispus, Constantine II, Constantius II, and Constans, his sons
    - Delmatius, Gallus and Julian, his nephews
    --All of these can be collected in reasonably high grade for about $150-200 with patience.

    - Nerva
    - Trajan
    - Hadrian (& Sabina)
    - Aelius Caesar
    - Antoninus Pius (& Faustina I)
    - Marcus Aurelius (& Faustina II)
    - Lucius Verus (& Lucilla)
    - Commodus (& Crispina)
    --All of these (Except Nerva and Aelius) can be collected as medium grade denarii for $20-30 each, or $50-100 each for high grades
  12. Suarez

    Suarez Well-Known Member

    Thank you for taking the time to creating a website centered on collecting themes. I noticed you referenced me with a link to a list but it's dead and I'm not sure exactly where the list came from. However, you can easily recompile it by copy and pasting from this page: http://www.coryssa.org/index.php/coins/view/period/roman_emperor

    Glad to help with this project!
    David Eugene Swiger likes this.
  13. desertgem

    desertgem Senior Errer Collecktor

    Although I have only about 20 ancient coins, I do love and respect knowledgeable and totally useful threads such as this one. I was going to feature it, except someone beat me to it. The ancients group that regularly contribute their knowledge to help new collectors in that area are to be complimented on doing exactly what the originators of the site were hoping to obtain!! Keep up the excellent work. In all respect and admiration, Jim
  14. Valentinian

    Valentinian Well-Known Member

    It is very helpful when people point out dead links. They are easy to fix and I just fixed this one. A long time ago when @Suarez created his list of frequencies of various Roman rulers I wrote and asked him if I could put it on my site and he kindly agreed. He has put a massive amount of work into the editions of ERIC (Encyclopedia of Roman Coins) and, even if you do not buy his book, you have benefited from his work.

    Here is a direct link to his list of frequencies of Roman rulers on coins:

    Ryro and Alegandron like this.
  15. Terence Cheesman

    Terence Cheesman Well-Known Member

    I like what Finn235 wrote on this timeline and would like to add..
    Look before you leap. Spend some time looking around before you buy. If you see a coin you are interested in look around. Look at V Coins MA Coins the CNG archive. See what else is out there. looking around will give you an idea about frequency How many coins like the one you are interested in are out there but more importantly the usual grade that the coin is seen as well as some idea about prices. Also study the history. If it is a Roman Imperial coin find out what you can about who is on it and what did (s)he do.
    To Finn 235 list I would like to add
    Roman Provincial or Greek Imperial
    Local coinages mostly in the eastern half of the Roman Empire but can include Spain in the first century A.D. Series ends with Diocletian
    Many emperors especially the Julio Claudians much less expensive and more readily available.
    Some of the notable members of the Imperial family can only be found on these local coins.
    There are a wide range of types including gods and goddesses not found on the Imperial coins.
    There are over 800 cities that have minted these coins so there are lots of variety
    Some of these are very attractive. Because the region still preferred tetradrachms you can get Imperial portraits on large silver coins.
    Inscriptions can be challenging. They can be long and complicated and in Greek. Many coins are poorly struck and are often found badly worn, so reading the inscription so you can identify the coin can be a real chore
    Documentation ranges from excellent to all but non existent. on line resources similar. Books can be very expensive and hard to find.
    Some of them can be very crude.
    Oh well a couple of coins to illustrate. laodicsseverus2.jpg tarsuscar5.JPG
    chrsmat71, Ryro, Johndakerftw and 6 others like this.
  16. Suarez

    Suarez Well-Known Member

    Thank you "valentianian" for re-posting that list. I don't remember having made it. Can anyone explain what the mean and variance numbers are supposed to mean? If I made it I've completely forgotten (how embarrassing!)
  17. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member

    Terence Cheesman illustrated his wonderful post with two exceptional Provincial coins but, since he mentioned the fact that they can be crude, I'll tack on a couple coins to illustrate how the other half lives.
    Claudius II / Antioch

    Severus Alexander / Nicaea or barbarous imitation thereof
  18. akeady

    akeady Well-Known Member

    It must be the mean and variance of the records - i.e., there are 667076 coins and 206 rulers, so the mean number of coins per ruler is 3254.029. The variance is large, so I suppose reflects the big difference in the likelihood of encountering coins of Constantine I (37428 seen) and Leontius I (0 seen).

    Alegandron likes this.
  19. AussieCollector

    AussieCollector Moderator Moderator

    Great write up @Valentinian !

    Although, I'm a simple man. For me, the answer to the question of "what should I collect?" is "whatever interests and excites you."
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