How Best to Arrange a Collection

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by David Atherton, Jan 25, 2020.


Best method for arranging a collection?

  1. Strictly chronological by catalogue number.

    13 vote(s)
  2. Chronological by metal.

    3 vote(s)
  3. Other.

    13 vote(s)
  1. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic Supporter

    As most of you know I specialise in the Flavian dynasty. The catalogues I need to attribute my collection are fairly well known - RIC II.1, BMC II, BNC III, and RPC II. I have arranged my collection based on the RIC or RPC catalogue numbers. Imperials by ruler, provincials strictly follow RPC. My Forvm Gallery pretty much reflects my current method.

    The new RIC mixes the precious metals and the bronzes and is strictly chronological. However the BMC catalogue arranges them chronologically by metal, first the precious metal issues and then the bronzes. Curtis Clay is a big proponent of this method, and I see the benefits of doing so.

    Just to give you an idea of how my collection is arranged and stored, these are the coins currently awaiting a trip to the safe deposit box. They are stored in the same manner there.


    How do you all arrange your collections? Any opinions on which is a 'better' method?
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2020
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  3. Carthago

    Carthago Does this look infected to you? Supporter

    Strictly by Crawford until you hit the Social War, then by Sydenham sandwiched in between Crawford at the appropriate dates, then Sear CRI for the late Imperatorial Octavians.
  4. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    I generally have mine arranged chronologically by figure on the portrait, subdivided by BMCRE catalog numbers, followed by provincial issues for that ruler.
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  5. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    Mine are set by year and if it’s a ruler of some sort and have multiple coins of that person, then they are arranged by denomination.
  6. Suarez

    Suarez Well-Known Member

    Arranging chronologically makes the most sense when the chronology is well known. This is doable well enough during the Flavian era so for a collection like yours this works great. Subcategorizing by denomination is also a common sense approach.

    But I would resist buying into there being a necessarily superior approach. As humans we tend to categorize based on patterns that make processing information easier for ourselves but since there are infinite variables so there are as many different ways of prioritizing whatever is perceived as the primary aspect.

    Greek catalogues tend to sort geographically clockwise around the Mediterranean starting with the Iberian peninsula which is about as arbitrary an approach as you can get but it's become so ingrained that some new system would probably have a hard time being accepted. I don't know to be honest... Greek coinage is gobbledegook to me!

    Sorry.... rambling on on a Friday night while nursing one of these lol
  7. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic Supporter

    Yea, I'm fortunate that the era I collect is fairly well catalogued. Sometimes I wonder whether I should separate the metals within each reign, i.e., silver in their own boxes and likewise with the bronze. Currently all the coins are arranged strictly chronologically by RIC or RPC catalogue number with the metals mixed together.
  8. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    Since I collect so generally, I have trouble finding a system that works the same for all of the sections. I like the idea of following the order of a trusted book but that will require reordering your coins every time there is a new expert revision. My answer has been to separate by metal, by mint, and by order as presented in my favorite book and to live with the fact that everything is not going to be up to date. I find the latest theories of order interesting but not something I see as permanent to be followed slavishly. The important thing is I can find my coins when I am looking for them. That almost makes me want to switch to alphabetical but I have not yet gone that far.
    Archilochus likes this.
  9. Marsman

    Marsman Well-Known Member

    I store my coins by number, simply starting with no 1. Each coin has an unique number. I use the same number in my digital database, so I can find any coin I want in a few seconds with the search button. This method means that all coins in my boxes are mixed up (metal, RIC numbers, republic, empire) but I don’t care :)

    I put the number on the insert card that goes in the flip. This is coin no 64.

    Last edited: Jan 25, 2020
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  10. panzerman

    panzerman Well-Known Member

    I have nothing organized, but do have very concise data labels/ along with auctionhouse tags. IMG_1151.JPG IMG_1152.JPG IMG_1146.JPG
    dlhill132, rrdenarius, TheRed and 6 others like this.
  11. physics-fan3.14

    physics-fan3.14 You got any more of them.... prooflikes? Supporter

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  12. Suarez

    Suarez Well-Known Member

    John you could start your own gold coin museum, wow!

    If I had your collection it would be guarded by laser turrets.

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  13. capthank

    capthank Well-Known Member

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  14. Gavin Richardson

    Gavin Richardson Well-Known Member

    This was a tough question when I was starting to re-catalogue about 2-3 years ago. I looked at how VCoins dealers arranged their coins and generally followed suit. I'm still happy with my scheme. Constantine gets his own category because I specialize in his coinage.


    A problem for me was how to sync a given coin flip identification with its corresponding more generous page discussion in my MSWord documents. Using a RIC number would not work if one has multiple examples of a single RIC exemplar. I addressed this problem, somewhat pretentiously, by assigning a coin a RICHARDSON CATALOG NUMBER. This works well until I sell, trade, or give away a coin. But I make it work, usually by retiring that number until a replacement makes its way to my collection.

    In my trays, I order my coins by ruler and then striking date.

    EDIT: To give proper credit, I’m pretty sure I looked at how Victor Clark and Incitatus Coins ordered their stock. I suspect my scheme owes a lot to them, though it’s a pretty standard division of Roman historical periods.
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2020
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  15. tibor

    tibor Well-Known Member

    @Suarez When I would visit with my aunt, I would bring a bottle of the Baileys and listen to the family stories and history. I really do miss her.
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  16. lehmansterms

    lehmansterms Many view intelligence as a hideous deformity

    "Whatever works for you" is probably the most cogent answer to this question/set of questions. Although my ordering scheme varies from era to era - eg: Constantinian/House of Valentinian era material is arranged by mint first, then within the mints by chronology, then by person, vs 12 Caesars which is person-by-person throughout - you may find a different approach makes more sense to you. For me, in this case, this will often depend on whatever scheme the particular book I use to understand that era/place employs. RIC breaks things down, arranging differently for different eras, too, so the approach can be very different from volume to volume. Basically, I try to find a logical arrangement scheme in each of my folders (similar to the roster of folders Gavin showed us) which makes sense for understanding the coins of that era/place and helps by presenting a framework on which to hang both my coins, and my research/thoughts/writings, etc.
    In Greek coins, I go strictly by Geography even though a clockwise tour of the Mediterranean basin follows nothing, really, except geography, all the references tend to be arranged that way. I also make no distinction between "Greek" and "Greek Imperial" (as we used to call Provincial issues). My folder for Egypt, for example, begins with Ptolemy I and runs chronologically through the potin tetradrachmae of the Tetrarchy, unbroken except as needed for housing in multiple folders. I would prefer to begin with Nektanebo, but financial considerations are important - collecting as a relatively low-income retiree, most of the expensive stuff is way out of my range unless I had the foresight to buy it 40-50 years ago.
    I find that no one, single approach fits all the categories and so I arrange each as it best makes sense to me - and hopefully to others.
    One great exception to the above I discovered when I set out to assemble my website/gallery. On a website, if your software allows for easily creating new folders and ordering/reordering of the individual photos and descriptions, you can put the same coin in multiple places to fit it into multiple ordering schemes that happen to coincide. My Augustus/Agrippa/Croc can now be in my Greek Europe "book", my Republican/Imperatorial "book", and the further meta collection of Roman portraits on larger Æ's at the same time, although that collection exists mainly in my imagination and has been physically assembled, pulling the actual coins from multiple books, only a couple of times for special purposes.
  17. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus Supporter

    My coins are arranged chronologically by emperor. Then for each emperor I use ascending RIC numbers. All my coins are arranged in Abafil trays.
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  18. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    If you collect Roman Imperial coins one way to organize them is to use Sear's numbering in his five volumes. For each emperor he lists coins by denomination, largest to smallest, and within denomination they are alphabetical. The vast majority of imperial coins you will come across, or something virtually the same, are in there. (I admit, for example, Flavian specialists will not find all combinations of TRP and COS numbers, but a very good representation and a close to all the reverse types.) Republican coins are in there with silver chronologically, almost in the order of Crawford, but with some recent date changes incorporated. If a Crawford number is given, it is not hard to find the corresponding Sear number (in volume I) since they are in virtually the same order. The volumes have many Alexandrian types (actually almost all, but not all dates of each type). For other provincials, put them at the end of the other coins of the emperor.
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  19. Orielensis

    Orielensis Well-Known Member

    For me, that depends on the collecting field.

    My Roman Republican coins are arranged by Crawford (RRC) number

    Roman Imperial coins are arranged chronologically by emperor and, within the emperor groups, by RIC number.

    Arranging Greek coins is complicated. My civic Greek coins are sorted alphabetically by region and city – I think about switching to Eckhel's geographic system, though. Coins from the same city are in chronological order.

    Coins of the Hellenistic Kingdoms (Macedonian, Seleucid, Ptolemaic, smaller kingdoms like Cappadocia) and Eastern realms (Achaemenid Empire, Mauryan, Indo-Greek, Indo-Scythian, Parthia, Kushan, Elymais, Sassanid) are in chronological order.

    My medieval coins are roughly arranged by cultural region (England, France, Italy, Spain, German-speaking lands, Eastern Europe, Crusader states including Cilician Armenia, Islamic world, "Indian") and in chronological order. Where necessary, they are subdivided alphabetically by minting authority.

    Coins that don't fit in these categories live in a "misfits box". This category includes e.g. Celtic coins, Carthage, Chinese, and Roman provincial coinage. I don't really collect these but have a few examples that I found interesting for one reason or the other.
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2020
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  20. Jaelus

    Jaelus The Hungarian Antiquarian Supporter

    I arrange my coins by major and minor coining periods or logical groupings, chronologically, and then by ascending face value within each period.
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  21. whopper64

    whopper64 Active Member

    I don't collect "ancients", but I do collect several world coins, most notably Great Britain and Wales, as well as German States/Germany. These are our "heritage" countries and I concentrate on my family tree (their birth and death dates), as well as birthdate of our daughter including 500 years of chronological dates. Very personalized, and will not only teach history, but will help her to remember ancestors. Coins from Great Britain are catalogued from Elizabeth 1 with at least one coin per king/queen since, all falling in with chronological ancestral dates. Collection won't mean much to anyone else, but is personalized for her and her future children. It's been a lot of fun doing it, and continuing to do it.
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