How to Start Collecting Ancient Coins?

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Matthew Kruse, Jan 15, 2021.

  1. Matthew Kruse

    Matthew Kruse Young Numismatist

    Hello CT,

    I have been part of the forum for one or two years now, and I mainly collect US coins, silver, and do swaps on Numista to fill my albums. Whenever I log in to CoinTalk, I always see these cool posts about ancient coins but I am completely lost.

    I have wanted to start collecting ancient coins or at least learn a little more about them but I have no idea where to start. Is there a introductory book someone recommends starting out with or something of that nature? Good websites for starting out?

    I have a lot of newbie questions like where can you buy authentic coins, how do you identify them, what makes an ancient coin valuable, and things like that.

    Any tips are welcomed and appreciated, thanks for the help!
    - Matthew
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  3. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Enrich the soldiers...ignore all others

    Hello and Welcome to Ancients.

    There are a good many books out there and/or websites which can provide good introductions to this specialty. Actually more than I can list. To start out collecting you can look at some fixed price websites including vcoins and m-a shops, which have large inventories for sale by numerous (and trustworthy) independent dealers.

    There are also lots of coins on Ebay but you have to be a bit careful there because of fakes. A great way to start out is to collect the coins of Constantine and sons which are plentiful and inexpensive (assuming you are interested in Roman coins). I'm sure other folks will be along to provide advice. For an online catalog of coins to give you an idea of the scope and vastness of ancient coinage is, which provides a comprehensive overview of coins of Greece and Rome by issuing town and/or ruler.
  4. svessien

    svessien Senior Member Supporter

    Many will recommend the «Ancient coin collecting» books by Wayne Sayles. Including me.

    I think the 3rd century AD is a good place to start, if you want to buy coins. Lots of emperors and different coins that can be had for a decent price.

    Ancient coins is such a vast area that you should perhaps have some idea of what you want to collect before you start spending money. I think you will learn and be inspired from participating on this board too.
    BenSi, Broucheion, Stevearino and 4 others like this.
  5. Matthew Kruse

    Matthew Kruse Young Numismatist

    Thank you for the advice! Before I posted this, I was actually just looking on eBay searching "silver coin Constantine." I would like to try to get some inexpensive coins relating to Christianity and the early Church. I know that Constantine was the first Christian emperor.
  6. Clavdivs

    Clavdivs Supporter! Supporter

  7. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    Whitman publishes this book by Zander H. Klawans. I have the Roman part of this reference in a small green hardcover book that I bought back in the mid 1960s. I dabbled with the Roman coins a little back then and are much more serious now as a much older collector. It provides a lot of good, basic information in one place. I collect imperial Roman, and might well remain there. Too many people think I lack focus as it is.

    Guide Book.jpg

    Beyond that, I have the five books on Roman coins by David Sear. You can go deeper than that, but he lists more than 21,600 varieties, which is more than enough for me.

    Once you get started, there is a Wild Winds site that has a lot of photos and short descriptions from auctions on the web.
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2021
  8. otlichnik

    otlichnik Well-Known Member

    When you click the link Clavdius provided you will see many excellent resources.

    One link, not far from the top, is to Doug Smith's excellent site. Partway down his page you will see a place for beginners to start.

    You can't go wrong spending a few days on those sites, including Doug's.

    (He is also an active member here.)

    In terms of other advice, I would say figure out what excites you and go with that for now. Are you a fan of Suetonius' Lives of the Twelve Ceasars? It is possible to find decently priced coins for most of those early guys. Or the movie Gladiator? Again, coins of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus are easy to come by. Gibbon's Decline and Fall or the conversion of the Empire to Christianity? Then the very easy to find fourth century gang is a good place to start.

  9. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    I kinda did things a little differently when I moved from US Coins to Ancients approx 25 years ago. I pursued my historical passions. I became very bored with US Coins, with their limited scope, short historical timespan, major changes were defined by a year - a mint - subtle changes in designs. However, hundreds of thousand or millions/billions were made... machine made. I became bored.

    I pursued my Historical passions of the Roman Republic and those peoples, Empires, Cities, States, etc. that interacted with them. For me the "Empire" period after Augustus reminded me of modern-day collecting. Variance of designs, mints, etc. which, being in Manufacturing for over 40 years, seemed a bit boring.

    I enjoy the Histories when Rome was STARTING. Developing their ideals, values, and whom they were. For instance, fighting for their LIVES during their wars with Carthage showed whom they were. Fascinating to me.

    My learning came through reading Ancient History (since I was very young). I started collecting some coins during the histories I liked. I was careful to do a little homework. THEN, I went on to look for coin books AFTER I had a reasonable grasp of the History. The coins become placemarkers of the Histories that I enjoy.

    I reckon I am not really an Ancient Numismatist, rather a collector of Historical Placemarkers of Critical Junctures in Human History... (I also collect Royal Scarabs from Egypt for that same reason.)

    Here are some coins of critical junctures within Roman History, that defined who they were:

    Second Punic War:

    NADIR of the Republic

    RR Anon AR Heavy Denarius -Quadrigatus - Didrachm 225-215 BCE Incuse Roma Janus Jupiter Cr 28-3 S 31

    CARTHAGE: Nemesis of the Roman Republic

    Carthage Zeugitania First Punic War 264-241 BCE Double Shekel 26 mm 13.9 g Wreathed Tanit Horse stndng r star above SNG Cop 185 Rare

    ETRURIA - An Italian Empire PRIOR to Rome, and were part of their Foundations

    Etruria Populonia AR 5 Asses 3rd C BCE 2.0g Young Hd L V behind HN 173 Vecchi Rasna III 52 ex NAC 29 No 9 RARE

    And, so many others....
  10. AncientJoe

    AncientJoe Supporter! Supporter

    This is good advice but I'd put in one slight twist: buy a few coins first (spending no more than $10-20 each).

    Hold it in your hand, keep it on your desk, and think about how it may have been a soldier or mercenary's salary. Did they use it to buy food, clothing, on vices? What was their life like; what did they do in their spare time?

    There's nothing quite like holding a piece of history. This should help grow your connection to the coins and eventually help you identify what you want to collect.

    There is no "Dansco 7070" for ancients and no one, not even the best museums, has a complete collection so there is an infinite level of freedom and creativity which can be applied to deciding what you want to collect and why.
  11. furryfrog02

    furryfrog02 Well-Known Member

    Late Roman Bronzes (Constantine The Great and up) are a great place to start. The coins are relatively cheap and plentiful and easily identifiable. That is where I started. Once I got my feet wet, I started to branch out and study more.
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  12. gsimonel

    gsimonel Supporter! Supporter

    Not silver! Look for bronze coins of Constantine on eBay. They are plentiful and inexpensive. Silver coins of Constantine are very rare. Steer clear of any affordable silver coin of Constantine that you see on eBay. It is fake. But you can be confident that a bronze Constantine-era coin is genuine. I think it would be harder to find a fake bronze of Constantine on eBay than a legitimate one.
  13. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    This is NOT a how to collect coins book, but you might think it's interesting and it may give you an idea about what kinds of coins you might want to collect. It's a book about what coins Paul might have encountered during the course of his missionary journeys.


    For example, this coin of Caesarea was in circulation when Paul and his companions arrived in that city (Acts 21:8) in AD 57.

    Claudius Caesarea AE 24 Tyche.jpg
    Claudius, AD 41-54.
    Roman provincial Æ 24 mm, 7.11 g.
    Cappadocia? Cilicia?, Caesarea, AD 45-46.
    Obv: ΤΙΒЄΡΙΟϹ ΚΛΑΥΔΙΟϹ ΚΑΙϹΑΡ; bare head of Claudius, r.
    Rev: ΚΑΙⳞΑΡΕΩΝ ΕΤΟΥⳞ Ε; veiled Tyche, seated r., on rocks and holding ears of corn; below, river god.
    Refs: RPC I 4086; SNG von Aulock 6348 (Caesarea in Cappadocia); SNG Copenhagen 177 (Caesarea in Cappadocia); RG 4744-45; BMC 21.31,4.

    Another book you might be interested in is this one.

    It is not limited to the New Testament period; rather, it emphasizes coins from ancient Judea, such as this "widow's mite," a prutah of Alexander Jannaeus:

    Alexander Jannaeus (Yehonatan), 103-76 BC.
    Judean Æ Prutah, 2.25 g, 13.8 mm.
    Jerusalem mint.
    Obv: Hebrew inscription "Yehonatan the High Priest and the Council of the Jews" surrounded by wreath.
    Rev: Double cornucopiae, pomegranate between horns.
    Refs: Meshorer Group P; Hendin 1144.
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2021
  14. kazuma78

    kazuma78 Supporter! Supporter

    I actually enjoyed this book more than the Wayne Sayles book. I found it easier to read and it was extremely informative. I read this one cover to cover and plan to again.

    I have also really enjoyed reading this book. Buy I prefer Greek to Roman personally.
  15. Matthew Kruse

    Matthew Kruse Young Numismatist

    Thank you very much for those recommendations! I will have to check them out sometime.
    Stevearino and Roman Collector like this.
  16. medoraman

    medoraman Supporter! Supporter

    Just so you know, most Roman coins by Constantine's time were bronze. Silver is pretty rare. Constantine and his sons are very common though. Lots of coins with ChiRo, the earliest sign of Christianity. The cross would not be the main sign until later, like in the Byzantine period. I like the "hand to God" coins, where you literally see the hand of God coming down from the clouds to bring Constantine to heaven. Search around, they are not very expensive. With all late Romans, be picky and get a good one. There are MILLIONS of them around.
  17. svessien

    svessien Senior Member Supporter

    It’s a good thing Mr. Kruse came here asking how to start collecting ancient coins. I’m afraid we would be of little help if someone asked for help to stop.
  18. Stevearino

    Stevearino Supporter! Supporter

    @Sveissen, it's only the monthly bank statement or my wife wielding a frying pan that helps me stop.

  19. Matthew Kruse

    Matthew Kruse Young Numismatist

    Thank you all very much for the help and for the very funny commentary. :happy: (Talking to you @svessien and @Stevearino)
    Stevearino and svessien like this.
  20. Terence Cheesman

    Terence Cheesman Supporter! Supporter

    I am rather conflicted about answering this post as even though after something like forty years at this I should be a veteran but I find myself still learning the ropes. My advise would be to...
    1. Research. Read as much about the coins that you can, as well as the history around them. There are numerous sites that will offer info on both the coins as well as the history of the people that produced them. If you are interest in say Roman coins I would certainly invest in a history of the Romans and their empire. Also sites like V Coins MA, Six Bid AC Search among others will introduce you to the coins, their frequency as well as the normal condition you may find them in.
    2. Buy the nicest coin you can afford. You should early on develop a notion of a minimum acceptable grade.
    3. Be a collector not an investor. I don't think anyone can tell me in truth what the market will look like in two years let alone thirty. Buy the coins because you like them.
    4. Initially I would purchase coins from reputable sources. You are less likely to have problems and most reputable dealers will stand behind their coins.
    5. Last when you see a coin you like try as much as possible to do your homework. Try to determine if it is a good price, a decent grade, some types of coins eg Roman Imperial sestertii have issues somewhat unique to that series. You should try to become aware of those issues.
    6. Lastly have fun enjoy yourself. Take your time. Rome wasn't built in a day
    Domitian as Caesar under Vespasian Ar Denarius 76-77 AD Rome Obv head right laureate Rv. Pegasus walking right RIC 921 3.16 grms 18 mm domitd15.JPG
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  21. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    Very well stated, @Terence Cheesman !
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