Hobby or habit? Why do you collect?

A lot of people collect coins, but not all think of themselves as collectors.

The coin collecting habit can sneak up on you. Before you know it, you’re checking your change every day and accumulating a collection of commemorative coin designs that you know you will never spend. So when does the habit turn into a hobby?

We investigated with a few collectors and here’s what they had to say.

Collecting new coins from change

A lot of people look out for the latest coins to be issued into circulation. The London Underground coin and the London 2012 50p designs have been disappearing from circulation FAST!


Here’s what you said about that.

Daniel Wright,
I like to collect the first circulated versions of new designed coins as it has a novelty factor, nice shiny coins in my change – they catch my eye (rather like a magpie).

Sheree Hall,
I collect coins that I haven’t come across before, like in loose change. But If I see the coin more frequently I spend it. I got a 50p NHS coin last week that was made in 1998, I’ll hold on to it as I haven’t seen one before!

I never really thought of myself as a collector until I realised I was checking my change for 50ps every day! Now I want to find the London Underground coin.

Bee Rian,
I’ve recently started saving any strange 2 pounds coins I get in my change! It’s surprising how many designs are in circulation really. I now have about 14 pounds worth of designs saved. Including Darwin, and the Olympics.

Collecting non-circulating coins

Non-circulating coins come in many forms, from classics like the Sovereign and Britannia range, to commemoratives for special events like the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee or London Underground 150th Anniversary, to novelty coins and medals designed purely for fun.

London Underground coins

Lots of people collect these coins to mark an event or due to an appreciation for the aesthetic quality of the designs.

Thomas Humble,
“The quality and meaning of the coin makes it collectable. And I only collect coins that are crafted with artistic meaning. I do not like or collect photo coins. I am also a collector of model cars.”

Simon Steele Law,
“I collect coins not only because it is a fascinating and educational hobby, I collect coins to appreciate their artistic beauty and their wonderful designs”

Steve Kettle,
I collect only British coins because I like the designs, and the skill of the artist. Of particular interest to me are the British Isles coins.. Jersey/Guernsey/IOM/Gibraltar as they are consistently so different to mainland, and just that little bit tougher to obtain.

David Kane,
I collect decimal and crown-sized coins of the world for the artwork and low mintages.

Collecting old coins

Of course all new coins will eventually become old coins, but it is not always easy to predict which ones will become the collectable rarities of the future.

Older coins

Collectors of old coins are often interested in the story of the coin, and in what it represents. Coins that are hundreds or even thousands of years old were a part of life in a time we can only imagine. To own a tangible piece of a bygone age is something very special and it keeps many people enthralled with the magic of coins.

David Moss,
I love to collect ancient coins, because they are incredible historical artefacts, and are not always as expensive as people think.

Rebecca Clarke,
I started calling myself a coin collector the day after I got a 1942 NZ Florin from a vending machine. I went to the local coin and stamp collecting shop and bought myself a NZ pre-decimal catalogue.

In summary

It seems that most of you get enjoyment from coins, and that’s when the collecting bug bites. Known as ‘the hobby of Kings’, you’re certainly in good company! We’ll leave you with a wonderful comment from someone who obviously recognises the true value of coins.

Leonard Richard Stanway,
In my opinion I think it becomes a hobby when you stop thinking “that’s pretty”, “that’s old” or “that’s worth something” and start to really look at them. In other words, you start noticing the details, differences and appreciate them as coins, not money.

We want to hear from collectors

Have you got all the London 2012 50ps? Do you have a collection of ancient or world coins? Do you collect anything else? maybe you have a collection of coins but don’t think of yourself as a collector? Leave us a comment!

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  • Steven Campbell-Kelly

    Then I am a collector…..yes, coins as artistic momentos of a bygone age and not money, I can agree with that.

    • jamesroyalmint

      Couldn’t agree more :D

  • Looking back, I realize now that I got the bug of collecting coins when I was 15 years old and working as a bellboy in a hotel in Madrid (I am Spanish) I was given two 50p coins as a tip, one of them with the 1973 design of the Common Market. I was so stunned by the coins not being round! (The picture is that of my coin scanned).

    • jamesroyalmint

      Nice to hear that the 50p design made such an impression on you!

  • big steve

    collecting coins for a hobby is absolutily fantastic i dont collect for there worth i collect for there history

  • I have to keep every “new” coin I see. But it can only come from loose change – I don’t buy collections although have a weakness for a few special editions every while or so. I keep a list of each coin I have and any specials I’m looking for. As the treasurer for an event bringing in some £10k in cash on one day you can only imagine my frustration as I have to bag everything up!

    • jamesroyalmint

      Surely you can pick out any coins that catch your eye! As long as you replace them with coins of like worth of course :D

  • Annette

    I’ve never thought of myself as a collector, however, I have a number of British pre decimal coins including some incredibly worn Victorian pennies which are totally worthless. My dad had a small collection of coins which I have inherited, I think the oldest is a King John coin but my favorite is a 1710 Queen Anne one, I don’t think they are worth much either but I could never part with any of them, I love them because they’ve been in the pockets of our ancestors.

    • jamesroyalmint

      A lot of people inherit collections, and it’s often the seed for a renewed interest in coins.

  • nick

    I collect old coins as thy tell history, and they are nicely designed. New coins which look like they only caught half the minting machine are only fit for the bin.

    • jamesroyalmint

      Oh Nick! Surely we produce a wider variety of designs than ever!

      • nick

        Maybe so, but nine has the authority of the pre decimal designs.

      • nick

        There may be a wide variety, but it is like the variety of so many satellite tv stations, mostly ****. Now, the old half crown, tanner, and the majestic penny with Britannia on the back, and the intrigue of whether the tide was high or low, or if they had a KN by the date…..they were real coins.

        • nick

          or trying to work out whether the 1926 penny was a ‘modified effigy.’

  • Dave

    Like many other people I never thought of myself as a collector but bought the London 2012 50p collectors set last year after obtaining 1 or 2 through normal circulation. I was very impressed with the way they were presented and now aim to purchase the London Underground, Guinea, Sixpence and Uk Floral sets this to truly kick off my collection.

    • jamesroyalmint

      That’s the way so many people start! Very happy that you were impressed.

  • nick

    one thing I would like to put to the mint which intrigues me. Say someone made a coin of a hitherto unknown denomination, copying the effigy of the relevant monarch of several hundred years ago, how would experts know if this was genuine or a unique highly valued piece? eg, a George III one shilling and ten pence. Even easier would be a ‘hammered’ and rough Charles I one and a half pence piece.

    • jamesroyalmint

      Interesting question Nick, and one that would be best answered by The Royal Mint Museum. They have detailed coin records as well as old tools from which they can very accurately work out which coins are really ours!

  • aslam

    im aslam im sil not coins 1942 1954

  • David G

    I started to collect coins when my nieces no longer wanted those I was saving for them. When I started airport taxi work , a BAD idea struck me – why not see how many different countries I could get a coin from. I needed to split some countries ( i.e. Italy as a kingdom and republic ) but such as Australia where the change was only a matter of sterling to Australian dollars remained as one.
    That initial bad idea has led to a situation where I have about 290 countries to date !

    • jamesroyalmint

      290 countries is a phenomenal achievement…you really took this challenge seriously!

  • Hi! I am Abhay, from India. Basically, I am a collector of Old and New Indian Coins. But I also collect coins of Queen Elizabeth II, particularly relating to her Coronation. I have quite a good collection of British India Coins also, as India was under the British Rule till 1947.

    It is interesting to see how even a dot on a coin can bring a lot of difference in the value of a coin – sometimes these dots refer to a particular mint, or they may indicate the year of the minting. This is specially true for the British Indian coins.

    • jamesroyalmint

      Wonderful to hear from a collector in India, and so sorry for the late reply Abhay! Thanks for contributing.