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If you intend to buy rare or bullion coins for investment, spend time learning about the coins you are intending to or being asked to buy.
In the past, most investment gains have gone to collectors, numismatists, who have taken the time to carefully study various aspects of coins, including rarity, grading, market availability, and price trends.
Investment success over the years is the result of prudently acquiring coins of selected quality, proven rarity, and established numismatic desirability. Many careful buyers study coins for some time before buying even a single coin. Success also can be enhanced by researching dealers, as well as coins.
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The history of Collecting Coins
While hoarding coins due to their value goes back to the beginning of coinage, collecting them as art pieces was a later development. Known as the "Hobby of Kings", modern coin collecting is generally believed to have begun in the fourteenth century with Petrarch. Notes of Roman emperors having coin collections are also known, but it remains somewhat unclear whether these coins were studied, considered curiosities or were merely hoarded.
Coins as an investment
A common reason given for purchasing coins is as an investment. As with any investment, careful research is required. As discussed in the numismatics entry, prices cycle and can drop, particular for coins that are not in great long-term collector demand. Condition, surviving population and demand determine price. Surviving population can be initially estimated from mintage figures. Specialists learn the exceptions due to melting and other circumstances with experience and study. Age, as such, is not a relevant factor. Claims made by advertisers using popular media outlets should be treated with great scepticism.
In contrast to investments in the classical financial sense (such as stocks and bonds), a coin collection does not produce income until it is sold, and may even incur costs (storage costs etc) until then.
Many of the reasons given for, and factors influencing investing in coins are similar to investing in stamps or gold.