Are you a numismatist? How about an archtophilist? Maybe you’re a recent convert to philography? Or even a Conchologist?
If you collect coins, teddy bears, autographs or shells, then you will know full well how obsessive collectors can be. Collecting is a passion and for many people, despite the fact that it’s not even remotely possible to get your hands on absolutely everything you might want to own. That’s part of the drive for many collectors – that there is always something unobtainable, or expensive or rare, just waiting to be discovered or possessed.
When I was younger, I discovered I could make a huge amount of money from buying and selling records. My mother was pretty concerned that I seemed to have way more cash than a 13-year-old boy should have. In fact, she suspected I was up to something dodgy. What I was actually doing was buying limited edition Madonna picture discs and obscure Prince records at flea markets and selling them for hundreds of pounds to obsessives through Record Collector magazine. Ultimately, the music superfan’s desire to own everything paid for my expenses throughout university.
But it’s not just about obsession. Collecting things like coins can be worth serious cash too. So as the Royal Mint launches its coronation coin collection, let’s take a look at whether investing in coins can make you a mint.
Are Royal Mint coronation coins value for money?
The Royal Mint has already released a range of coins to celebrate the coronation. It goes without saying that King Charles III will soon be appearing on all of our UK coins, though the rollout of the mass circulation coins will be staggered.
The coronation coins are ‘commemorative’ which is the key word for collectors – as this means usually means numbers are limited. And this is the key factor for collectors. All collectable items have a value based on scarcity, availability and sometimes errors. With coins, the lower the number of coins minted, the more they can increase in value.
Of course, buying money at face value as an investment might seem a little ironic. But as we’ve seen over various financial crises, money is only worth what the people in power say it’s worth. Coin collecting defies things that affect the value or availability of money, like inflation and quantitative easing. A humble 50 pence piece can be worth hundreds of pounds over relatively short periods of time.
But you have to be quick. According to the Royal Mint website, the numismatist’s have already been on a shopping frenzy. Of the coronation collection, 13 coins have already sold out, with only three of the limited-edition options available (including two made-to-order options). I’ve not counted the ‘big money’ option in this – a 1kg gold coin limited to 15 that will set you back a cool £77,565.00. Let’s focus on what’s affordable.
The sold-out coins represent a relative bargain. You might be kicking yourself already for missing out on a two-coin 50p set featuring a coin from 1969 and a special 50p struck for the coronation with an image of the crowned king on the reverse. For just £25 for a limited edition of 5000, this is pretty good value for money. In fact, from the cheapest option (a five-pound coin at £20) upwards, many of the commemorative coins cost under £100, making them a good investment for collectors. Better than a mug or tea towel by far.
How much are limited edition coins worth?
If you are a slightly obsessive personality step away from this link now! https://www.royalmint.com/stories/collect/the-rarest-coins/
There is literally a wealth of information out there about valuable coins and collectable cash. Here are some of my favourite examples from the Royal Mint.
Una and The Lion Coin
The Una and The Lion design is a hugely popular collectable among coin collectors, and is renowned as one of the most beautiful designs among collectors. In 2019 The Royal Mint remastered the collection, and the newer versions, such as the 2oz coins, having already started to hit higher prices on secondary market. The coin initially retailed at £4,370 in 2019 and one recently sold for a jaw dropping £62,000.
Edward VIII Sovereign
Okay, let’s talk big money. The Edward VIII Sovereign sold in 2020 to a private collector for an astounding £1 million – the first British coin to hit this price.
Why so high? Well anyone who knows a bit about the Wallis and Simpson story will know that the road to the crown was, ahem, rocky. This particularly coin was part of a few ‘trial sets’ created following Edward VIII’s crowning in January 1936. The coins were never released after the abdication. In addition Edward VIII broke away from the tradition monarch’s heads facing in opposite directions as he preferred his left profile.
Kew Gardens 50p
Back to 2009 and a special Kew Gardens themed 50p – with 210,000 circulating -regularly sells for £150 with the best examples going for over £200. There’s also a silver proof edition (7,575 minted) that sold for £60 on first release and now goes for over £300. The gold edition (620 minted) sells for a whopping £2,500. All of which makes those coronation coin purchases seen like an astute investment.
Top tips for budding coin collectors
I spoke to the Royal Mint’s Director of Collector Services, Rebecca Morgan, to find out her top tips for people who are thinking about getting in to coin collecting.
- A coin is ultimately only worth what the collector is willing to pay for it, but there are factors you should consider before committing to a price. This can include the condition of the coin, its design, mintage figure and what it’s made of.
- If people are looking to sell a coin on the secondary market, and the coin has an unusually low mintage, then it might sell for higher than its face value
- Collectors should always establish how many of the coins are in circulation before committing to a price. If in doubt consult an expert.
- The condition of a coin is measured in relation to how much wear and tear it has suffered over the years. The closer to ‘Mint Condition’ (the condition it was in when it came off the production line at The Royal Mint) the higher value it could be.
- There are loads more top tips for budding numismatists in this article too.
It’s worth noting that Rebecca’s tips apply to almost anything else you can collect, from stamps to – yes – those Prince records I mentioned. For example, that M/M record collectors look when making a purchase means ‘mint’, referring to the condition of the outer sleave and the vinyl itself. And woe betide any seller who mis-advertises an item.
What about coins in mass circulation?
King Charles has already begun to appear on the 50p already. The image of King Charles – uncrowned – created by sculptor Martin Jennings, follows the tradition of reversing the position the monarch faces, with Charles facing left, in comparison to Queen Elizabeth II who faced right. Queen Elizabeth will be around for a while yet though. She continues to feature on 27 billion coins currently in circulation in the UK.
It’s estimated that the average coin will be around in circulation for around 20 years. So expect to see these first mass produced King Charles coins around for a while.
However, just because a coin is in your purse or wallet (or down the back of the sofa), doesn’t mean that it’s not worth anything. There are a range of coins that have been issued in the last twenty years that are worth more than their face value, thanks to limited numbers and that eternal favourite of collectors – the misprint.
For example, there’s a commemorative 50p from 2005 minted for the 400th anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot, that says ‘Remember, remember’ not ‘Remember, remember’ before ‘the Fifth of November’. These coins have already increased in value from a fiver a few years ago to £10-£15 now. And as most of us continue to use the coins without realising their value, they will eventually fall out of circulation leaving the last ones in collectors hands increasing significantly in value.
To invest or not to invest?
I recently wrote a column in Times Money Mentor about the various options available when considering what to do with your savings. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/money-mentor/article/how-much-of-your-savings-are-safe-in-the-bank/
From art to wine, I must say that people who buy things purely as investments leave me cold. If you’re going to collect something, do it because you love it, not solely because of its underlying value at any given point.
The Royal Mint’s collectable editions are things of great joy for collectors. The sheer act of possessing them is all the matters to some collectors. You might think that’s weird. But look how many people tune in to the Antiques Roadshow each year, waiting to see if a long-cherished collection turns out to be worth a fortune.
A word of warning though. There have been examples over the years of rare old coins, like Spanish doubloons, suddenly decreasing in value. You might not think this is possible, but it only takes a shipwreck to be recovered, containing thousands of similar coins and your investment value plumets. So do your research, check how many coins were minted and do it for the love of it, first and foremost.
Featured in Times Money Mentor – Martyn James