Over the years, the United States Mint has contributed significantly to the growth of coin collecting in America with the introduction of new coin designs that are intended to attract new collectors to the hobby. In 1892, the US Mint released the first commemorative coin authorized by Congress, the Columbian Exposition half-dollar. Between 1892 and 1954, the Mint produced coins commemorating 53 different individuals, occasions, or events. This practice was temporarily halted by Congress after 1954 due to concerns that coins were being issued that commemorated events of local and not national interests.
It was not until 1982 that Congress authorized the minting of a new coin commemorating the 250th anniversary of George Washington's birth. Struck in the traditional 90 percent silver composition, this coin became the first of what is commonly referred to as the "modern commemorative." An instant hit among collectors, the Mint sold millions of these coins in uncirculated and proof conditions. A flawless example of this coin, graduated and certified by ANACS, can still be purchased online. Since the introduction of the George Washington commemorative half-dollar in 1982, the US Mint has released over 90 modern commemorative coins in various denominations.
Despite the popularity of the US Mint's modern commemorative coin program, its success at attracting new collectors to the hobby pales in comparison to the 50 State Quarters series introduced in 1999. The Mint estimates that over 140 million people were collecting State Quarters by the time the series ended in 2008. The influx of millions of new collectors into the hobby resisted in dramatic increases in the value of all kinds of coins.
The unbelievable success of the State Quarters program had paved the way for similar coin programs. In 2007, the US Mint began honoring American Presidents by issuing the Presidential $ 1 Coin series. Included as part of this coin program, the US Mint has also released the First Spouse series of one-half ounce gold coins. Furthermore, the "America the Beautiful" series of quarters featuring national parks and historic sites around the country debuted earlier this year. Each of these coin series is the direct result of the success of the 50 State Quarters coin series.
Thanks to the mass appeal of the State Quarters program, starting a coin collection for many hobbyists is as easy as sorting through their daily pocket change. The variety of designs available in the State Quarters series and the newly released America the Beautiful series means that many new collectors are likely to enter numismatics by collecting sets of these coins. Prior to the arrival of the new quarter designs, most collectors acknowledged that they began by collecting pennies. While these are certainly excellent ways to which one's appetite, they do not need to equate to valuable collections.
There is a growing number of collectors who are looking to graduate from collecting circulated coins and progress into building more valuable collections. Fortunately, there are centuries' worth of US and world coinage available to provide collectors with a plethora of choices. But serious coin collecting, especially older coins, can be often become somewhat intimidating for the uninitiated collector. What I like about purchasing coins from knowledgeable dealers is the additional information about the coins that I get from them.
Anyone who is looking to become serious about coin collecting needs to be serious about educating themselves first. The more knowledge about coins that you possess, the more confident you will become in the purchases you make, and the more you will enjoy the overall experience. Many coin dealers not only have knowledgeable representatives to deal with but they also offer detailed information regarding each coin they sell. But do not just settle for one source of information, there is an entire community of coin collectors and organizations to learn from.
A great place to start is by joining one of the many national, regional, or local numismatic organizations. On the national level, there is the American Numismatic Association (ANA). Founded in 1891, the ANA is the nation's largest organization for coin collectors. Many reputable coin dealers are members of the ANA. Membership benefits include a subscription to their official journal, The Numismatist and access to ANA's library of books, photos, and videos. The ANA also sponsors numerous seminars through the country.
Some people may prefer to participate in more localized groups. Fortunately, there are several regional organizations and almost every state has numismatic clubs that focus on events and interests specific to their state. Regardless of whether it is a local, state or national organization, the important thing to remember is to connect with the coin collecting community. There is a wealth of information that collectors have to share with one another that will help you enjoy the overall experience.
Of course, the coin collecting experience would not be complete without attending one of the countless coin shows or conventions held across the country. These events can range from small, one-day coin shows sponsored by local clubs to large, multi-day conventions that attract people from all over the world. The advantage of these events, both large and small, is that it gives collectors the opportunity to examine a great number of coins in one location.
A great local event in my area is the FUN Show. Sponsored by the Florida United Numismatists, this annual convention contracts over 15,000 collectors and dealers from around the world. Their next event will take place in January of 2012 in Orlando. As one of the nation's largest coin shows, it promises to be extremely rewarding for all who attend.
Coin collecting should be an enjoyable experience. The first rule to keep in mind should be always collect what you like. If a particular series or design attracts your attention, then learn more about those coins and plan ahead; decide what coins you need and set a reasonable budget. Join one of the many coin collecting organizations and become part of the community of collectors. Then meet some dealers and establish a relationship with one or more in order to help you build your collection (Anyone interested in graduated in certified modern issue coins should be sure to check out Numis Network ). The point is, do not be afraid to start collecting. Jump in, have fun, and spread the joy of coin collecting.