[dropcap size=small]C[/dropcap]oin collecting probably begins more as a hobby than an investment. But the right collection could garner significant returns in time. “The world of coins comprises an enormous field and it’s important to concentrate on specific periods, countries, categories and denominations,” advises Johann Leibbrandt, senior valuer, Spain Bonhams.

It is also important to note the difference between numismatic coins and regular bullion coins. Bullion coins are typically made from high-grade precious metals like gold or silver and are purchased primarily as an investment as their value is based on their gold or silver bullion content. However, “numismatic coins are essentially rare or valuable coins with more external value above that of the precious metal”, explains Leibbrandt. “If you’re going to buy rare gold or silver coins for their numismatic value, it’s important to consider quality and rarity. You may want to hold them for at least 10 years before selling.” However, there are instances when one doesn’t always have to hold on that long to see returns, with the right collection. New growing economies like China see huge differences in prices in very short periods of time, says Leibbrandt. “We see more and more Asian investors looking into coins for big returns. In fact, Chinese coins have gone up very much in terms of value and that’s simply because there are more and more wealthy Chinese people. However, the coin industry in Asia still has a long road to maturity compared with the US market, given the fact that collecting started only in the last 20 to 30 years.

China’s national animal graces this 2006 set of panda bullion gold coins.

To start a collection, Leibbrandt suggests looking at old denominations, in particular classical Chinese coins which are “on fire”. The Zhou dynasty (c. 1056BC-256BC), which reigned for 700 years, was the first to mint coins. Those bronze and copper coins are China’s earliest forms of currency. Modern panda-era issues such as a series of panda-themed silver and gold bullion coins issued by China, are also gaining steam, says Leibbrandt.

Less is also more. “Go for quality rather than quantity,” says Leibbrandt. “Even if it’s just one or two coins. It would be far easier this way to defend the value of your investment and to make a good profit out of it afterwards.”

Photo courtesy of Bonhams