By: Daniel McGowan
Many lament the demise of the circulation finds era, but a plethora of fascinating (as well as valuable) coins may be found among bulk world coins.
My own best finds to date are a 1952 British West Africa 6 pence and a 1977 Rhodesia half cent. These are worth $325 and $1,500, respectively, in uncirculated condition per the 2013 Standard Catalog of World Coins.
They are the product of 1,670 pounds of world coins purchased from dozens of dealers and other sources over the past four years bought at an average of $6.72 per pound. This means I recovered roughly 16 percent of my expenditures with only two coins representing a truly infinitesimal portion of what I purchased by weight; less than an ounce of 1,670 pounds.
Of course there have been countless other finds in the $5-25 range, including silver, which rapidly add up to considerable sums and can quickly pay for the rest of the coins (and have in my situation, thankfully).
This pursuit hasn’t led to a mother lode and made me incredibly rich, but it has produced a financial return that would make traditional investments blush (in my spare time no less). In addition, the nonfinancial rewards are priceless and also well worth the effort. Despite this, it hasn’t been an arduous pursuit in the least.
I began buying and sorting bulk world coins almost exactly four years ago, so my 1,670 pounds of purchases by weight would be less than one pound of material per day. It is rare a pound of world coins contains more than 100 coins, so in a sense it’s less than going through two rolls of cents per day on average. That is definitely manageable for all but the most time strapped persons.
Not to be overlooked or marginalized is the joy! This has kept me going more than anything and I believe would have even if I’d never recovered one red cent of my inputs. Whether it is the history (I’ve found coins from 1724-present), art, economics, or otherwise that sparks your interest, many people can find a great deal of enjoyment.
If you’re looking for a new numismatic pursuit, consider world coins, in bulk quantities in particular. Whether it is in order to build a collection, make money, a combination of both, or some other reason, it can be immensely rewarding whatever the reason.
A few tips from personal experience or observations. Just remember to try sourcing from various people, banks, vending companies, currency handlers, and/or dealers, especially if the first few purchases were duds, and that the cheapest is not always, if ever, the best. The exchange value of current coins of the world’s major economies can sometimes exceed the price paid per pound, so if you know individuals who travel abroad, see if they’re looking for a deal on spending money for a vacation, business trip, etc. Don’t burn yourself out by trying to sort large quantities after you’ve found a very valuable piece; find a pace that is enjoyable, and especially not taxing, and stick to it.
Last, but not least, don’t spend large sums of money at the very beginning. Start slow with a few dozen dollars or so and find out if you like the experience so you’re not out much if it is not something you enjoy. Also, this allows you to gain invaluable experience identifying, pricing, etc., your finds if you do continue.
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