The Hobby of Kings
Ever since coins were first struck in the fifth or sixth century B.C., men have hoarded them for their bullion value. The first Roman Emperor, Augustus Caesar, ruled from 31 B.C. until A.D. 14, when he died. He actively collected coins from Ancient Greece and other worlds. Augustus often gave unusual or scarce Greek coins to his friends and successful generals. He had an interest in the history of Ancient Greece and incorporated numerous Greek ideals into everyday Roman life.
Throughout the Renaissance period, collecting coins from the Ancient Greek and Roman worlds became a passion among the wealthy kings, princes and even popes, as they amassed vast collections of these coinages. Coin collecting thus became the “Hobby of Kings.”
Europeans began widely collecting coins in the 17th and 18th centuries, although one still needed to be of above average means to amass a true collection. In the 19th century, this passion for collecting spread to America. Collections of U.S. coins gathered in the 1850s virtually always included Greek and Roman coins as well as coins from the fledgling United States.
As the United States continued to mint many series of its own coins, interest in Ancient coinage seemed to wane, although it continued to remain popular in Europe. In the 1980s ancient coin collecting began a modest revival in the United States. U.S. coin dealers specializing in world coins began to include ancients in their inventories. Since about 2005, when NGC , one of the two major independent third-party grading services, began authenticating and grading ancient coins, the desire for ancient coins among U.S. collectors has grown exponentially as U.S. collectors and investors can purchase ancient coins with a strong assurance that the coins were genuine and were accurately graded.
Some collectors began to buy coins of Ancient Greece and the four major periods of their history – the Archaic, the Classical, the Hellenistic and the Roman periods. Some classical symbols are represented on Greek coinage, such as the wise owl appears on the coinage of Athens, and those easily recognizable symbols make these coins very popular, attractive and important.
Likewise, Roman coins are widely collected by topic or type. One of the most pursued collections of Roman coins is the Twelve Caesars, a collection of one or more coins from each emperor bearing the name Caesar. The most important and well known of the Caesars is, obviously, Julius Caesar and his portrait appears on many coins during his reign.
Many collectors and investors find it hard to believe so many Roman gold coins still exist after 2,000 years and that so many are reasonably priced, given their age. After all, age is just one facet in attributing value to a coin.
Another facet of collecting Ancient coins is to collect coins by emperor, coins with animals such as elephants or dolphins on them or coins mentioned in the Bible. Whatever your motivation or collecting interest, these items have survived the last two thousand years of man’s development and progress. They are keys to the past and by owning them, you, too can participate in the Hobby of Kings!