Collectors Research Limited

CRL was a numismatic firm, based in Montreal (Quebec, Canada), that operated from the late 1950s to the mid-1970s. We specialized in minor foreign coins, sold worldwide, and wrote monographs and books on a variety of numismatic topics.

Collecting Coins for the Story They Tell

Or Let's Put Numismatics Back into Coin Collecting

The proposal to collect coins for their own sake is not something new. Amongst the Greeks there were lovers of fine coins, and it is certain that the products of such a city-state as Syracuse, where famous artists have recorded their signatures on their finest coins, were as highly prized in those days as they are today. Amongst the Romans too there were collectors. We know that the Emperor Augustus owned a cabinet of coins and was keenly interested in the choice types of any new coinage. The find of Roman gold coins in the foundations of a Roman villa at Vitry in Switzerland, where no two specimens were alike and all save one (out of 72 pieces) were in beautiful condition, points not to a banker but to a collector, especially as half was buried in one corner of the room and the remainder in the opposite corner - no doubt in the hope that if half were stolen, the rest would be overlooked.

In medieval times, it would seem that the art of collecting was largely lost although we know that Charlemagne did own a collection and that some of the monastic collections were started very early. It was not until the Renaissance, with its emphasis on classical learning, that interest was re-aroused in the collecting of coins, particularly in Italy where relics of Greek and Roman art became highly prized and coins too came into their own, inspired as they were by some of the lovely Renaissance medals by such artists as Pisanello and Matteo de'Pasti.

As the classical revival spread to France and Central Europe, so did the love of ancient coins. By the 17th century, most European princes and rulers owned collections and are known to have tried to rival each other in acquiring rare specimens. Nor were the counterfeiters slow to take advantage of the situation so that forgeries of that period exist and are not too easy to recognize. Quite a few books were written in Latin and early French, mostly dealing with classical coins, and many of them with woodcuts more or less accurately reproducing the originals. It was not until Eckhel's Doctrina Numorum Veterum, published in 1792-8, that an orderly system of collecting was first enunciated, and his work laid the foundation of all our modern approach to numismatics. He also started the first modern coin collection in Vienna about 1760 by order of Empress Maria Theresia, who transferred her own collection to form the basis of the new museum. In England, the magnificent collections of coins in the British Museum owe their inception to an amalgamation of George III's and the Bank of England's collections.

With the 19th century, coin collecting really came into its own and books on almost all branches of numismatics began to appear in many languages, making it possible to collect scientifically. Numismatic societies, by bringing like-minded people together, greatly extended the pleasures of collecting and by publishing regular journals widened the circle of collectors in many lands.

This development has continued uninterrupted into the 20th century and, while wars have brought temporary set-backs, they have also increased the number of those interested in coins, an interest often first aroused through service overseas. There is therefore a wealth of accumulated knowledge available to the inquirer and, although the last word on many problems has not yet been said, it is certainly no longer necessary to study coins in isolation, nor to collect blindly.

(Leonard Forrer, The Art of Collecting Coins, 1955).

Some years ago, a well-known doctor - who incidentally is also a coin collector - remarked on the undoubted fact that numismatists live to a ripe old age. On asking him if he could account for this from a medical point of view, he assured me that there was an adequate explanation. His view was that so absorbing a hobby tended to prolong life for two reasons: the tired business man, who comes home with problems oppressing him, is able to forget them when he turns to his coin collection; in consequence, he sleeps better and refreshed, is able to confront his problems the following day with greater ability. Secondly, the problem of retirement is solved in advance, for instead of missing the active routine of his previous employment, the increased leisure allows him to devote more time to his hobby and to carry out long=cherished projects of re-arrangement, of cataloguing, and of completing research into some aspects of his particular interest. This is instructive and encouraging so that no apology is needed in commending the collecting and study of coins to all who have the slightest interest in those metallic discs beyond what they will purchase.

As a hobby - coins are fascinating, not only because reaching back to the early Greek period they cover a large part of the world's history for 2500 years, but because they may be collected and studied in such a very wide variety of ways, many of which have been indicated in our advertisements. Coins are practically indestructible; even when worn it is often possible to identify them and derive the satisfaction of placing them in their right category. Then too the lure of the chase is never far away; what a delight to secure quite unexpectedly that elusive piece needed to complete one section of your numismatic story.

It may be thought that collecting coins is an expensive pursuit. This is indeed a fallacy; there are categories of coins to suit all purses and this applies to some ancients as well as to modern coins. Not even the rarest coin sold at auction has even brought the high prices of great rarities in the stamp market and it is often possible to acquire many hundred copper and other coins of non-noble metals for very low prices. Silver and gold coins are necessarily dearer, partly because of their intrinsic metal value, but even so it is quite possible to collect them on a moderate income. It must not be forgotten either that an intelligently formed collection increases in value as the years go by, and is one of the soundest investments available at the present time - even being recommended by many of the investment houses. There is an art, however, in collecting coins and it is the aim of our firm to provide necessary guidance in order to prevent disappointment and discouragement to the serious collectors.

Realizing the Investors, Trends and Teletypes did not exist in the 1800s and that the earlier collectors did not always go for the BU and Gem BU grades, it does seem a bit futile to request only BU quality - and especially at Brown Book prices. These coins simply do not existing Investors Rolls or mint sealed bags. We must wait until circumstances result in the sale of these older collections - and then the bidding is often so brisk that the collection is finally sold for more than catalogue. Under such circumstances, just how can the dealer sell these coins at catalogue? Let's put numismatics back into collecting and put the specimen into your collection for the enjoyment of the story they have to tell.