Jeff Garrett: Numismatic Holiday Gift Ideas

Posted on 12/10/2020

These gifts will please even the pickiest of numismatists.

Like everyone else, you are probably searching for holiday gift ideas to please that hard-to-buy-for friend or relative. Shopping this year is even more difficult, with most of your options limited to online shopping. As we bring 2020 to a close (thankfully), try celebrating with numismatic gifts for your loved ones, if one or more is a collector or may be inclined to collect. However, numismatists can be very hard to surprise with gifts.

Indeed, buying rare coins for the holidays is not something I would recommend. Collectors are usually very particular, and it is highly unlikely that you will find what they're looking for. Rare coins can be quite expensive and are usually considered an investment. Below are some alternative ideas that won't break the bank and will bring holiday cheer to the collector in your life.

Numismatic books: Every collector likes to read about the hobby they love, and there are many great books to choose from. I could name dozens of interesting and educational titles, but I will start with a couple of my favorites:

  1. Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea by Gary Kinde is a fascinating study of the California Gold Rush, the sinking of the S.S. Central America and its recovery in the 1980s. The story rivals that of the Titanic and is an absolute page-turner. It's also relevant with the recent recovery of more gold and the legal travails of Tommy Thompson.
  2. Next, I would recommend my book, 100 Greatest US Coins. The book has been my best-selling numismatic publication and is now in its 5th edition. Every collector, from beginner to advanced, enjoys reading about awesome coins. This segment of the market has exploded in recent years and understanding the stories behind these great coins will give you a better understanding of the rare coin market.

Coins and coin sets

  1. Gold or silver coins: Gifting a coin from the current year is a long-standing tradition in the United States. I have also bought dozens of gold coins in beautiful boxes and other packaging from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Many collectors covet these quaint relics of the past. One of the greatest aspects of giving a gold or silver coin to a friend or relative is that they will treasure them for a long time. Most gifts these days have very short shelf lives, and it’s great to know you have given something of true value. You may consider making it an annual tradition. NGC-certified Early Releases are among the most popular examples.
  2. Whitman folders: The magic of filling the holes in a Whitman folder still holds true nearly 75 years since their inception. Filling the holes of a Whitman folder with Lincoln cents is how my numismatic journey started decades ago. Most shops and online coin supply stores offer a large selection.
  3. Chocolate coins: These may sound silly, but there are many exciting and beautiful chocolate coin options. Many companies also offer custom-made options. Every collector I know loves chocolate coins, and they make great stocking stuffers too.
  4. Ancient coins: Regardless of what your numismatic-inclined friend or relative collects, they will love owning a genuine 2,000-year-old ancient coin. Many are incredibly affordable and easy to purchase. One of my favorite recommendations is a silver Alexander the Great Drachm or Tetradrachm. These start at around $200 in Very Fine grade. The classic “Widow's Mite,” made famous by the story in the Bible about the widow who gave all that she had, is another popular choice. Regardless of what you buy, be sure to only purchase a coin that has been certified by NGC Ancients.
  5. Birth year Proof sets: These always make great gifts for collectors and non-collectors. Who wouldn’t want to have a beautiful set of coins struck in the same year they were born? Prices for most Proof sets are at all-time lows and are incredibly affordable unless you’re buying one for an 80-year-old relative!

  6. Christmas-themed world mint coins: Several Mints worldwide are offering a variety of coins based on Christmas themes for the holidays. They include the Perth Mint, Royal Australian Mint, Royal Canadian Mint, New Zealand Mint, British Royal Mint and Solomon Island Mint, which unfortunately doesn’t have a website.

Memberships and subscriptions

  1. Membership to the ANA: As past President of the American Numismatic Association, I am obviously biased in my love for the organization. I have been a member since the early 1970s. An ANA membership is one of the best buys in all of numismatics. It is the only national numismatic club devoted to promoting the hobby and numismatic education.
  1. Subscription to The Numismatist: This magazine is one of the best publications and worth the price of the membership. I highly recommend the ANA's Platinum Membership, which is only $46 per year for a subscription to The Numismatist. Another great option is the Life Membership for that serious collector in your life. It provides a lifetime of enjoyment and numismatic comradery.
  1. Subscription to Coin World or Numismatic News: Both of these old-line numismatic publications still offer readers lots of interesting and timely news about the hobby. I eagerly await the next edition to find out the latest news and numismatic discoveries. There are lots of online numismatic news options these days, but I still enjoy a cup of coffee and my latest edition of Coin World or Numismatic News.
  1. Membership to a local coin club: This is a great gift for any young person on your list. Hopefully, there is a coin club in your area. If there is, find out when the next meeting is, and take them along to buy a junior membership. Most clubs have programs or information for young people to encourage their participation, which is a great way to introduce young people to the hobby of numismatics. A local coin club in central Florida jump-started my interest over 45 years ago.

Other gifts to consider

  1. A high-quality magnifying glass: This may sound simple, but a quality magnifying glass is one of the most essential tools for any collector. Every collector needs to examine their coins up close when grading or making a purchase decision. I recommend a 5X power loupe made of glass, not plastic. Plastic magnifying glasses are less expensive but often have areas of distortion. Buy a quality magnifying glass that can be used for years to come. Most local coin shops or online numismatic supply dealers carry a large selection.
  1. Donate to their favorite numismatic organization: Many collectors have everything they could possibly ever need, making them difficult to buy for. Donating to a numismatic organization in their name is a great way to honor their interest and promote the hobby they love. Organizations like the ANA, ANS, or the Smithsonian all need donor funds to survive.
  1. 2020 US Mint holiday ornament: Each year the US Mint offers a variety of numismatic-themed holiday ornaments. This year, several feature the Mighty Minters characters for young people. The US Mint website also offers a variety of other gift ideas for young and old alike.

Regardless of what gifts you choose this year, I hope this list proves helpful. I wish everyone a happy and, more importantly, a healthful holiday!

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