How to Buy British Coins from a Particular Period

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How to Buy British Coins from a Particular Period

Numismatics - that is, the practice of collecting coins - is a popular pastime across the globe, and with the history of British coins stretching back to around 100 B.C. there is a huge variety of periods, types and conditions for anybody looking to collect coins from any period of British history stretching back over 2000 years.

This guide will assist buyers in searching the dedicated Coin section of eBay for the coin they would like in terms of price, period and type.

Buying British Coins

When looking for coins for sale on eBay, the buyer should be aware of the various factors that will affect their choice, such as

* Price - this is an important part to guide the search, as coins will vary hugely in price due to the age, condition and type of coin.

* Condition - the condition of the coins will range from as-new through to extremely worn, and the older a coin the less perfect the condition is likely to be. Condition has a huge factor on cost, as coins in a well-preserved state are worth far more than damaged or worn coins.

* Period - with the huge range of coins through time, choosing a period is a great way to narrow down the choices available. There are likely to be more coins from more recent periods, and therefore more recent coins are less expensive than ancient coins.

* Type - from regularly in-use coins to commemorative versions issued on anniversaries of special dates, choosing the type desired will help narrow the search options available. If the buyer is looking to build a particular kind of collection, such as a full London Olympics 50p set or a Royal Mint collection which all together depict the Royal Shield, identifying the type wanted will help guide the search.

* Denomination - the worth of antique and ancient coins is not attached to their original monetary value, but eBay searches can be guided by choosing the denomination wanted.

Antique and Period Coins

With all the British coins available from all different periods, it is important for the buyer to know exactly what they are looking for and how to identify the items advertised. Though often experts are the only ones who can truly be certain about the dates and authenticity of coins, with the guidance in this guide, inexperienced buyers should be able to make basic checks into coins they are interested in.

* Materials - many coins, even now, contain large amounts of copper and most British coins ancient and new are made of bronze. Larger coinage was often issued in valuable metals such as gold, and British silver coins were solid silver until 1947. Checking the material and colour of the coins is an important step to making sure that they are made correctly.

* Obverse and Reverse - commonly called heads and tails, the images on the coins are an easy way to date coins. It is also an easy way to check the coin, such as the Legend (the words saying to which country the coin belongs), mottos and the particularly the monarch depicted. Even basic things such as which way the monarch is facing will confirm the authenticity of a coin - it is tradition that British monarch portraits on coins face the opposite way of their predecessor, and checking examples of other coins will show which way the monarch should be looking.

* Date - apart from identifying the period of the coin by monarch most coins in the last few hundred years have included the year that the coin was minted in. Dates will provide a good way to check the coin, and will also indicate the value of the coin - the further back the date, the more valuable the coin is likely to be.

* Writing - in particular the edge inscriptions on coins (e.g. the phrase Decus Et Tutamen inscribed on £1 coins, actually introduced to protect coins from coin-clippers and forgers) are very hard for counterfeiters to recreate and they appear faded and unclear. Many photographs or coins include side-on views of coins with edge inscriptions, as they are of particular interest to coin collectors and help prove authenticity.

* Condition - the condition of the coin will affect the value in a huge way, with dents and scratches lowering value greatly. Coins with a preserved lustre and a high level of detail are greatly prized by collectors, Proof coins - special early samples, now often struck for collectors - tend to be very valuable due to their pristine condition.

* Sheldon Grades - this grading scale is used to indicate the condition of the coin, from P-1 (Poor) through to MS-70 (Mint State, in pristine condition). These grades indicate the condition of the coin and whether there is wear or damage, and are excellent ways of checking the condition of a coin before purchase. However, this scale is not always used in outside of the USA, and in Europe most collectors use adjectival grades (e.g. Poor, Fair, Fine) rather than the 70-point Sheldon system.

* Denomination - There are a huge range of coins due to the changing state of Britain and its currency, and in pre-decimalised Britain there were at least: farthing, half-penny, penny, three-penny, sixpence, shilling, florin, half crown, crown, half sovereign, and sovereigns. Pound coins only came into existence in 1971, they were previously paper notes. This list does not give the full extent of British coin denominations, but this is an example of what the buyer can expect to see in their search for coins. Being aware of the values on offer and what each should look like in each particular period is a good way to be aware of great finds on eBay.

* Width - this has varied across the ages, and this width of coins is a good way to check their authenticity. From ancient Britain until well into the 18 th Century coins were very thin due to the expense of materials, and in very ancient coins the edges will be uneven and the images obviously stamped on due to the method of production. However, the edges should be smooth due to wear and age.

This is a great deal of advice to absorb, and it is always beneficial for buyers to contact a numismatics organisation or a coin collector's forum for advice when they need advice from experts. Similarly, buyers should be cautious of sellers who cannot guarantee an item's authenticity, as this is against eBay policy.

Commemorative British Coins

The Royal Mint has, through the ages, commemorated various events and anniversaries with commemorative coins to celebrate the event. From a crown celebrating George V's Silver Jubilee to the £5 coin heralding the Millennium, commemorative coins are a great way to remember various periods of British history. When looking for commemorative coins, the buyer should:

* Search by Event - if looking for a particular event than the buyer can search by name, but buyers can also search under the search categories for each monarch as many coins are issued to honour coronations, jubilees and royal weddings.

* Check Online Lists - if looking to collect commemorative coins, there are various online lists that provide events that were immortalised as well as what each coin looks like.

* Check materials - depending on the period, commemorative coins may be solid or partly silver or cupro-nickel, and are silver in colour.

Commemorative coins are in only a few denominations, from a crown (up to 1965), £5 coin, £2, 50 pence and rarely 25 pence. Larger coins - £5, £2 and 50 pence are often used for commemorative due to their larger sizes perfect for images.

Buying British Coins on eBay

With a range matching the long history of Britain, coins come in all shapes, sizes and designs. Buying on eBay is a great way to get a feel for the variety available and with the helpful search options available a genuine antique coin can be found at a highly competitive price. When buying on eBay, the buyer should consider:

* Price - prices will vary depending on period, scarcity and even materials, with solid silver coins pre-1947 being far more valuable than those cupro-nickel coins after. Buyers can set their budget at the search option bar, and purchasing coins is very flexible with coins available at Auction or Buy It Now.

* Condition - the more mint condition a coin is, the higher the price will be. It is up to the buyer to judge whether a pristine coin is their aim, and mint coins can be found through the search bar.

* Period - searching by period is easier than ever, with the search options bar providing various periods of British history, typically by monarch. A buyer can narrow their options just by selecting the period they are interested in and discard all others.

* Local Sellers - looking for local sellers is an ideal way to keep the costs down, saving the buyer high shipping fees from abroad.

For more advice on searching eBay, buyers should consult eBay's Search Tips page for guidance on how to get more from their searches. If buyers have any questions about any coins they see advertised, they should not hesitate to Ask the Seller.


Buying coins from various periods is a great insight into Britain through the ages, from a Celtic silver unit to a £5 coin celebrating Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee. This guide will aid buyers of British coins ancient and recent in finding the ideal coin, checking its authenticity as well as buying it at the price that suits them.

When searching for coins on eBay, buyers should keep in mind the extra security benefits of buying using PayPal, eBay's preferred way to purchase with added eBay Buyer Protection.

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