Coin Collecting – Interesting Facts

Coin collecting…when did it begin in Britain? What is the most expensive coin ever sold in Britain? We are embarking on a coin journey, learning more about everything coin collecting. Read on…some facts may surprise you.

How long ago were coins first minted in Britain?

The first coins minted in Britain date back to the Iron Age. They were struck in gold, silver and bronze between 1 BC and 1 AD. They had quite distinctive designs and were reminiscent of the designs of Roman and Greek coins.  The Romans invaded Britain in 63 AD and would stay for the next 300 years. Britannia, as we know her on British coins today, was invented by the Romans.

When did coin collecting in Britain begin?

Around the 14th century, collecting coins for fun, rather than spending them, was something only the very rich enjoyed. During the 15th and 16th centuries, being restricted to the upper classes, coin collecting became known as the “Hobby of Kings”. The 17th century saw the move of coin collecting to a more academic pursuit and collections were studied and catalogued.

Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution in Britain in the 18th century opened up coin collecting to more people as disposable income increased due to the growth of private enterprises and more people becoming wealthy.

Matthew Boulton and James Watt became business partners in the late 18th century, and created the worlds first steam powered minting machinery. It revolutionized how coins were made, and more coins became available for collectors. These coins were designed specifically to sell on from various metals.

Numismatic Societies

Coin collecting became so prevalent in Britain that in 1836, The Numismatic Society of London was founded. Their first president was an astronomer named John Lee. The society gained the new title The Royal Numismatic Society from Edward VII by Royal Charter in 1904. Further numismatic societies have since been formed throughout Britain.

Jubilee Celebrations

The first royal commemorative coins were minted in 1887 ahead of the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. They were gold and silver florins. A new double florin was also minted featuring the Jubilee head of Queen Victoria on the obverse.

The tradition of minting commemorating coins to celebrate royal jubilees has carried on, through to Britain’s reigning monarch. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has now celebrated five jubilees with Britain preparing for the Queen’s Platinum jubilee in 2022.

Celebrity Collector

Paul McCartney of The Beatles started collecting, when in the early years of the band they would be pelted with coins at gigs and he would collect them up at the end of each show.

He has gone on to be an occasional collector, and has even been seen making his own plectrums by placing one-cent coins on train tracks near his home in The Hampton’s, New York. When the train runs over the coins, it flattens them, creating do-it-yourself plectrums.


Decimalisation in Britain in 1971 sparked more interest in coin collecting with both the coins being phased out, and the new coins in circulation becoming collectable.

This ignited a worldwide interest in coin collecting with mints all over the world producing coins and sets for collectors to buy.

Big Money

The most expensive coin ever sold in Britain was an Edward VIII gold sovereign from 1937 which was bought by a private collector for £1 million.

The buyer wished to remain anonymous, but was reported to have said at the time: “When the opportunity came along, I felt I could not turn it down. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I’m aware that [£1m] is a lot of money for a coin, but if I did not secure it now, I’d not get the chance again.”


This last statement is all important when it coins to coin collecting, and we advise the same to our clients. Timing is everything when it comes to coin collecting.

Collectors can wait a lifetime for that one special coin, because it means that much to them, and when the opportunity arises, they take it. That is why coin collecting means so much to so many people all over the world.





Coin collecting | Britannica

The History of Coin Collecting – Change Checker

History of the Society – The Royal Numismatic Society

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Paul McCartney is spotted making his own guitar picks by flattening coins on a railway track | Daily Mail Online

Rare Gold Sovereign Sells for a Record £1 Million |Atkinsons Bullion