Coin Genres

Getting to know collectible coins by their overall appearance and artistic style.

Coins combine history, art and precious metal -- a tantalizing combination that satisfies the collecting urge in many people, young and old alike. Over the years coin collecting has naturally divided into broad areas of interest, including United States Coins, World Coins, Ancient & Medieval Coins, Modern Coins, Varieties & Errors, and Exonumia.

coin collecting areas

US Coins have dominated collecting for a long time. There are numerous books and periodicals dedicated to the subject, tens of thousands of coin dealers worldwide, a large base of hobbyists and investors, and an active, well-tracked, open market. World Coins, that is, collectible coins from every country except the United States, are growing in value and popularity as modern transportation and communication shrink the planet. World Coins fill the next big area of collecting, with sure growth potential expected for years to come.

Lesser areas of coin collecting include Varieties & Errors and Exonumia. Variety & Error collectors specialize in subtle and not-so-subtle minting variations in normal coins. Exonumia concentrates on tokens and medals that look like coins, but are not legal tender used in commerce. Post-World War II (1948) Modern Coins are collected by many enthusiasts who enjoy their intrinsic beauty and value. Today's minting technology can create breathtaking artistry on coins, and many moderns come in gold, silver, palladium, and platinum bullion, making them precious collectibles and investment vehicles.

There is a superb discussion of the historical origins of coinage at From the earliest known coins, dating around 600 BC, and proceeding through Roman, Byzantine, English, Islamic, European, Indian, and Chinese civilizations, this dissertation traces Ancient & Medieval Coins through the Fall of Rome, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, to about 1600 AD, the point where most collectors draw the line between Medieval Coins and World Coins. We have separated collectible World Coins along civilization lines, taking guidance from Samuel Huntington's Clash of Civilizations, because the 'look and feel' of coins is noticably different along these lines. The World Coin genres and their geographic regions, including colonization of the New World and beyond, are shown in the map below.


The 14 Coin Genres, the Look and Feel of Collectible Coins

Area: United States, Genre: United States

Area: World Coins, Genre: Central Europe North and South (CENS), including Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, Hungary, Poland, Norway, Belgium and many more countries

Area: World Coins, Genre: European Colonizers and Their Colonies (ECC), including France, Mexico, Great Britain, Spain, Brazil, Netherlands, Australia, Peru, Colombia, Portugal, Denmark, Argentina and many more countries

Area: World Coins, Genre: Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist (IHB), including India, Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey, Nepal, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Philippines, Thailand, Libya and many more countries

Area: World Coins, Genre: The Sinosphere (Sino), including China, Korea, Vietnam, Japan and a few more countries

Area: World Coins, Genre: Orthodox and Slavic (OS), including Russia, Transylvania, Greece, Georgia, Romania, Bulgaria, Finland, Albania, and several more countries

Area: World Coins, Genre: Core African (CA), including Ethiopia, Liberia, Congo, Gabon and Burundi

Area: Ancient & Medieval, Genre: Ancient, before 500 AD, from Greek, Roman, and early Byzantine Empires, biblical coins, and similar


Area: Ancient & Medieval, Genre: Medieval, 500 AD to 1600 AD, including coins from the Crusades, England, France, Germany and other countries

Area: Modern, Genre: Modern, after 1948 from all countries worldwide, including legal tender coins issued for bullion investment in gold, silver, palladium, and platinum

Area: Varieties & Errors, Genre: Die Varieties, including doubled dies, repunched mint marks, missing device features, VAMs, small and large lettering, and many more subtle variations from normal coins

Area: Varieties & Errors, Genre: Minting Errors, including broadstrikes, brockages, die caps, experimental strikes, hub and die trials, mules, off-center strikes, fragments, wrong planchet, and several additional categories

Area: Exonumia, Genre: Tokens, coin-like objects used primarily in commerce, including tax tokens, game tokens, notgeld, jetons, and many other variations

Area: Exonumia, Genre: Medals, including award medals, war medals, political medallions, art medals, and other types made of precious or non-precious metal


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