Gold and silver coins collection basic

in Gold

Look at the history of coins and you'll notice two metals that have played a critical part in the development of money: gold and silver. These two metals formed the basis for most great civilizations' systems of money. Greece, Rome, Egypt, Spain, England, the United States, and other countries all based their monetary systems on gold and silver at one time or another. When you hear of the great treasures of the world, you imagine piles of gold and silver, not piles of tin and copper. Why have people throughout the ages been so in love with gold and silver when there are plenty of other metals from which to choose?

Gold is popular because it is

  • Rare: Gold is one of those metals that has been recognized as being rare and desirable for over 6,000 years, but it isn't so rare that it's impossible to find.
  • A naturally occurring element: Gold is found in nature as flakes or nuggets on the surface of the Earth, in rivers, or in thin veins buried deep within the Earth. The purity of natural gold may vary from one location to the next, but it requires little processing to achieve a uniform quality. There is gold to be found on every continent of the world except Antarctica.
  • Malleable: Pure gold is soft and can be beaten into extremely thin sheets or pulled into long wires or strips. Because it's so soft, gold takes good impressions from dies (the steel cylinders used to strike coins) and it won't wear them out as fast as a harder metal may. Or it can be alloyed with other metals and made as hard as you want.
  • Reasonably inert: In nature or in normal use, gold won't react with moisture, oxygen, or human skin, which means that jewelry and coins made of gold will last virtually forever.
  • Beautiful: Pure gold has a soft yellow color and a gorgeous sheen that has appealed to people's visual senses since we lived in caves. Mix gold with silver or copper, and you'll come up with an interesting range of color; the colors that come up most frequently on U.S. gold coins are pale reds, light greens, softer pinks, and white.

Many collectors prefer coins that are white and untarnished; other collectors will pay huge premiums for coins with natural, bright, rainbow-colored tarnish known to collectors as toning. Be aware that toning is not always natural and can — whether it's natural or not — often hide flaws and defects that could dramatically lower the value of the coin.

Silver is popular because it is

  • Common: Vast quantities of silver have been found in various parts of the world, including the United States, Mexico, and South America. Because it is common, silver is the perfect metal for creating lower-value coins for use by the general public.
  • A naturally occurring element: Found deep within the Earth, silver is usually mixed with another great coinage metal — gold. Although native silver is perfectly good for casting into ingots and making into coins, most of it is processed to purify the silver and to separate out the more valuable gold.
  • Beautiful: Pure silver has a bright, white luster and a deep brilliance. As it tarnishes, silver can acquire some lovely colors, including blues, reds, and purples; this is especially true for coins that have been stored near a source of sulfur, such as paper albums.
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Gold and silver coins collection basic

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This article was published on 2010/10/08