Brendon B. asks: Historically – when did people start to collect/or pay for old coins?
People have been collecting coins since coins were invented (c.700 BC). Some hoards of Ancient Roman coins, at first were thought to be accumulations of money but under closer inspection consisted of coin types of various eras. These were actually coin collections. Even in Ancient Rome, Greek coins could have been hundreds of years old.
The source of these ‘collectibles’ could have been the money changers, that prowled the waterfronts and municipal buildings of Rome and its provinces performing the service of changing “foreign” coins to the familiar Roman ones. These people who performed foreign exchange services, would often trade for old coins (it was the weight of precious metal that was important for money) and then offer these “curiosities” to interested collectors. I guess that they were the first coin dealers. The Ancient Greek coins often exhibited exquisite designs and carefully minted and preserved pieces would certainly have drawn interest.
Coin collecting in the United States really took hold around 1858, after the old large cents were retired and replaced by the new Flying Eagle small cents. Many sought to acquire different dates of the old, much-maligned “coppers” before they completely disappeared from circulation. It was in 1858 that the U.S. Mint first started offering proof coins for sale directly to collectors.
The popularity of U.S. coin collecting had a major resurgence in the 1930’s with the introduction of the first “penny-boards” which had a hole to be filled for each date and mint mark in a series. During this Depression era, many people who otherwise might be engaged in some other pursuit if they had the money, found great pleasure (and economy) in seeking out that next coin for their collection. The draw of those unfilled holes became quite compelling for many enthusiastic young kids (as well as many of their elders). Anyone could participate. After -it’s only a penny!