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How to recognize an unknown coin?

13.03.2012.

Supposedly, each numismatist has had some coin collection, what originally was impossible to recognize without a help from other people, information searching in internet, catalogs or books. Undeniable, information search is really a breathtaking process, but you have to have the knowledge to understand with what to start first. So I will try to lay out my own experience, by telling the best ways for identifying an unknown coin – how to identify its country of origin, face value, year, and catalog number.

So, you have found an unknown coin, about which you would like to know something more. And now you have the question, what to start with?

  • Web searchers
If the coin has Latin letters and they are clearly seen (or at least some part of them), then you may not have any problem at all. Lets open some web searcher and lead in all the readable words. Mostly, the searcher will give you a clear and demonstrative information about the appropriate coin.

  • Searching by armorial bearings
It is harder, if the coin is with defects, and all the inscriptions are impossible to decipher, or the coin is from Arabic or Asian countries, where latin alphabet is not very popular. In this situation, at first, you have to define from where the coin has come. You can do it by comparing coins armorial bearing with already identified armorial bearings, for example, in the catalog or internet - http://worldcoingallery.com/Inst-ID/page1.html
When the armorial bearing has been found and coins national origin determined, next step is to try to define the coins nominal and forging year. Of course, it is possible to check the appropriate countries catalog sheets. If in the countries history the coins have not been very much, then this seems the best solution – it is quick and comfortable. But, if in the countries history have been much monetary reforms, as a result, the coins, which are in the circulation, after every 5 to 10 years are being hammered again, so it can be a time-consuming work. In order to make it little easier, you need to identify already the mentioned coins nominal and hammered year. Probably, there might be a question, how to do that, if on the coin there is just some kind „doodles”(in most of cases on the Arabic and Asian country coins). It is not like that, each „doodle” has his meaning. You can recognize the numbers by looking for an explanatory information in catalog, books or internet, for example, here - http://www.omniglot.com/language/numerals.htm. When the year has been recognized, you can take again a catalog and and look through its offered information.

  • Ask other collectors for the help

If none of the methods are helping you and searching do not bring you results, then the final chance is to ask other person for help, and probably the other person might be a collector, who might be a little bit more experienced in numismatic than you. Nowdays, communication between collectors through internet forums progress very fast. If you have acquired English, then you practically do not have any problems. Nowdays it is possible to communicate with different countries collectors in different forums.
Some examples:

1.    Latvia. You can try to ask for help in appropriate forums sections http://www.antik-war.lv/ . Communication language in most of cases is Russian, but there is also used Latvian.
2.    Germany. http://www.numismatikforum.de. Communication language is German, but answer may be given also in English, if the issue has been started in English.
3.    France. http://en.numista.com. Communication language is English.
4.    The USA. http://www.coincommunity.com/forum/. Communication language is English.
  • Write to me!
If this also doesn`t help you, you can contact me, by writing me an e-mail: gundars.sokolovskis@inbox.lv and send me some photos of coins (it would be better, if you could send it scanned) in good quality. I will try to help you.

If you have some advices or additions, contact me thorugh my e-mail: gundars.sokolovskis@inbox.lv
I will try to announce it also to other visitors of my home page!

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