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Coin Shopping Around The World

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 Posted 06/02/2016  07:07 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add UltraRant to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Ethiopia is one of the very few African countries to have issued quite some silver and gold coins in the past (also for circulation). This might have to do with Ethiopia being the only African country that hadn't been turned into a colony in the 19th century (just a few years by Italy in the 20th). The Ethiopian currency is the Birr, which is divided in Santeem. One USD should get you over 20 Birr. The current series of coins include 1 Birr and 50, 25, 10 and 5 Santeem. 1 Santeem isn't used anymore. Most coins have been minted abroad: the Royal Canadian Mint won a tender for some 1 Birr coins, for example.

The current series of coins looks, at least in my opinion, beautiful. It is fairly simple to get all of the current circulation coins (and in almost uncirculated condition, too), by just going around and buying stuff. Finding nice places to buy stuff will probably be a bigger challenge, though...

Addis Ababa

Addis Ababa is the capital of the country and hosts about 3,5 million (registered) people. The actual number probably is a lot higher, as there also are a LOT of homeless people around and people living in slums, who never get registered.

This provides also one of your main concerns: the huge amount of poverty and subsequent criminality (pickpockets), especially targeting 'rich' people. Also be aware of many locals who just attach themselves to you in the more 'touristic' places of town. And avoid any invitation for coffee or traditional dances. A lot of Western people mainly visit the resort or conference center they're bound to and perhaps a few museums, but all by taxi (which might yet be another scam). I even got strongly recommended not to leave my hotel at night as it wasn't safe...

The main square is Meskel Square, which houses a marathon length running lane. It's really nice to see talented locals training marathon running here during the day, especially early in the morning, and to see small sales ventures and food stalls come to life during the late afternoon and evening. Also, most of the shops are around here and in connecting streets. Don't expect much, though. And expect a thorough control of yourself and your luggage before getting into any shop or mall. In addition, I really recommend visiting the Red Terror museum and the National Museum.

Based on the above, you probably already figured that finding a coin shop isn't going to happen. There are some jewellery and pawn shops around, especially in the city center, but expect to find nothing of numismatic interest here. Expect nothing from banks either. If you want to buy Ethiopian (commemorative) coins or bullion I recommend that you do so in your own country, as it's much safer and the chance of actually finding it is much bigger.

Dire Dawa
Dire Dawa is one of the largest cities in Ethiopia. Nevertheless, it's quite hard to find a hotel, let alone a hotel that fits Western standards: Just two sort of fit the bill (contact me if you need more information). Transport from the airport is either in an ancient Peugeot 203 or 204 or in a tuktuk and largely goes over unpaved roads. If they even run... expect long lines of vehicles for the scarcely stocked gas stations. Also expect no more than basic daily needs on the markets: you won't find coins but you may find a living chicken or two, next to a lot of fruit and other natural products. Also, don't give any coin or note to any beggar. If you start, you'll instantly find yourself surrounded by hundreds of them who won't let you go until they also got your money.

Needless to say, coin shops are too big a luxury for this town.

What I recommend is that you get some nice coins in circulation and enjoy those as they are. Keep any Ethiopian numismatic ambitions for outside Ethiopia.
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 Posted 06/09/2016  8:26 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add UltraRant to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Time for a new one.


Tunisia is a difficult country in many respects. The country has a closed currency, the Dinar, meaning you won't be allowed to export any of the local (circulation) money. Of course it's possible to take some out of the country if you're creative, but don't be surprised if the airport security staff starts searching your wallet for coins and banknotes. Just make sure you sold all your banknotes (or that you keep them safe in a very private place), and just state that you intend to use your last change for something to eat and drink in the lounge. Then you should be good.

The local currency, the Dinar, comes in no less than 10 different coins: 5, 2, 1, and 1/2 dinar and 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5 millim. Experience tells me that it's well possible to get hold of the 5, 1 and 1/2 dinar, the 100, 50 and 20 millim, but that the 2 dinar and 200 millim coins are hardly found and that the 5 and 10 millim seem to slowly have disappeared from circulation.

Tunis is the capital of the country and as typical Northern African as can be. It's dirt cheap, chaotic, has lots of people with short fuses and a complete lack of hygiene. Don't be surprised if taxi drivers at the airport literally start a fight over your business...

There are, despite the strict regulations concerning coins and bank notes, some possibilities to satisfy any numismatic craving you may have. Just go to the medina (west of the main train station, entry at the west end of Avenue de France) and the new center (centre ville) of the city and you will encounter some 'antique' shops who sell a lot of 'old' stuff, including coins, sometimes even made of 'silver' and 'gold'. Be aware of fakes, though. Probably none of the coins you get offered is legit.

Carthage probably was the most important settlement of the Roman empire in Africa. As such, half of Carthage consists of Roman age remains. This city lies 15 km (10 miles) northeast of Tunis, just at the other side of the airport. It's really worth a visit, it's really impressive and inspiring.

A lot of roman things have been excavated here. This includes coins. And those coins have been copied. These copies are for sale at vendor stalls and salesmen which can be found at the entrance of every major archaeological site. Just one $5 ticket will get you into all the sites, by the way. Also, due to the collapse of tourism, most stalls are bankrupt now.

Anyway, those sellers will try to tell you that their coins are legit. A simple observation will tell you that they're counterfeits, fakes or simply not legit, although I must say that some of the fakes are rather impressive. I bought two small ones just for fun (and to add to my ever growing collection of fake and counterfeit coins). But really, if you see 'silver' coins from World War II with Hitler's face on a Deutschmark, and if those coins look like small slices of silver have been scraped off the edge (like they did in medieval times) and if the coin is so light that it almost gets blown off the table if you sneeze, then you know a salesman can't be trusted. It becomes even more hilarious when you tell one of them that his coins are fake: most will get angry and tell you that they're legit because the salesman is also a tour guide.

So if you like good forgeries for bargain prices or interesting fantasy coins, then buy some here.

Tozeur is in the very south west of the country and used to be both a popular touristic destination as well as a popular location for filming. If you're fast, then you can still visit the Mos Espa site that was used in one of the Star Wars films: it's not being maintained and just crumbling away nowadays... Now I'm not saying that you can buy any Galactic Credit Standard in Tozeur, but you can get a hold of a lot of fake coins again.

So when you get away of the resort in the south west of the city and get yourself to the medina, you'll find a lot of 'antique' shops who are willing to sell you something that looks like a coin, smells like a coin, tastes like a coin, yet isn't a genuine coin, mostly inspired by ancient coins.

All in all, Tunisia is difficult due to export limits and what you can get in non-circulating money is by default fake.
Edited by UltraRant
06/09/2016 8:38 pm
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 Posted 06/09/2016  8:33 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add chequer to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Like everyone else, I'm enjoying these a lot
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 Posted 06/12/2016  6:27 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add UltraRant to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Update on Norway!


Mjøndalen recently saw a valued addition as a new coin shop opened there. It's still a startup, but it's getting more and more interesting (especially Scandinavian and American) coins. It's in a street called Nedre Torggata. Prices are actually very good, especially compared to the Oslo shops (probably also because rent in Mjøndalen is a bit less than in central Oslo).

Further reasons to travel to Mjøndalen include... well... nothing actually: Mjøndalen consists of about 5 streets and some huge outlets of a few known Scandinavian retailers and that's it. There's a very good chance that you can visit it if you happen to visit Drammen. Or drive past it if you visit Blaafargeverket (and you chose not to drive among Tyrifjord), the silver mines in Kongsberg or a very interesting (World War II) museum in Rjukan.
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 Posted 06/16/2016  03:51 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add UltraRant to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Germany is the economic powerhouse of Europe nowadays and has a very interesting numismatic history. Being part of the Euro zone, Germany offers a wide range of collectibles in commemorative coins, also in silver and gold. Even collecting every variety of 'regular' (Euro) coins can be a challenge, as there are no less than 5 mints producing German coins nowadays, all with a distinct mint mark: Berlin (A), Munich (D), Stuttgart (F), Karlsruhe (G) and Hamburg (J).

Coin collecting is a very popular hobby here and coin shops can almost literally be found on every street corner. However, this popularity made that prices are high, especially for German standards. Don't be surprised if you pay less for your hotel night than you pay for a Morgan dollar. Which also says a lot about German hotel prices, by the way.

Despite having a very interesting (numismatic) history, including lots of locally issued coinage in sometimes interesting materials (like cardboard and carbon), Notgeld (which means 'emergency money', not 'not money'), and a lot of wartime money, I found that the amount of German coins to be found in German coin shops is not significantly higher than anywhere else in West Europe. Also, Nazi coinage is not all that special: I have bought it in bulk quantities at low prices, so don't pay too much for it.

I'll have to change the format a bit, as there are just too many shops around and too many cities with coin shops.

Key words
English has never been a language widely spoken in Germany. Most TV series and films were dubbed in German and any magazines or books you'll find in shops will be in that language, too. Things seem to change slowly, though, as especially the younger generation and the higher educated are quite comfortable with English. However, this means that you'll probably still have to either speak German to some degree or use your hand and feet a bit to get around. Most Germans are friendly, patient and helpful (though sometimes a bit stiff and formal in communications), so you'll probably get where you want. Nevertheless, it helps to know what you're looking for, especially when looking on the internet, where hands and feet are not that useful.

The German word for coin is Münze, plural Münzen or, alternatively (although German purists will be against it) Muenze and Muenzen. A coin shop is called a Münzenhandel or Münzenhandlung. And yes, just like the Dutch, the Germans concatenate their nouns to create new words (it's the reason why German and Dutch don't have a finite word list for Scrabble ). So there's no space between Münzen and Handel: for some words, adding a space in between even alters its meaning significantly... Also, in German every noun starts with a capital letter. Keep that in mind, as most Germans take their language quite seriously.

For some reason, in most of West Europe numismatists are placed in the same league as philatelists. So if you are looking for a stamp shop, there's a big chance that there'll also be coins and vice versa. The word for stamps is Briefmarken.

The final buzzword here is 'antique shop', as a lot of antique shops also deal in coins. The word to look for is Antiquitäten.

For those interested in gold and silver, the words to look for are Gold and Silber. Precious metals are called Edelmetalle.

Finally, for those interested in auctions, the word to look for is Auktion. And for those interested in medals, you should look for Medaillen.

What to expect
As stated, coin collecting is an expensive hobby in Germany. So expect high prices.

My experience is that most coin shops offer a wide variety of coins, most focusing on modern local coinage (Euro) and bullion. Don't expect highly specialized shops focusing on just one thing, like some American shops simply focus on American coins, it's more likely to find shops where you can buy small selections and quantities of coins of over 200 countries or so.

In addition, expect most coin shops to be outside the 'touristic' centers in the cities. Some may even just be found in residential areas. Also, check on beforehand if you're dealing with a physical shop. There are quite some coin dealers that exclusively have on line shops and/or auctions. A quick check with Google Maps and Streetview may help here.

Cities with coin shops

As stated, there are just too many coin shops in too many cities to be comprehensive here. I'll just stick with what I know from my own experience. Any additions and corrections are welcome!

Berlin, as the capital city of Germany, has quite a range of coin shops. An overview (not exhaustive, though) can be found on the official portal of the city:

Most coin shops are, just like everything else in Berlin, within walking distance of either an S-Bahn or U-Bahn station, which is very convenient. Don't worry about safety, I found Berlin to be a very safe city, even in the more touristic spots.

I don't have any bad experiences with coin shops here. As not all of them have web shops or all of their stock listed online, it may be profitable to just pop in and look for the bargain of the week.

It's not a shop, but absolutely worth a visit when in Berlin: the Münzkabinett. This is one of the most exhaustive coin collections in the world and has regular exhibitions in some of the local museums. More information can be found here:

Just as for Berlin, Hannover has quite some shops. A quite good overview can be found in the Gelbe Seiten, which is a literal translation of Yellow Pages.

The same goes as for Berlin: it's generally safe and it might be profitable to just visit a shop.

I visited Hamburg more often than I wanted. It's not a big punishment, as it's a very interesting and safe city with a lovely city center. Coin shops are around and again listed in the Yellow Pages:

Also here, I don't have many bad experiences. Most coin shops are a tad expensive but you will get genuine stuff and sales people seem generally nice.

Stuttgart has a lovely historical center which should also be of interest if you aren't just stopping by for coin shopping. nevertheless, there are quite some coin shops to be found. Again, the Gelbe Seiten are your biggest help.

I just have experience with two of those and those were in general just as described above, for the other cities: a bit expensive but trustworthy.

Any other city
I think you got the drill now. I won't go into details for Cologne, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt am Main, Munich, Bonn or any other city that I visit on more or less frequent basis. Just click on one of the Gelbe Seiten links above and change the city in the URL to your city of choice. Or just look at all of Germany at once (over 1000 shops listed!) or use Google with one of the terms mentioned above and the city you intend to visit.
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 Posted 06/16/2016  09:21 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add jbuck to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I think that is your best post in this thread, which says a lot as the others have been well written. I think it is the additional information regarding the German language. Well done.
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 Posted 06/16/2016  11:47 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add CoinCollector2012 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I have enjoyed following this thread.

You have certainly been to a lot of places!
Sets in progress... Mercury dimes, Washington quarters, 7070 Type Set, WLH Short Set
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 Posted 06/16/2016  12:31 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add chequer to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Great post. I've been learning a bit of German ... we may end up moving there down the road, so this will be helpful
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 Posted 06/16/2016  12:56 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Hello There to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I always wanted to visit Germany (and Italy), and now I know a few words in German

Now, how do I pronounce them?
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 Posted 06/16/2016  4:16 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add UltraRant to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
@jbuck: Thanks! I'm always trying to improve. In this case, Germany actually offers quite some possibilities as it's a large country with a lot of coin collecting activity. Ethiopia, for example, doesn't have a single coin shop, and my Ethiopian is not what it used to be *cough*, so that's a completely different kind of post. It also helps that I work a part of my time in Germany, so I'm quite familiar with the place, the people and the language. In fact, guess who's currently at Kurfürstendamm in Berlin?
Anyway, I really enjoy getting feedback on this thread. Also suggestions, questions and requests welcome. And a question from my side: can you please allow me to edit my posts in this thread so that I can keep the different countries a bit updated? Otherwise things might get shattered a bit.

@CoinCollector: Depending on how you count: about 100 countries and counting. I haven't always put effort in numismatics, but when I have had and if it wasn't too long ago, I will post the country as such. Anyway, I travel a lot for my work and in my private life. Last year the counter came to 200+ flights, 150 nights in hotels and 20+ countries visited. I hope to cut down this year.

@chequer: Nice! Where about in Germany do you expect to end up?

@Hello there: You don't. You write it down on a piece of paper and you show it to people when around.
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 Posted 06/16/2016  5:27 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add jbuck to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

And a question from my side: can you please allow me to edit my posts in this thread so that I can keep the different countries a bit updated? Otherwise things might get shattered a bit.
Unfortunately, no, edits are blocked after 24 hours. It is a per forum and not per user or per post setting.

However, if you use the Report Post function (lower right of each post), one of us on the staff can make edits for you.
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 Posted 06/16/2016  6:16 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add sel_69l to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Worth while, when you are travelling to get a representative set of the currently circulating coins of every country visit. These can be taken from circulation.
However, don't expect to build such a collection with the idea if it having any significant numismatic value.

If you after current World circulating coins, it would be much easier to search the lowest price junk boxes at your local coin dealer. That way, you can find coins that you may be intested in without having to do any travelling at all.

So far as coins shops are concerned, they are much easier to find in those countries that support a healthy a large numismatic population. Those countries are most obvious to identify, simply by looking through the CCF member list.

The situation for those interested in numismatics in those countries where the true collectors are few, is for them to seek those coins they are interested in on the international market.
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 Posted 06/17/2016  09:35 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add jbuck to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Worth while, when you are travelling to get a representative set of the currently circulating coins of every country visit. These can be taken from circulation.
A significant portion of my world coin collection was filled by friends who were thoughtful enough to do this for me.
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