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Topic.  The grouping of similar collectible items that form the limits of a collection. A topic is obvious if it is a well-defined subject category, as aviation, or space, or expositions, or Masonic, or music. But a collector defines his own topic – it is whatever he or she says it is. Often it is a very personal category, as objects of his ethnic background, of his religious heritage, of his professional vocation, or of other avocation, or curious interest. It is the bounds within which he would gather any item for his collection he feels is congruent or relevant to that subject.

Collectors of medals and tokens have about 350 well defined topics (see mat code). This is well below the number of topics in other collectible fields, as stamps and postcards, but more than, perhaps, manuscripts or autographs. A collector can choose a broad topic (British Empire coins and medals), or a very narrow topic (as the medals of one subject in one locale during a brief time).

An important criteria for a collector choosing a new topic is: Does it turn you on?  Is it of such permanent interest to you that you are willing to sustain an interest in it for a period of time?  If the subject matter will give you pleasure in learning more about it and studying its objects, people and history then it is ideal choice. If it does not sustain this long-term interest, then it will not become a satisfactory topic for collecting.

Many professional people choose to collect medals of their profession, as a doctor collecting medical medals, a fireman collecting firefighting medals, and such. There is good reason for this. The more information you can bring to a topic, the more you will get out of it. Also, it will become a source of more knowledge and insight into that subject. A topic becomes a two-way road for the collecting specialist to become a better professional in addition to becoming a more knowledgeable collector.

Coins are collected mostly by country and denomination without too much regard to a topical interest. Medals and tokens, on the other hand, are virtually always collected

by a topic. Thus a list of medal and token topics is fairly important and can be found under mat code. However any individual can form a new collecting topic outside these defined bounds. After all, a collector can collect anything he so chooses and define his topic as he so wishes.

                    Choosing a Topic                      


        Hints in choosing a topic are:                    


    1)  Pick a subject you already know something about.  


    2)  Pick a topic that turns you on – that greatly    

         interests you!                                    


    3)  Try to pick a topic that not everyone else is     

         collecting; this will be less competition in      

         obtaining specimens and you can find pleasure     

         in a more selective territory.                    


    4)  At first pick several topics; collect from two to 

         six topics to start. After a while one will become

         your favorite that you can concentrate on it to   

         become a "first love." You may wish to sell some  

         of the items no longer of interest to you and     

         this can underwrite purchases of items that are   

         your most ardent desire.                          


    5)  If no topic seems apparent to you at first, then  

         collect your own, or a favorite nationality;      

         collectors in the U.S. have a wide selection of   



    6)  If you have the inclination to write, you might   

         want to catalog your collection for publication.   

         Have each specimen photographed or scanned and    

         write the description and research its history.

         Gather all the facts about it.                              


    7)  Seek out other collectors of your topic. Not      

         only will you enjoy the camaraderie of a fellow   

         collector – and the trading of duplicates – you 

         are helping to establish a base for the market    

         of your topic. When your collection comes on the  

         market, or you wish to donate it, other collectors

         would be helpful to establish a market value,     

         appraisal, or potential customers for the sale of 

         pieces from your collection.                      

excerpted with permission from

An Encyclopedia of Coin and Medal Technology

For Artists, Makers, Collectors and Curators


Roger W. Burdette, Editor

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