Commemorative coins released by The Royal Mint to honour pop star George Michael may be nice collectors’ items for fans, but should not be treated as investments, coin experts are warning.

On Monday, The Royal Mint released collectable coins paying tribute to the former Wham! star, who died at the age of 53 in 2016.

The coins are part of a Music Legends series, which has previously paid tribute to David Bowie, Elton John and Queen. 

The George Michael selection starts with a collectable £5 coin costing £15.50 and goes up to a two-ounce gold piece that will set you back £5,305.

But while fans might be tempted to snap up such a collectable memento of the singer-songwriter, dealers warn you could lose money on the coins.

Out of tune: The value of most coins in the Royal Mint’s Music Legends series is now typically worth less than when they were first released

Coins that have lost you money

The value of most coins in the Music Legends series is now typically less than when they were first released. 

A boxed half-ounce silver proof Elton John 2020 coin that originally sold for £65 with The Royal Mint can be purchased from dealers such as Crawley Coins for £50. 

A boxed half-ounce silver proof Queen 2020 coin that sold for £65 with The Royal Mint can now be bought for £45.

Even the most sought-after pieces, such as a two-ounce silver proof 2020 David Bowie (limited to 550 coins) that originally sold for £195, can now be picked up with its original box from traders such as Britannia Coin Company for £150. Out of a box it sells for less than £100.

Gregory Edmund, coin specialist at dealership Spink, says: ‘While George Michael is undoubtedly one of our greatest musicians, this need not translate to the value of his commemorative coins. 

Do not be fooled by all the fancy packaging and cultural icon hype — these coins are little more than gimmicks. They do not have real clout in the world of professional coin collecting, which is known as numismatics.

‘And while this should not stop fans from enjoying such memorabilia, the coins might in many cases be worth no more than their nominal value or their precious metal content.’

Edmund suggests that those considering buying such coins should opt for the lower denomination ones, so that if they fall in value you lose less money.

‘Lower value coins can also be easier to trade because they are more affordable for collectors,’ he adds.

For example, if you buy a George Michael £5 coin for £15.50 it means in the worst case, you are only £10.50 out of pocket. 

Rocket man: Elton John coins originally sold for £65 but can now be purchased from dealers such as Crawley Coins for £50

Rocket man: Elton John coins originally sold for £65 but can now be purchased from dealers such as Crawley Coins for £50

Yet if you buy a two-ounce gold piece for £5,305, if in the worst scenario it ended up being worth no more than the value of the gold of which it is comprised — currently £3,204 — you could be up to £2,101 worse off.

Coins are most likely to hold their value if their subject remains popular with collectors in years to come — and if they are scarce. Edmund suggests buyers consider how collectors’ tastes could change. 

‘Ask yourself how popular George Michael will be in 70 years,’ he says. ‘I think it is unlikely he will be so fondly remembered as today.’

He adds that a commemorative five-shilling released to mark the death of wartime prime minister Winston Churchill was very popular when it was issued in 1965. But there was just one hitch: an enormous 19 million were minted.

‘Everyone loved him at the time and thought it was a great buy, but now almost 70 years later they might sell for around 25p,’ says Edmund. 

A more recent example is The Royal Mint Completer Medallion, issued to mark the London Olympics in 2012. A total of 29 Olympic-themed 50p coins were put into circulation.

Fans who collected all 29 were encouraged to snap up the Completer Medallion — a coin-shaped memento — to celebrate the fact that they had the full collection. At the time it could cost £196. But today, even with original packaging, it only fetches £80.

Coins that have risen in value

But not all commemorative coins are a bad investment. 

Dominic Chorney, an expert at coin specialist AH Baldwin & Sons, says: ‘The Royal Mint commemoratives can provide an affordable introduction to coin collecting — and occasionally they can rise in value if you are lucky.’ 

Chorney points to 15,000 coloured Peter Rabbit 50p coins released by The Royal Mint in 2016 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the birth of author Beatrix Potter.

Originally selling in presentation pack for £55 they now change hands for £350 or more. The coins are not to be confused with standard non-coloured Peter Rabbit 50p coins that might sell for little more than face value. 

Peter Rabbit 50p coins originally sold in presentation pack for £55 they now change hands for £350

The Kew Gardens pagoda 50p was issued into normal circulation

Bunny money: Peter Rabbit 50p coins originally sold in presentation pack for £55 they now change hands for £350.  The Kew Gardens pagoda 50p was issued into normal circulation

Another recent success is a 50p piece released in 2009 to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Kew Gardens, which featured an image of a pagoda. 

Unlike the Music Legends and Peter Rabbit commemorative coins, which were put on sale, the Kew Gardens pagoda 50p was issued into normal circulation. 

Therefore, they may appear from time to time in loose change, and are traded by collectors who find them. The reason for their value is their scarcity.

Chorney says: ‘If you have one of the top condition 50p coins, it could be worth £300. It was only a couple of years after they went into circulation that people found just 210,000 had been minted — and this boosted their value.’

Royal coins hold value better

To tackle fickle changes in fashion, numismatists are often more interested in commemorative coins that relate to the Royal Family, as they have a history and fan base that continues to capture each new generation.

One of the most sought-after is a 1989 gold sovereign released to mark the 500th anniversary of the earliest incarnation of this historic coin. A standard gold sovereign is valued at almost £400 but if you own one of these 1989 pieces it can sell for £2,100.

Maundy money is also highly sought after commemorative currency. This money is traditionally handed out to just a hundred or so people by the monarch in a special ceremony that is held on Maundy Thursday — to mark the day when Christians believe Jesus Christ washed the feet of the disciples before the Last Supper.

This year, Maundy Thursday falls on March 28 and fears for the health of King Charles III are expected to add to collectable appeal. The coins are traditionally made of sterling silver and given as a set — a four-penny, three-penny, two-penny and one-penny piece.

In 2002, Maundy money was minted in gold to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II’s golden jubilee. 

A 13-coin set — which has Maundy gold coins plus a 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1, £2 and £5 — could be bought at the time for £2,700. Now it can sell for £14,000.

Rebecca Morgan, director of commemorative coins at The Royal Mint, says: ‘We cannot comment on investment values. A coin is ultimately worth what a collector is willing to pay for it. 

But before committing to a price, you should also consider the condition of the piece, its design, the mintage figure and what the coin is actually made of.’

What to look out for if you buy

Condition

Gregory Edmund says: ‘Despite having a display box that might look good, collectors are often far more interested in the condition. 

They may well also want their coins professionally graded and encased in plastic to ensure it cannot be damaged, in a process known as slabbing.’

Slabbing can cost £45 and be done by an outfit such as the Numismatic Guaranty Company. 

Only coins graded as a ‘70’ — deemed mint or proof — are worth collecting for modern commemoratives.

Proof coins

A proof coin is one that has been struck with a highly polished die. 

It should have a sharper mirror-like surface compared with other coins that have been put in circulation and command a higher value.

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This post first appeared on Dailymail.co.uk

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