If you live in or have visited Europe or the United Kingdom, you might have seen TV advertisements for Westminster commemorative coins. But are these coins official? Are Westminster coin collections worth anything, or are they merely commemorative?
Westminster coin collections are commemorative coins on par with “copy” coins, which aren’t worth much. While they aren’t illegal, they aren’t legal tender either. They are products as opposed to collector’s items or official currency. Some collectors even consider them to be scams.
In this article, I will discuss why Westminster coin collections aren’t worth much and elaborate on their legal but unofficial nature. I’ll also explain why many consider Westminster Collections a scam and why you should buy coins from your country’s official mint instead.
If you’ve seen adverts for Westminster Coin Collections, you might wonder how much they’re worth. Does their shiny finish reflect their value?
Westminster coin collections aren’t worth much at all. Like the National Collector’s Mint in the United States, Westminster Collections creates commemorative coins on par with “copy” coins in value. They’re worth only the price you pay for them, and their value doesn’t change with market conditions.
You may be able to sell them at the price you bought them. However, as demand for them is nearly nonexistent, this will be difficult, and you’ll likely take a loss instead. Besides, you’ll be supporting a company indulging in unethical practices too.
Businesses like the National Collector’s Mint and the Westminster Collection create “product” coins for collectors. However, the Westminster Collection uses outrageous claims to market the coins, even though they’re copy coins that aren’t worth much.
The National Collector’s Mint received a lot of negative press after they profiteered off of the nation’s collective trauma after 9/11 by manufacturing and peddling commemorative coins of the event. These coins also turned out to be worthless, drawing more backlash.
While the Westminster Collection doesn’t have as much bad press yet, there is also very little to suggest it’s legitimate or well-meaning. Thus, I recommend being cautious of them.
Reason Behind the Lack of Interest
Westminster coins aren’t worth much because they are newly minted commemorative coins that are quite common despite the company’s claims to the contrary. Their rare metal content is minimal, and aside from those fooled by marketing, most coin collectors aren’t interested in their products.
How valuable a coin is often depends on its precious metal content, rarity, and age. Old coins are more appealing to collectors for their history, and a coin that’s partially or wholly gold or silver is more valuable from a monetary point of view.
Commemorative coins only become valuable in the following situations.
- The commemorative coin is made of rare metals like gold or silver.
- The coin is old enough to have historical value.
- The coin is extremely rare.
For example, the Saint Gaudens Double Eagle coin, minted in the US between 1907-1933, is considered the most valuable coin. Just one of these coins is worth almost $20 million. The reason this coin is valuable is because it contains relatively large amounts of gold and it’s rare.
Another example of a valuable coin is the 723 Ummayad gold dinar. This coin is valuable because only a dozen or so pieces exist today. Its age also makes it historically valuable.
However, Westminster coins are minted every year. They’re not historical, and they aren’t made of precious metals. Most commemorative coins look like they’re made of gold or silver but only contain a thin layer of gold or silver plating on the surface. The amount of gold or silver in these coins is negligible.
They also aren’t rare. Westminster Collections often claim to sell only a limited number of units, but the numbers are too high to be considered rare.
These issues trickle down, creating a lack of demand and a low value. It’s important to remember that businesses such as Westminster Collections and the National Collector’s Mint are just that: businesses. They exist outside the coin market, and the coins they create are products, not collector’s items.
Westminster coins aren’t official. Like the National Collector’s Mint, they aren’t allowed to create official coins, and thus they sell commemorative coins instead. They claim these coins are rare and valuable, but their coins are actually quite common and worth very little.
Both these businesses look very professional both online and offline, which causes people to presume that they’re official. However, unlike an official mint, the coins produced here are products, not legal tender. You can’t use these coins to pay for other goods and services.
Only a country’s official mint can produce legal tender.
In the UK, the only agency that can legally create coins and notes for legal tender is the Royal Mint.
Most companies selling commemorative coins even include an authenticity certificate. However, unless the coin increases in value, this certificate is little more than fancy paper.
Westminster coins aren’t illegal, but they are made by a business with the potential for unethical behavior. Many of the internet’s review sites contain posts accusing the Westminster Collection of signing them up for recurring payments without their knowledge.
While there’s no great media scandal like the National Collector’s Mint’s 9/11 scandal, there are whispers of unethical behavior.
Some customers claimed they bought one Westminster coin but were automatically signed up for an entire collection without their knowledge. Or they received collections they didn’t order, resulting in transactions they weren’t prepared for or couldn’t afford.
Another common complaint was that the packages were delayed or never arrived.
Extreme Marketing Resulting in Negative Feedback
Westminster coins are considered by some to be a scam, mostly because of their borderline unethical marketing. The Westminster Collection makes exaggerated claims about the rarity and value of their coins which don’t hold up under further scrutiny.
While opinions differ on their credibility, the outrageous claims, extreme marketing, auto subscription service, and many other elements of how they operate can be perceived as deceptive.
Some people believe that commemorative coins as a whole are a scam simply because their appearance and marketing are in direct contrast to their low value and the lack of demand for them. Others believe coin collecting as a whole is a “get rich quick” scheme.
However, I believe coin collecting can be a fulfilling and lucrative hobby as long as you collect the right coins. Many collectors look for historical coins, rare coins, and valuable coins. Commemorative coins don’t have the same historical or monetary value as the ones mentioned before.
Deceptive marketing practices often target the elderly. For example, a company in the US defrauded multiple customers by encouraging them to buy numismatic coins that were of less value than the gold bullion the customers were originally looking for.
The point is that whether one considers Westminster coins a scam or not, their marketing is often deceptive. Thus, it’s a good idea to either avoid them or be very skeptical when purchasing from them.
The Alternative to Commemorative Coins
So if businesses like the Westminster Collection are shady, and commemorative coins aren’t valuable, what is the alternative?
The best alternative to commemorative coins is to spend your money on circulated or uncirculated coins made by a country’s official mint. In creating coins for general use, these mints have created valuable collector’s items for centuries, so there are countless areas of interest to explore.
For example, you might research and decide you’re interested in Lincoln pennies. You can then use the money you would have spent on commemorative coins to purchase a few choice pieces for your collection. Or, you may try to find repunched mint mark coins in your everyday change.
There are many, many different coins out there you can collect, and odds are, quite a few of them will be worth considerably more than any of the Westminster Collection’s products. Here are a few examples of coins worth collecting.
- 1917 George V Sovereign London
- 1933 George V Penny
- 1983 “New Pence” 2p Coin
- 1994 Elizabeth II Bank of England 300th Anniversary Two Pound Coin
If you’re unsure which mint is your country’s official one, look it up on the internet. Your country’s government website will often have a page dedicated to the official mint.
That said, if your special interest is commemorative coins, there’s no fault in continuing to collect them. Just remember that most commemorative coins don’t appreciate in value, so you can’t earn returns on them. However, if you’re passionate about keeping a collection of coins, you can continue buying them.
Westminster coins are legally produced but cannot be used as legal tender. They’re products, not part of the official currency.
Many collectors are wary of investing in commemorative coins because they aren’t as valuable as they’re marketed to be. In most cases, you’re better off collecting coins from a country’s official mint.