Jon Bannister (pictured below) was challenged by friends to collect a complete set of 54 rare 50p coins. But when coins became harder to collect, he switched to cryptocurrency. Here, he shares his experiences as a collector
When I was originally challenged to collect a whole set of 54 rare 50p coins, I managed to complete the challenge within two months.
I have now collected four whole sets of every coin including rare coins, such as the Kew Gardens 50p, the London 2012 Olympic 50p series and the 2005 50p commemorating the 250th anniversary of Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary.
At the time I completed the first collection, the value for all 54 coins was nearly double its face value. Recently, I have seen some Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary coins on eBay for up to £3,000 and I’ve actually got 50 of them in my collection.
But now that I have four complete sets of the 54 rare 50p pieces, I’ve stopped collecting. Each set is worth between £500 and £600, and I think I’ve withdrawn around 18,000 to 20,000 50p coins while collecting.
I’ve found getting valuable 50p coins by withdrawing from the bank to be harder and harder. When I first started, I was probably getting around 200 or so good coins, but more recently I would withdraw £1,000, and would only get around 15 to 20 valuable coins.
My feeling is that over time more people have started to collect, so it has become more difficult to find rare coins. I ended up wasting three to four hours, only to find around £10 to £15 of rare coins. It wasn’t worth the hours I spent.
I’ve given sets of rare 50p coins to my wife, son and daughter, and kept one for myself, so we have a collection each to hold on to and decide if we want to sell one day.
Now I’ve moved on to digital currency, as I think it is more financially rewarding. For instance, the Kew Gardens 50p is valued at between £180 and £200 and I have five of them, but the value of a cryptocurrency coin can go much higher. Bitcoin peaked at $19,000 (£14,850) in January 2018.
I had a few friends who were buying and selling digital currency. I’d heard of Bitcoin a while back and ended up dipping my toe in the water.
As a result, I’m now working for a number of different initial coin offerings (ICOs). They’re trying to raise funds to launch their own cryptocurrencies, with some quite large and high-profile companies raising up to $19 million (£14,853 million) each.
I’m also thinking about starting a business offering hints and tips on buying cryptocurrency.
I was quite sceptical at first. I have an IT degree and I’ve done a lot of computer development. I understand computers but it was hard for me to get my head around crypto – that you can’t physically hold it in your hand or put it in a bank.
I use a Trezor hardware wallet [a special type of bitcoin wallet that stores the user’s private keys in a secure device] to store my crypto coins. Right now, I have around five million coins in my portfolio.
I’m aware that I need to do my own research on each company and each coin before investing. I need to see the team behind it too. I want to know if the coin solves a problem and I try to find innovative companies. For example, I’m working with a company called AirWire. It is developing a way to send cryptocurrencies via email, text message or social media.
I try to keep my portfolio at around 40 to 50 different tokens, so I have a diverse spread.
If some go off really well, then fantastic. But you have to be careful about what you are investing in. Find out more about how it works. Some currencies I bought for less than 1 cent are now worth around $5.
Those who got into Bitcoin at the right time could have bought it for around 3 cents. It was valued at $19,000 at one point. I kick myself that I didn’t get involved four or five years ago.
Unfortunately, though, I’ve been scammed a number of times. I’ve lost some money on certain companies as well. That’s something you have to be alert to.
You need to know what you’re buying and selling, and the apps you use, or you could end up losing a lot of money.
It’s also easy to lose your money if you lose the password to your digital currency wallet or your hardware wallet. Your currency could be gone for ever. That’s a big risk.
The hacking of an exchange and theft of your cryptocurrency is a risk too. It’s not regulated, and there’s no financial protection.
I think the age of physical coins is coming to an end and digital currency will be the future of money. That’s why I’m collecting cryptocurrency now, in case some become big winners in the future, like some of my 50p coins.
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