A geocoin is a popular treasure item used in the treasure-hunting hobby called geocaching. Geocoins are owned by individuals or groups who often design the coins themselves. Coins can be minted with the aid of coin shops and manufacturers. Coins have a tracking number printed on them, so that the original owner and geocachers who find the coin in the future can track its whereabouts through a geocaching Web site. Owners' personal geocoins can have personal and sentimental significance — an artistic statement of the owner who designed it. Although many geocoins are activated for tracking through an official Web site, there are also untracked geocoins.
Geocaching as a hobby began in 2000, when GPS devices first offered tracking technology capable of pinpointing objects with precise coordinates. The geocoin soon followed. On September 20, 2001, the Moun10bike Version 1 Geocoin #002 became the first geocoin to be activated. Until that point, geocachers may have used coins in different stash sites, but they hadn't printed coins with serial tracking numbers. Today, Moun10bike geocoins are quite valuable among the geocaching community, with the most valuable being the Version 1 series. The advent of the geocoin helped give birth to other trackable geocache treasures.
Trackable geocoins can be activated through a variety of geocaching sites. Many geocoins will display what site they've been activated on, making it easier for people to continue tracking the coin. Due to the rarity and collectible nature of geocoins, many have gone missing from stash sites, presumably to be hoarded by collectors rather than passed on through other stash sites. This practice is viewed by the geocaching community as disruptive to the hobby.
While trackable geocoins are not meant to be kept as collector's items, some owners create geocoins with the intent of passing them on as collectibles. These are referred by some as untrackable geocoins. They generally do not feature a serial number for tracking, although an owner may include one so that future owners can post their find. Whereas trackable geocoins are usually made of metal by a manufacturer, untrackable coins are often hand-made, using a wider variety of material, such as wood.
There are many companies that specialize in minting and selling trackable geocoins. Geocachers can either purchase a pre-made design, or may design their own coin to be manufactured. Costs vary for purchasing coins from manufacturers. Some coins are very cheap, while others are more valuable for their rarity or special design. The cost of making a custom design also varies. Some manufacturers will mint an individual's design almost free of charge, so long as the artist agrees to allow the company to make a profit off the sale of their design to other geocachers.