As a coin collector, searching for and collecting coins can be a fun, interesting hobby or a good financial investment or both. Given the fluctuating prices now, gold and silver coins may be something to consider buying as an investment or maybe just because you want to collect some beautiful coins. Don’t worry if you can’t afford the gold ones, there are lots of very affordable coins out there that are fun to search for and collect and those are the ones that I go for. I say “search for” because for me, the searching is most of the fun (I suppose you could say “it’s the thrill of the hunt”).
You’ll find lots of articles here on various coin and coin collecting topics to educate and inform you. They are written by a variety of different authors and there are currently over 80 different articles for you to read. They are organized into 9 different categories:
- An Introduction to Coin Collecting
- Coin Authenticity
- Coin Collecting Software
- Coin Collecting Supplies
- Gold Coins
- Grading and Quality, Errors and Misstrikes
- International Coins
- Silver Coins
- U.S. Coins
In addition to the articles in the categories above, check out the page on Coin Facts (listed in the menu bar above). I gathered basic information and data on U.S. Coins starting with U.S. Pennies and U.S. Nickels. Browse through the different categories and pages to see all the articles that are available. Thanks for checking out The Coin Collector!
I have written two articles on different coin collecting topics that appear here on the Home Page. Scroll down to see them
- Shopping for Coins (this article gives you some basic ideas on where to look for coins to add to your collection)
- Determining the Value of your Coins (this article discusses how quality, condition, and grading are important to determining the value of coins)
One way of keeping track of your coin collection is with special software that is made for coin collectors. There are a number of them available these days and the features can vary from one to another, so make sure to read the description fully to see what is included. Some of them allow you to use your own photos, some give current coin values and some even help with grading. Coin collecting software can be very helpful in organizing your collection, especially when you start to get lots of coins.
Here is some of the coin collecting software that is available from Amazon.com
Shopping for Coins
Author: K. McBride
One of the nice things about coin collecting as a hobby, is that it doesn’t have to be expensive (it can be but doesn’t have to be). As a coin collector of course the easiest place to start looking for coins is in your own wallet. You never know what you might find; maybe some of the U.S. State quarters or even some old Lincoln wheat pennies; both are popular with collectors. What ever coins you decide to collect, there are several places where you can buy them. But before you go shopping, you need to do some homework first. It’s important that you know what to look for when you’re shopping for coins and how to determine their value (I discuss this in an article just below). I think it’s also a good idea to invest in at least one price guide book. These can be very helpful. One of the more popular ones is “The Official Red Book”. The Red Book lists the value of coins by type, year and grade but also has other information on coins and coin collecting as well. There are a number of websites that have coin values too. The advantage of course, is that they are more up to date. Now, let’s go shopping
- Local coin shops and antique stores. Yes antique stores sometimes have coins. They may not have the kind of selection that a coin shop does, but it can be worth checking on. Where ever you go, take a price guide book or print out a price sheet from the internet so you can compare that to the price of the item you’re looking at.
- Local auction houses. There is an auction house near where I live and I have found a number of coins this way (it’s also a good way to get rid of the ones you don’t want anymore). Check the coin out thoroughly before the auction to make sure it’s of an acceptable quality for you and then give yourself a budget. Set a price that you will bid up to and don’t go over! It’s easy to get caught up in the bidding and go too high. And don’t forget you have to pay a commission to the auction house as well.
- Online. There are a number of websites that sell coins and while shopping online can be very convenient since you can do it when ever you want, there is one drawback; you can’t pick up the coin and examine it yourself. Some places have photos of their coins, but for online stores that have a large inventory it’s just not possible to photograph every coin. So read the description of the coin and check out the return policy before you purchase.
- Coin Shows. For a coin collector, a coin show can be kind of fun. And very convenient! There can be up to 100 or more vendors and coin dealers all selling in the same room. You can find lists of coin shows online. They will provide information about the show like dates, time, cost, and directions. Also, while some of the people that sell at these coin shows do accept credit cards, many do not; they only accept cash. So be prepared. When I go to a coin show, I bring cash, a price guide book, magnifier, paper and pen, small bags to put purchases in, a list of what coins and supplies I’m looking for and a book-bag to carry it all in.
Where ever you go to shop for coins to add to your collection, if you do a bit of homework first you can learn more about the coins you’re looking for and what they’re worth. This will help you be better prepared and can make your coin collecting more successful.
Determining the Value of your Coins
Author: K. McBride
Coin photos taken by K. McBride
One of the important elements in coin collecting is determining the value of your coins. Before you can do this, you must know the coin’s grade. There are a number of factors that go into grading a coin. They include:
- The condition. Look at the surface of the coin (both sides). Are there any scratches or nicks? Are there any dings on the rim? These can make a difference in the value so it’s a good idea to have a magnifying glass to check these details (I have several of various degrees of magnification-6x, 10x, 12x, and 16x. The 10x is my favorite). Wear (how much of the design of the coin is worn down, how sharp are the details) makes a big difference, especially on circulated coins. With copper or gold coins also look at the color. On an Indian Head Penny for instance, one that is a nice bright coppery red is more valuable than one that is red-brown or brown. And the color must be natural and not come from polishing or cleaning. Most coin collectors prefer coins in their natural state since a cleaned coin is worth less than a non-cleaned coin (and yes, experienced collectors and dealers can tell when a coin has been cleaned).
- Luster. Luster is the natural shine that all coins have when they are newly minted. A full luster (a bright shiny surface) can definitely add value to a coin especially for older coins. But as I said above, it must be natural and not come from polishing or cleaning.
- Eye appeal. This is the overall attractiveness of the coin. It’s basically all the qualities rolled into one.
- Rarity.How rare is the coin? An old coin in great condition, with a nice luster, strong eye appeal, and a low mintage (relatively few coins were minted for that particular year) can be worth quite a bit! New coins that have a high mintage are considerably less valuable.
All of these factors go into determining the grade of a coin. The coin grades are as follows:
- About Good. Abbreviated as AG and often appears with a number as AG-3 (sometimes they leave off the letters and only use the number in grading publications and websites so it’s good to know both). AG coins shows heavy wear and most details are worn smooth.
- Good. Abbreviated as G or G-4. A step up from an AG coin. The design and other details are heavily worn but visible.
- Very Good. Abbreviated as VG or VG-8. These coins are well worn but the details can be clearly defined if a bit flat
- Fine. Abbreviated as F or F-12 (or F-15). They show a moderate to considerable amount of wear while the details are well defined. They can have nice eye appeal
- Very Fine. Abbreviated as VF. These coins show a moderate amount of wear but details are clear
- VF-20 is typical
- VF-30 is choice (choice is an especially nice coin of a pariticular grade, nicer than typical)
- Extremely Fine. Sometimes called Extra Fine it can be abbreviated EF or XF. A step up from VF, these coins have a light amount of wear while the details are sharp and distinct.
- EF-40 is typical
- EF-45 is choice
- About Uncirculated. Sometime called Almost Uncirculated, it is abbreviated AU. These coins can have a very light amount of wear but are in great condition with strong, sharp details.
- AU-50 is typical
- AU-55 is choice
- AU-58 is very choice
- Mint State. Abbreviated as MS. Sometimes referred to as Uncirculated (UNC) or Brilliant Uncirculated (BU). They can range from 60 up to 70 (all 11 numbers are used)
- MS-60. Uncirculated but may show some contact marks, spots and unattractive luster
- MS-65. Uncirculated with a brilliant surface. A few very minor contact marks
- MS-70. Uncirculated, perfect, no sign of any type of wear
- Proof. Abbreviated as PF. Proof is actually not a grade but a method of manufacture. It is distinguished by the sharp details and a brilliant, shiny mirror-like surface not found on coins of any other grade.
As you can see, there is a lot that goes into determining the value of a coin. First you must examine the coin and then determine the grade which is not always as easy as it sounds. There are lots of books (and websites) out there that go into detail about grading and what to look for on specific coins. If in doubt, take your coin to a reputable coin dealer and ask if they can tell you the grade. There are a number of books that are available on coins like the very popular “Red Book” that give values and mintage figures. Many books will also discuss errors and mistrikes, authenticity and counterfeits, and the different Mints and Mint marks (Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco and New Orleans produced the most coins) along with other coin-related topics.
Here’s to your coin collecting success! Happy Hunting (after all, isn’t that half the fun?)