How to Start a Coin Collection

Starting a coin collection is very easy. Deciding what to collect can be more challenging. There are so many options.

…let’s get started.

Why Do People Collect Coins?

  • Hobby
  • Investment
  • Historical Education

Coin Collecting as a Hobby

Types of coin collections

  1. Denomination – coins like quarters, half dollars or silver dollars
  2. Specific year or time frame – like 1800’s or 1950’s
  3. Foreign coins or currency – from one country or several like Russia, Thailand or China
  4. Artistic coins designed by specific artists – initials on backs of coins
  5. Coin finish – circulated, uncirculated and proof
  6. Mint Mark – like D or Denver
  7. Design Theme –
  8. Error Coins – double stamped or off center stamping
  9. Composition – silver, copper, gold, steel, bronze, nickle

Denomination Coin Collecting

Some people like to collect quarters only or pennies. They focus on one coin and collect various types or years. Penny collectors may look for Indian Head pennies or 1943 steel pennies. After they acquire their desired coin they look for another. It’s a research and then buy game that becomes very interesting and fun. If you like collecting lots of coins then you might start with the lower denominations like pennies, nickles or dimes. This allows you to collect many coins with little investment or money. If you collect silver dollars, it can get expensive.

Another option is to collect more expensive coins but limit the number. I like to collect Morgan Silver Dollars and Silver Eagle Dollars. They range in price from $15 to thousands. I only collect a few per year depending on how much the coin is. Morgan Silver Dollars are one of my favorites. I have several including an uncirculated 1884 Morgan. They are beautiful coins.

uncirculated 1884 morgan silver dollar

Uncirculated 1884 Morgan Silver Dollar

Time Frame Coin Collecting

Some people like the 1800’s and so they collect coins dated in that time frame. There are a lot of coin collectors that collect WW II coins. So, it depends on what historical time period you fancy. You can also just pick a year that you like and it doesn’t have to be significant. Maybe you like the year 1925 or 1776 or 1976.

Foreign Coin Collecting

I think this category of coin collecting is extremely interesting. I love foreign coins and currency. The artwork is fascinating along with the design, shape and composition. I particularly like Russian and Chinese coins and currency.

Artistic Coin Collecting

Coin collecting can also be a type of art collection. Some of the artwork is amazing. There are coins with people, animals, plants, buildings, etc on them. Not only is the art work interesting and detailed but the colors really make it attractive for collection.

Coin Finish

There are 3 types of coin finish, Circulated, Uncirculated and Proof.

Circulated Coins

Circulated coins are coins that are released to the public like the coins you get when you buy something at a store. Your change is circulated currency. It’s the easiest type to collect because you have access to lots of coins easily. You can go to the bank and buy rolls of coins. Circulated coins typically show signs of wear caused by human touch. The detail and luster are less than uncirculated coins. The condition can range from barely perceivable traces of wear to heavily worn with few details.

Uncirculated Coins

Uncirculated coins are coins made at the Mint but are not released to the public. The show no signs of human touch or wear and the luster is perfect. Uncirculated coins usually have a higher value than circulated. Some do have scratches or marks on them which is caused by rubbing against or hitting another coin while being transported from machinery to bags or bins. They are not always perfect but most are.

Uncirculated coins are graded from MS60 – MS70. A MS70 graded coin will have no visible marks and a perfect luster. MS60 coins may have small marks from the mint on them and the luster may not be very high.

Proof Coins

Proof coins are not meant to be circulated or released to the public. They are made for collectors only. These coins are absolutely beautiful in detail and luster. Proof coins are struck by the die, in the manufacturing process, more than once unlike circulated coins. They are also stamped under high pressure versus lower pressure as for circulated coins. The multiple strikes or stamps plus the high pressure make these coins the most detailed and shiniest or all coins. The coin surface is “mirror like”.

Proof coins are graded from PF60 – PF70. The same criterion applies to Proof as uncirculated when it comes to grading.

The difference between grades of uncirculated coins in value can be extreme. Here is an example: 1884 Morgan with a circulated grade of EF40 sells for $50.00. If it were uncirculated with the lowest grade of MS60, it will sell for $5,500.00. And if it were a high grade of MS65, it’s value jumps to $250,000.

Mint Mark

The Mint mark is the designation of which Mint stamped the coin. Here are a few examples, D for Denver and S for San Francisco. Some collectors only collect coins made at the San Francisco Mint. The current Mint Marks in the USA are P, D, S, W for Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco and West Point.

The purpose of a Mint Mark was to track a mistake or problem with a coin. You could look at the bad coin and see where it was made and then contact that Mint.

Design Themes

You could collect coins with animal, flower, cars, boats or even Olympic coins.There are tons of design themes from many different countries.

Error Coins

Error coins are coins that were stamped incorrectly. They could be off-center stamped, double stamped or missing part of the design do to an uneven stamp. These coins are hard to find but are very valuable and in high demand.

Coin Collecting for Profit or as an Investment

Coins can increase in value over time because of the demand or short supply. They can also increase in value because of the metal they are made from like gold or silver. If the metal increases in value then these coins will increase at the same rate. Rare coins can be worth a lot of money like 100’s of thousands of dollars.

Always do your research before buying coins as an investment. make sure you are getting a fair market price for the particular coin you are interested in. If you pay too much you will jeopardize your investment’s return.

Here is my example of coin collecting as an investment. About 6 years ago I started buying silver dollars. I think I ended up with 20 and kept them for about 5 years. Silver was trading at $15/oz when I bought them. 5 years later I sold them when silver was trading at $35/oz. I doubled my money in 5 years just because silver rose in value.

How to Get Started

The easiest and least amount of risk is to start collecting circulated coins like what you have in your pocket. Start dumping your change in a container. Put aside coins that you are interested in when you come across them like state quarters or mercury dimes, etc..

Keeping Your Coin Collection Organized

Now buy some coin collection books for whatever denomination coins you want to collect. Then you can work on filling the slots in each book with the year coin. These books make it easy to see what you have and what you need. If you start this way and you end up getting bored, you can just spend the coins. You loose nothing.

Here are some frequently chosen coin collection themes: State Quarters, Presidential Dollar Series, Lincoln Cents, Buffalo Nickels and Roosevelt Dimes.

You can also purchase coins from your local bank to supplement your coin collection. A bank teller can help you with this. Just ask for a roll of dimes, nickles or quarters. Sometimes you will find old coins this way. This is an inexpensive way of coin collecting.

If you’re looking for some specific coins and have not found them in your change or in rolled coins from a bank, then you can try pawn shops or coin/precious metal shops. You can buy individual coins in these shops but it’s more expensive. You can also shop online. There are hundreds of online stores that sell coins. The US Mint is just one.

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