Coin Collecting: An Informal Guideline for Beginners

Coin Collecting: An Informal Guideline for Beginners

Jun 21st 2019

Are you the numismatic new kid on the block? While the rules are not set in stone when it comes to coin collecting, there are a few things to keep in mind, but remember — ultimately, it's all a matter of personal taste!

First and foremost, collect what you like.

Why start a teapot collection if you hate teapots? The same goes for collecting coins. Your personal preference is key; it's your collection — you've got to like it!

Figure out what gets your motor running.

Are you interested in U.S. coins or foreign? Commemorative coins? Initially, your field of interest may be broad. Are you fascinated by certain events or time periods in history? Do you want to only collect Morgan silver dollars or pennies?

You've found a series you really like. Now what?

Alright. You've narrowed the field and found a coin series that you can settle into. Be patient. Rome wasn't built in a day and your collection won't be either.

As you begin to collect more and more, your personal aesthetic preferences can also narrow your field of interest. Maybe you'll find that you like coins with heavy toning (oh, rainbow toning is to die for!) or those that look fresh from the mint (uncirculated).

Learn all you can about the series; your education will help you make informed decisions when buying coins. How many dates were issued in this series? What minting facilities produced this coin and how many were struck? What makes this coin more desirable than the next?

Speaking of learning...

Get cozy with numismatic lingo. You've probably made a bet and flipped a coin and called either heads or tails, but the official terms are actually "obverse" and "reverse." What's an uncirculated coin and what on earth are bag marks? Visit our Resource Center to learn more.

What's your goal?

Are you collecting as an investor or hobbyist? Will you buy and sell for profit when the timing is right, or are you assembling a collection to pass on to future generations?

Money doesn't have to grow on trees.

While coin collecting can be expensive, it can also be an affordable and fulfilling hobby. It's true that not everyone can spend $50,000 on a single coin, but you could start a coin collection of your own for only a few dollars! Start by checking your pocket change or under the couch cushions; Lincoln Cents or the America the Beautiful Quarter Series (also known as National Park quarters) are both great places to start.

Condition matters.

When buying coins, it's generally good practice to buy the best grade that you can afford. Just remember, it's about quality — not quantity. From a numismatic standpoint, a coin's condition helps to determine its value. At ICC, our coins are graded based off of the official American Numismatic Association's standard.

Keep 'em dirty and handle carefully.

Please don't clean your coins. While your intentions are good, cleaning a coin can damage its surface, which in turn can put a significant dent in its value. It's best to handle your collection with cotton gloves and properly store away from moisture, heat and humidity. If you're just starting out, these Supersafe coin holders are an affordable way to keep fingerprints and dirt off of your coins. 

All that glitters is not gold... a good proverb to apply to coin collecting. Although it would be nice to think that everyone in the world is honest, we all know that's not the case. Take the Liberty Head or V Nickel for instance. When these five-cent pieces were originally minted in 1883, the reverse bore only the Roman numeral V. Opportunistic scoundrels gold plated these coins to pass them off as the much more valuable $5 gold piece. The U.S. Mint quickly caught on and added the identifying word "CENTS" to the nickel.

When acquiring coins, buy from a reputable source. The foundation you've laid in your own coin education will only help you make smart decisions when you're ready to pull the trigger on a new piece for your budding collection.

Collect what brings you happiness!