These are strange times, folks. Many of us across the nation are currently under orders to shelter in place while we fight the good fight against COVID-19. While some of us introverts are thriving (because, hey — turns out we were voluntarily living these orders, anyway), the walls are beginning to close in on others. If you’re stuck at home and looking for a reason to stop opening the refrigerator door, starting a new coin collection might be just the diversion you need.
And here’s the great thing about coin collecting. It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg! Not every coin collector can pony up a year’s worth of mortgage payments or even a month’s worth for a single coin — especially now that the country is in the grips of the coronavirus pandemic. There’s a preconceived notion that all coin buffs shell out tons of money for their collections. While that is definitely true for some elite numismatic enthusiasts, coin collecting can be budget friendly and still satisfying.
If you don’t have a lot of dough to throw into it, here are some great options for a new collection. And for a few of these series mentioned you don’t even have to buy anything to get started.
Lincoln Cents 1909-Present
How about a century’s worth of pennies? The Lincoln cent series will more than keep you occupied with over 110 years of minting. Earlier dates with lower mintages can cost you more because they’re harder to find and of course, condition is everything — but many circulated dates can be obtained for the price of a cup of coffee.
When the Lincoln cent usurped the Indian Head in 1909, it became wildly popular with Americans. Issued for the centennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, it was the first time a portrait of a once-living person appeared on an American coin. Prior to this, allegorical figures of Liberty were featured on U.S. coins.
With such an expansive series and just seven reverse designs in over a century’s worth of minting, having a goal in mind might be helpful. While you’ll find Memorial and Shield cents aplenty, scoring a Wheat cent in your pocket change is becoming a thing of the past.
Modern Washington Quarters 1999-Present
With more than 100 issues to collect from 1999 to present day, modern Washington quarters appeal to a variety of collectors. If you’ve got children or grandchildren at home with you — voila — a captive audience! Searching for these quarters can offer an enjoyable (and educational!) opportunity to share your passion with the next generation.
The Washington quarter first entered commerce in 1932 and is still in circulation today. For 66 years, the Washington quarter was output with no discernable change apparent to the average Joe. However, beginning in 1999, the series was modified with unique reverse designs upon the introduction of the 50 State Quarters program and then was expanded twice more to include the D.C. and U.S. Territories and America the Beautiful series. This shapeshifting of the reverse design arguably breathed new life into numismatics; these quarters were now interesting and relatable, something that both old and young collectors could appreciate — and for many younger folks, they became the gateway to the hobby of numismatics.
Roosevelt Dimes 1946-Present
With a bit of patience, many dates of the Roosevelt series can still be found in circulation. Plenty of recent issues are floating around in commerce as billions of these coins have been struck by the Mint. As a challenge, work from the newest issues backward into the dimes that contain silver.
In the 1960s, the price of silver began to exceed the face value of circulated coins. Beginning in 1965, silver coinage made the switch to a clad material. Finding silver dimes in circulation will be a wild goose chase, but when you do get lucky and find one, you’ll be over the moon!
So, are you up for a challenge? How many dates of your chosen series can you find without leaving your house? Look under the couch cushions, check under the seat of your car! A lot of us have jars of coins sitting around their homes, tucked away in forgotten corners… and heck — maybe it’s even time to raid the ubiquitous Swear Jar.
Other Coins to Consider that You Probably Won’t Find in Your Change Jar:
Barber Silver Dimes 1892-1916
The Barber or Liberty Head silver dime is a great choice for a new collection. While there are a handful of dates in the 1892-1916 span that can be a little pricey even in circulated condition — and with the exception of the ultra-rare 1894-S issue — with some legwork, many other circulated specimens can be found for around $10 to $50.
Franklin Silver Half Dollars 1948-1963
With just 16 dates and 35 issues in total, the popular Franklin series is short, but its succinctness makes assembling a complete collection an attainable goal. The Franklin half dollar is notable not only for its short lifespan, but it was also the last series to be struck entirely with a 90% silver composition. Many of these half dollars can be purchased for around $40, depending on condition.
Whichever series you choose to dabble in, have fun! When you’ve picked through all your pocket change, remember that ICC offers plenty of those dates you just can’t find as well as inexpensive storage options.
Happy coin hunting!