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Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Coin Collection

Updated: Mar 18

There's something in DNA that loves owning and cultivating a collection. Maybe it's because you've been passionate about a hobby since childhood. Maybe you love the rush of dopamine when you find a rare item. Whether you collect antique spoons or Funko Pops, starting a collection brings us happiness. And what better place to start than with objects you come across every day?

Coin collections have been a popular choice for collectors all over the globe! But where does one start? How do you determine different coin values? Where do you even find rare and unique coins? Let's answer these questions and more with our complete guide to starting a coin collection.

The History of Coins

While the origin is still hazy, experts have determined that the first coin dates back to the 5th century, over 2,700 years ago! While the coins of yesteryear may have been made of gold, shells, and silver, cultures used them for the same reasons we do today. Our society wouldn't exist as it does now without the invention of coins. So, the next time you pick up a penny on the ground, take a second and think about how vital coins are to the world we live in.

3 Types of Coins to Know as a Beginner Coin Collector:

  1. Uncirculated coins

  2. Bullion coins

  3. Proof coins

What is an Uncirculated Coin?

By definition, an uncirculated coin is a coin that was never circulated in the economy's money supply, showing no wear on the surface. The only way to get an uncirculated coin is to purchase it directly from your bank. Uncirculated coins are hand-loaded into the press and have a brilliant luster that circulated coins lack. They also have a higher coin value than the circulated coins.

Since uncirculated coins are free of blemishes, their coin value will significantly increase over time compared to their circulated counterparts. Coin collectors love collecting uncirculated coins from different years, so these are worthwhile to start collecting.

How to Tell if a Coin is Uncirculated?

You can determine if you've found an uncirculated coin by noticing the "cartwheel effect." Hold a coin under a single light source, tilt it from side to side, then top to bottom. If you see the light dance around the coin's surface, you have a new, unused, uncirculated coin with a high coin value!

What is a Bullion Coin?

Bullion coins are made with precious metals and are intended for investors. These coins are not sold to the general public by the United States Mint and often circulate through dealers nationwide. Bullion coins are great for beginner collectors and are loved for their beauty and rarity. Because they're made of precious metals, the base coin value is worth at least the weight of that metal.

What is a Proof Coin?

The term proof coin refers to coins that are struck at least twice and treated with a high-quality polish to ensure a glamorous shine and intricate design. Historically, these coins were meant to be used as a sample of a coin, to check the dies, and keep in archives. Now, they are a fan-favorite for collectors all over the world. Proof coins come with a certificate of authenticity, are kept in a protective capsule, and can be incredibly valuable.

Why You Should Start a Coin Collection

What is the best part of starting a coin collection? You can begin with any ol' pocket change sitting in your home. Many people start their journey by stumbling across a particularly interesting coin or inheriting someone else's coin collection. Some people get into the business of trading rare or uncirculated coins as an investment. But one thing’s certain; coin collecting is fun!

3 Reasons to Start a Coin Collection

Whether you're interested in collecting the quarters of all 50 states or proof coins, starting your coin collection is rewarding and fun for these three reasons:

1. Celebrate history

2. Make money

3. Rise to the challenge

1. Collecting Coins Helps You Celebrate History

If history was your favorite subject in school, coin collecting is the perfect hobby for you. As you start your collection, you'll find endless coins made in America and foreign countries full of rich history. From depictions of important political figures and royalty to learning about the era the coin was made, you could spend hours studying the historical significance of each coin. Even if you look at the change in your pocket, you'll probably find a commemorative 50 State quarter—there's history in every coin ever made! It’s just a matter of finding the ones with a high coin value.

2. A Coin Collection Can Be Profitable

Collecting the right coins can add up! While you probably won't create a full-time income collecting and selling rare coins, you can certainly generate some money if you're dedicated. Every coin (obviously) has some sort of value, but if you commit to learning about different unique pieces and their coin values, you can buy and resell desirable coins to other collectors, making an actual profit. You could also invest in a complete collection that ages well and gets more valuable throughout the years, giving you or a family member a profit.

3. Enjoy the Challenge of Coin Collection

Above all else, the challenge of collecting coins is exciting. If you're looking for a passionate and accessible hobby, starting a coin collection is available to anyone! Feel a sense of pride and satisfaction as you find new (old) coins. Enjoy the thrill of the hunt as you scour the internet and shop at antique malls for valuable coins to add to your collection.

There are several sites you can look online to view collectible coins and even purchase. Even the big retailers like Amazon are getting in on the fun with a whole Amazon Coin Collecting section which features coins but also some great ideas on how to store and display your coin collection.

Many of these coins are sold by individual collectors who can answer your questions.

What Kinds of Coins Do People Collect?

People collect coins based on type, design, topic, grade, and year made. Some people even specifically collect coins with minting errors. Some types are more based on coin values, whereas others just spark joy in the collector's heart. Coin collecting is a mixed bag, so the process starts by finding your special interests!

Common Collectable Coins:

  • The Lincoln Penny

  • Walking Liberty Half Dollars

  • 50 State quarters

  • Coins with certain designs

  • Coins from a specific country

5 Steps to Starting Your Coin Collection

It may feel daunting to begin collecting coins, but don't fret! With these five simple steps, you'll be on your way to becoming a coin collector in no time:

  1. Start small

  2. Learn how to store coins

  3. Figure out coin values

  4. Start hunting

  5. Find your coin community

1. Start Small with Your Coin Collection

Don't feel like you have to jump in and invest hundreds of dollars into your coin collection right off the bat. Start small with accessible coins to see if the hobby is right for you. Begin with researching coin values and their history and learn how they're graded. You could start by collecting a particular type of United States quarters, coins with flower designs, or pennies from a certain mint year—start with anything that piques your interest!

2. How to Store Your Coin Collection

To protect a coin’s value and preserve its condition, you must learn how to store coins properly. Because coins are prone to tarnishing and corrosion, you have to control the temperature and humidity in your storage method. Depending on the value, you should store your coins in rigid plastic containers, coin folders, boards, albums, or individual coin holders. Avoid keeping them loose in cardboard boxes or plastic bags.

Should You Clean Your Coins?

No! Even if your coins are dirty, cleaning them often removes the luster and patina from the surface, reducing their value.

3. How Are Coins Valued?

In general, coin values are determined by the grade, state of preservation, and demand. Some coins are in high demand consistently, while others are never in demand. You can do much of this research yourself, but there are official routes for coin value appraisal.

Start by looking for mint mistakes, such as a missing number, letter, or sign that the

coin was double-stamped at the mint. You can also look at where and when the coin was minted, as this affects its value. Then, research the demand for the coin: as the demand increases, so does the coin value! Finally, consult different websites and coin magazines for the most desirable coins to current collectors, such as various uncirculated coins or proof coins.

Pro tip: It's important to note that coin collectors use "price" and "value" to mean different things. The price of a coin is what you pay for it when you buy it from a dealer or vendor. The coin value is what a dealer would give you for it.

Getting a Coin Graded

While you can learn to grade yourself, it's easier for beginner coin collectors to use the industry standard methods. The gold standard of coin collectors is the Professional Coin Grading Services (PCGS) and Numismatic Guaranty Company (NGC). They both grade, authenticate, certify, and seal any of your coins for a small fee. That way, other coin collectors will take you seriously as you start the buying and selling process.

When you take your coin collections to the experts, they'll use these factors to determine the grade:

  • Luster: how light bounces off the coin's surface

  • Color: the natural hue and colorization of the design and metal

  • Handler marks: marks made from insufficient packaging and handling

  • Cleaning marks: damage done to the coin by cleaning or polishing

  • Overall Appearance: the various flaws, defects, and damage

4. Start Hunting for Coins

After researching types of coins and seeing what sparks your interest, it's time to start your collection! Look at the coins in the bottom of your purse, between the couch cushions, and in your piggy bank to see if you have any hidden high-value coins in your home. Spend hours browsing different online platforms such as eBay or Amazon to see other collections and debate what coins you'd buy for your own. For an in-person experience, feel the rush by searching for coins at vintage stores and antique booths.

5. Find Your Coin Collector Community

Part of the fun is finding a like-minded circle of people who enjoy collecting coins as much as you do. Join online forums or find a local coin club in your area. You can stumble across a rare coin at any time, so attend events at antique malls or yard sales. You can hunt for certain coins, hear the inside scoop on the world of collecting, and discuss your newfound passion with a new community of people!

How to Sell Your Coin Collection

Learning how to sell vintage items, especially coins, is an art. If you go with the do-it-yourself method, make sure you do your research. You could determine your coin value based on similar coins online or ask an online expert for an appraisal. Then, find your local coin dealer and try to strike a deal, whether you've got one rare coin or a set.

If you have a complete coin collection, keep them in the storage album. Coin dealers are experts in determining coin values, so they may be able to look at your complete collection and come up with a manageable number. Your coin value will be determined by whether the collection is complete, if any pieces are extra rare, have a higher-than-normal grade, and have more complex qualifications. Generally, a dealer will give you an offer right away. After that, it's up to you to accept or haggle!

Coin Collecting at Antique Malls

Don't restrict yourself to online shopping for your coin collection—get down and dirty and search for coins at your local antique malls and vintage stores. Antique malls aren't just antique furniture—some coin collectors take their wares on the road or rent a booth to set up shop. You can find experts in the coin collecting field, find bargains or priceless pieces, bring in your coins, and more at your local antique shop. Visit our Algonquin, Highland, or Melbourne locations today to start your coin collection off right!

See, the world of coin collecting isn't tricky! It's just a matter of getting your coin collection started. Hopefully, with this helpful beginner's guide, it's easier to understand different types of coins, how to determine coin value, and how to get involved in the coin community. Browse online, research, hunt in America’s Antique Malls, and become a coin collector today!

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