Coin collecting has been around for ages and it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere—at least not anytime soon. Since at least the 15th century, collectors have enjoyed the satisfaction of hunting down yet another coin to add to their growing collections. Nowadays, coin collecting is growing in popularity as people of all ages discover this fun and exciting hobby. If you’d like to join the ranks of coin collectors worldwide, read on to find out all you need to know about the world of coin collecting. And if you’re still not sure—well, read on anyway. We’re pretty sure we can convince you.
If you’re new to coin collecting, you’ll want to learn all you can about the world of coins. This article covers the basics, including: storing coins, grading coins, and where to find coins.
True, some people don’t understand the appeal of coin collecting, but if you’re reading this article we’re going to assume you have at least some idea of the joy that can come from collecting coins. But in case you need more reasons to consider adding coin collecting to your list of hobbies, here are just a few of the reasons why coin collecting is both an interesting and exciting hobby.
Why Coin Collecting?
For one thing, coin collecting is one of those hobbies that anyone can do. It doesn’t matter whether you’re young or old, whether you’re strong or weak, sick or healthy—you should be able to enjoy coin collecting. Coin collectors often have an interest in history. Coins are part of our past and many people enjoy being linked to history through their coins.
One of the reasons coin collecting can be so exciting is for the thrill of the hunt. People who love coin collecting often enjoy having other sorts of collections as well because they love searching for new things, they love the excitement that comes from finding a rarity, and they enjoy having the collection to look back on as time passes. Many collectors love passing their collections on to future generations. Sure, your great, great granddaughter might not necessarily appreciate the gesture, but let’s just hope she will.
Coin collecting can also be done almost anywhere, on your own time, by yourself or with others. Keep in mind that collecting doesn’t have to be a solitary pursuit. Coin collectors can enjoy connecting to the growing network of coin enthusiasts.
Oh, and did we forget to mention something? Coins can sometimes be quite valuable. Although valuable coins are not always easy to find, they are out there—yet another reason to add coin collecting to your list of hobbies.
Read on to learn more about coin collecting, beginning with our section on storing coins.
When getting into coin collecting, one of the first things you’re going to want to know is how to best store your coins. There are different options for storing coins, ranging from cheap folders to the still-affordable-but-more-quality hard-plastic holders. The way you store your coins is up to you, of course, but make sure you read on to learn about the differences between various ways of storing coins. You’re going to want to pick an option that’s best for you!
Folders – Folders are the most common way of storing coins and they’re also extremely affordable. If you’re looking for something compact and easy to access, a folder is the way to go. Folders act as maps for your coin collection, so they’re a great way to both organize and show off your collection. On the downside, storing your coin in a folder means only one side of the coin can be seen. Note that folders aren’t always recommended for long-term storage of high-value coins, as they can sometimes react with chemicals and can change in tone over time.
Albums – These are similar to folders, although slightly better. Why? Like folders, they are compact and inexpensive, but unlike folders both sides of the coin can be viewed and the entire coin is enclosed. The downside to albums is that the plastic front could rub against the coin, damaging it, so they’re not recommended for more valuable coins. But if you’re looking for something affordable but a step above a folder, go for the album.
2-by-2’s – With a 2 by 2, aka Mylar-lined storage, the coin is placed between two halves and then stapled together. This method of storage is great for several reasons. For one, both sides of the coins can be viewed (unlike folders). They are also better for long-term storage and the entire coin is enclosed. On the downside, the coins can only be viewed one at a time and the 2-by-2 takes up significantly more space than a folder.
Flips – These are similar to 2-by-2’s. The difference is the coin is inserted into a plastic pocket, over which a flap folds. But the benefits are mostly the same: both sides can be viewed, the entire coin is enclosed, and they’re inexpensive. However, keep in mind that flips aren’t recommended for long-term storage.
Hard-plastic holders – These are the best for highly-valuable coins. They have two pieces held together by screws and a plastic window through which the coin can be viewed. These are recommended for long-term storage and for valuable coins. They aren’t as cheap as other methods, but it’s still affordable.
Slabs – This is a more expensive method, where your coins are individually and sonically sealed. This method is great for long-term storage, but generally only recommended for more valuable coins.
Grading coins is a valuable skill when it comes to coin collecting. Why? The better you are at being able to understand the grade of your coins, the more likely you’ll spend time purchasing higher grade coins and have an overall better sense of the coins you purchase and own. Some people say you should not even begin coin collecting without having knowledge of how to grade your coins. Grading coins may not necessarily be easy at first, but it’s a skill that many people can pick up in time and most find it extraordinarily valuable.
Nowadays most American coins are graded on a 70 point scale devised by Dr. William Shelby. A 70 is a perfect coin and a 0 is a coin that is not worth your time. A coin graded as a 60 on the Shelby scale means that it is not circulated, has no wear, and most people would call it perfect. So if you’re fretting that your coin isn’t a 70 but a 60 grade coin, have no worries–you have a perfectly valuable coin.
For circulated coins, many use the ANA grading standards. Here is a short guide to grading your coins using the ANA grading standards:
AU-58: choice about uncirculated. These coins are almost perfect and have no major flaws
AU-55: good about uncirculated. Some traces of wear visible
AU-50: about uncirculated. Light wear and has approximately half of its original luster.
XF-45: choice extremely fine. Sharp details and some mint luster still remaining.
EF-40: extremely fine. Just a bit more wear than a 45, but no significant difference.
VF-30: good very fine. Lettering and design is sharp but there is light wear on the high points.
VF-20: very fine. High points are smooth and most details are well defined.
F-12: fine. Details worn away but major elements are still clear.
VG-8: very good. Coin is very worn, but letters and numerals are still clear.
GF-4: good. Details are gone, although major elements are still visible. For some, the rim is not complete and the date is no longer sharp.
AG-3: about good. Heavily worn; pay me impossible to read the date.
Fair-2: fair. Coin is extremely damaged, although some portions may be smooth.
P-1: poor. Details are gone and coin is barely recognizable
Where to Find Coins
Coin shops – Coin shops are a great place to look for coins because not only will you most likely find some worthwhile coins, but you’ll be able to talk to the coin shop dealer to get some valuable information.
Coin shows – Coin shows are a lot of fun. There will, of course, be several dealers competing at a coin shop so you will get more variety and possibly better prices.
Internet – Be careful when buying coins on the internet because there are the occasional scam artists out there, waiting for the unsuspecting buyer. When buying on the internet, make sure there is a reliable return policy. That said, there are some great sites where you can buy coins at a pretty decent price, so just use common sense and you may find some great deals on the web.
Mail Order – Purchasing through the mail is a convenient option for many people, but use the same caution you would when buying from the internet. Make sure there is a good return policy, examine your coins when you get them, and return them if they aren’t satisfactory.
Auctions – If you’re looking for rare or expensive coins, check out a coin auction. You can find high quality coins at auctions–coins that you may not find anywhere else. Keep in mind, however, that auctions aren’t really the best option for less expensive coins. At auctions, less expensive coins are sometimes more marked up in price or may have other problems that aren’t mentioned.
Many auctions are conducted online, so use the same common sense you would when buying online in other instances. We recommend checking the feedback of the seller before purchasing and also making sure they have a good return policy. If the coins aren’t satisfactory, you can return them for your money back. As mentioned, coins are sometimes marked up in auctions and this applies to online auctions as well.
Flea markets – Flea markets aren’t the best options for buying coins because the prices are often inflated. Ocassionally flea markets are good for finding coins, but always use caution and shop around first before purchasing from a flea market.
My Coin Collecting – great site with a lot of information about coin collecting, including a forum where you can discuss every aspect of the hobby with other users
Coin Collector – a lot of information about coins, including opinions and things like coin trivia and other interesting facts about the world of coin collecting
Whitman Books – place to purchase coin albums, folders, and other supplies