Coin Collecting for Beginners

by Michael Bernzweig

What Is Coin Collecting?

Coin collecting can be a full-time or part-time interest. Some people may even consider it a hobby, but many take coin collecting seriously and make it their occupation. There are many impressive collections in the coin world, and starting your own may be easier than you think. 

Coin collecting is the hobby of accumulating, trading, or studying coins that are of monetary value. It allows individuals to understand how money has changed throughout history and appreciate the beauty of these coins alongside their historical significance.

Coin collecting is not just about purchasing coins at face value; many factors determine the price of a coin. Rarity, mintage rates, and condition/grade of the coins are some factors that are taken into consideration when determining their value. A price guide is a great way to gauge a general value of an individual coin. In these types of price guides, you can identify a specific coin type.

How Does Coin Collecting Work?

Usually, an experienced coin dealer can quickly assess the market values of most coins depending on what type they are made out of (silver vs. gold), how old they are and if there was any mint mark included on the backside which usually designates where it was manufactured.

Coin collecting involves a lot of research to find the most valuable coins. Over generations, many individuals have collected particular coin types to suit their interests. From one person to the next, the type of coins they choose to collect varies. The best place to begin looking for a coin is from your nearest pawn shop or coin dealer. 

A typical coin collecting album may have display spots meant for 2-3 different types of coins, but usually, they will be an assortment of many different sizes and shapes. 

Here are some popular examples of what types of United States Coins can be collected: 

  • Lincoln Pennies; These make great starter coins to collect because they were minted in high quantities (about 500 million per year), hence making it easier to get more inexpensively. Specifically, the 1943 Lincoln Head Copper Penny is a commonly collected coin.
  • Kennedy Half Dollars: This is one of the most popular coins in US Coin history, featuring president John F. Kennedy.
  • Wheat Cents: These are sought-after by many collectors because they were minted in significant quantities (about 70 million per year), making them also easier to find and purchase cheaply. 

These coins, unlike paper money, are just a few among several thousand coins that are popular for coin collecting. 

Coin Collecting Terminology

Learning some coin-collecting terminologies is a great way to get started with coin collecting. Collecting coins is a fun and enriching hobby. It can also be a rewarding investment due to the metal content of many coins. Some coin-collecting terms you may encounter in your research are listed below:

Bag Marks: A term for minor nicks or scratches on the surface of a coin that occurred while it was being transported between mints, banks, casinos, etc.

Bourse: An organized event where dealers gather to buy and sell numismatic items (coins)

Brilliant Uncirculated (BU): Coins with no signs of wear; they look like new because, unlike circulated coins, they haven't been handled much at all.

Bullion Coin: The coins are precious metal coins that are traded at current bullion prices

Commemorative: A unique coin or medal is presented in recognition of an exceptional individual, location, or event.

Condition: The physical characteristics of the coin

Counterfeit: A fake coin or another piece of currency created to seem real so that people may believe it is.

Die: To make a coin, you use a die, or stamp, to put a design (images, value, and sayings) onto a blank piece of metal with an engraved stamp.

Face Value: The amount for which a coin can be spent or exchanged (a dime has a face value of 10 cents) as opposed to its collector or precious metal value

Bullion value is the price per ounce of gold or silver at which a coin or bar of precious metal is sold. The price of bullion coins and bars fluctuates based on the supply and demand for each precious metal.

Where Can I Find Coins to Collect?

Coin dealers usually set up shop in nearly every state across the nation, specifically near that state's capital. They often sell coins that they value themselves after purchasing or receiving them from customers (coin collectors). 

The best place to find coins, in general, is at your local coin dealer, but if you are not able to locate one in your area, there are other places where you can buy coins, such as online auctions. 

The price for these coins will vary depending on their condition and the year they were made; it will also depend on how hard it is to find them. Selling prices may go up over time due to demand for certain types of rarer minted coins. There are multiple places you can find or purchase rare coins, including:


Banks are one of the best places to buy rare coins because banks frequently acquire rare or collectible coins through customers who receive them as change. 

Banks will allow you to trade in paper money for rolls of coins. Searching through coin rolls from a bank can be tedious, but it is an excellent way to find rare or one-of-a-kind coins.

Coin dealers

Coin dealers are an excellent source for rare coins. Some will offer promotions for larger bulk purchases. They typically have a more extensive selection than banks and carry more specialized coins besides the basic denominations that you will frequently encounter when searching through change.

If you do decide to purchase from a coin dealer, it is important to be aware of everything you should check for before making your purchase: not only should you check all sides for damage and wear and tear, but the specific year and minting mark must be checked as well. You can confirm these details with the coin dealer. 

Individual Sellers 

As rare coin collecting is an expensive hobby, many people opt to sell their collections as a whole instead of trading them for other coins. You can find individuals who want to sell their entire collection through online auction houses that buy and sell coins. 

You can also contact estate sale companies if you come across an extensive collection. These companies will often have customers with collectible coin collections who try to rid themselves of everything at once instead of selling it off piece by piece.


Many countries hold auctions where citizens can bring in old coin collections or outdated currency and exchange it for new types of currency. Find out if your local government holds such auctions and what kinds of coins are available.

Coin Shows

Coin shows are a great way to buy, sell and trade coins. There are many coin shows all over the world, but some of the larger ones are held in cities like New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles. 

These exhibitions are usually hosted by local auction houses or other businesses specializing in trading or selling currency. It is very common for these events to draw thousands of people from different areas who want to buy or sell coins.

This is also an excellent time to find novelty coins and currency from foreign countries and colonies. Coins made years ago often have patterns on them that were specific to their region and year of creation, which can serve as clues when trying to determine the origin of older coins.

Local coin shows are always a great place to meet like-minded people who are also interested in coin collecting. You can ask questions, compare collections, or even make deals with other collectors.

Flea Markets and Antique Shows

Flea markets and antique coin shows are also good places to find coin collecting supplies at low prices. Most of the time, the dealers set up shop during these events are looking for quick cash more than anything else. This is definitely not an environment for collectors of rare or high-value coins; however, it can be an excellent place to pick up bulk items like bags of pennies and rolls of quarters.

Young people who are new to coin collecting may want to start by purchasing packs of uncirculated US minted dollars or commemorative coins (ones that were designed with special designs in honor of an event). While these more affordable options will never go down in value, they're still types of currency that many people save as souvenirs instead of spending them.

What Do I Need to Become a Coin Collector?

If coin collecting is something that intrigues you, the best thing to do is research types of coins and where they're traded for their value. You may find it hardest to locate trading places in smaller towns, but many online resources are available. Or simply ask somebody at a local hobby shop if they know any collectors who buy and sell coins with each other.

To start coin collecting, all you need is an interest and a small supply of disposable income to buy or trade for coins. Without any one coin, in particular, there's no specific "goal" to reach as a coin collector. 

However, once you start learning about different types of coins, you might find yourself developing a certain focus on the types that appeal most to your interests. To begin coin collecting, you'll have to decide how much money you're willing to spend on buying coins and whether you're more interested in purchasing or trading.

You can buy coins directly from dealers, either online or at a local shop, but the advantage of trading with other collectors is that both parties can get rarer coins than they'd typically find for sale. You might even make some interesting new friends along the way!

Coin collecting is something anyone can do these days - no matter where they are. With several different types of coinage circulating worldwide, there's always an opportunity to collect coins 

without ever leaving home. Collecting foreign coins has become especially popular thanks to the internet; today, it's easier than ever before to trade with other collectors around the world.

Common Types of Coins In Collections

Various coins are typically collected more than others, generally because they are rare or unusual. Some popular types of coins that are widely traded include:

  • Foreign Coins: Foreign Coins are coins outside the country in which they're currently being sold. The value these coins have when being traded depends mostly on where they're being kept until further notice, but their worth will never go down significantly if traded within the same region/city.
  • US Dollar Coins: The United States dollar coin is a very large piece of currency that is roughly the size of an older silver dollar. 
  • Bullion Coins: Bullion Coins are made from precious metals. They're never valued as highly as other types of coins, depending on how high the market goes at times.
  • Error Coins: Error Coins are created when a mistake is made during the minting process. These coins are always collectible, and they can be especially valuable if they contain errors that occur very rarely, such as doubling of die only visible under magnification. 
  • These modern quarters were introduced by the United States Mint in 1999 and feature a state-specific emblem, commonly a bird or flower. State quarters are usually valued at face value, but they can be rare depending on which state they came from. 
  • Morgan Silver Dollar or Peace Dollar: Morgan Dollars were common Silver Dollars circulated in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Morgan dollars are known for being minted in silver. Peace Dollars are known for being minted post-World War One after the minting of Morgan dollars had stopped.
  • American Silver Eagle Bullion Coins: These large coins are minted from silver and have been popular for their value with coin collectors since 1986. 
  • Thomas Jefferson Dollar Coin: Each is worth around $3.50 in uncirculated condition with an MS 65 grade

Coin value depends on several factors. Some factors that determine how much a coin is worth include its date of origin, mint mark (if there is one), condition of the surface, scarcity of design type, mintage level, and more!

Factors When Determining Coin Values

Here are some of the factors used when determining the value of a coin for your coin collection.

Scarcity of Design Type

The scarcity of the design type of a coin is measured by the number of coins that were minted relative to the overall mintage levels. Rarity can be determined using several grading scales, one of which is the Sheldon Coin Grading Scale.

A professional coin grading service is available for those who want to get their coins graded, but the process is pricey. Graded coins are worth more than non-graded coins. This is because the grading companies are seen as trustworthy and professional and because graded, certified coins maintain their value longer than raw (ungraded) coins.

Surface Conditions

Another factor used when determining coin value is surface conditions, which are graded on a 0-70 scale based on how well they have survived throughout time. A coin with its original design and little to no wear has a grade above 60. As the precious metal content decreases, so too does the value. This is because there would be more copper than silver in the coin. 


The rarity of a coin in your coin collection is also a determinant of its value. The fewer the number of coins minted relative to their population, the rarer they become. These are known as key dates and command a higher price than common ones.

The Grading Scale is a numerical system that rates or judges the preservation of a coin from 0-70, where 70 is nearly perfect condition and 0 is in bad shape with no real numismatic value. Coins having grades between 30-60 fetch reasonable sums at auctions because people who collect will pay for perfection. 

Mintage rates

Mintage rates refer to the numbers of coins minted by the government. The fewer the number of coins minted, the rarer they become. Generally, the higher the mintage rate, the lower their numismatic value, which is why people buy and collect these coins.

After learning about how valuation works, it can be easy to see why some coins can cost thousands due to rarity and preservation. For example, during an auction in 2010, a dime was sold for over forty-three thousand dollars when it was estimated at 10,000.

Identifying and understanding the many factors of numismatic and investment values is important to be able to buy and sell properly on your own. 

What is the Most Valuable Coin?

The most valuable coin on the market is also the rarest. Referred to as the Flowing Hair Silver/Copper Dollar (1794/5). It is worth an estimated 10 million dollars, according to numismatic experts.

The high price is due in large part to the fact that several numismatic experts believe that this was the first silver coin produced and distributed by the United States Federal Government.

There are three main categories that collectors look at when determining any coin's value: 

  • Mintage rate
  • Condition, and 
  • Rarity. 

The lower the number of each category means higher prices for investors or collectors alike.

There are thousands of coins to collect, even ancient coins from the Roman Empire and American coins from as early as the mid-1800s and as recent as this year, so where do you start? Some coins have a greater significance than others which also draws collectors in. For example, The US buffalo nickel or Indian head coin was created due to lack of funding by the government at the time and is a prime example of a type of coin that can be collected thanks to its low mintage rate.

How Do I Find the Value of Old Coins?

It is possible to determine the value of old coins if you do your research. Here are some common steps to finding the value of your coin, including: 

Pin down the coin's origin and date

Inspect the coin to determine its condition.

Check coin value lists online

Consult a coin value book.

Account for any special factors

You can also work with a coin appraiser to determine the value of your coin. Coin appraisers can give you an in-depth look at not only the value of your coin but also its history. They will take care to authenticate your coin before estimating its worth.

Which Coins Are Worth Collecting?

With so many coins in the world, it is important to know which ones are worth collecting. World Coin News is the most reliable source for up-to-date news about world coins. It covers all things related to new coin issues, auctions, and other coin news from across the globe. This publication is one of the best places to start when researching what coins hold value. 

There are many coins with collecting appeal. Some of the most popular coins for collectors include:

  • Wheat pennies
  • Mercury dimes
  • Buffalo nickels
  • Standing liberty quarter coins
  • Walking Liberty half-dollar coins

Generally speaking, coins that were made before 1965 carry more value than coins minted after that date. If you're wondering what other coins might be worth collecting, consult a collector or coin dealer for information about your specific type of coin. 

Coin Collecting Tips

A simple yet effective method of coin collecting is to focus on one type of coin that interests you. For example, if something about the Lincoln cent piques your interest - from its history to its design - then focus on building a collection around this coin! You could also consider focusing on a series or theme within each denomination. 

Anyone of all ages can take up coin collecting as a hobby. The most important thing to remember about any kind of collection is that you must enjoy it for what it is -- a way to express your interests and passions. Whether your interest in coins stems from studying history or traveling abroad, you should learn everything you can to increase your knowledge and passion for the subject matter. 

Coin collecting doesn't just come down to knowing who minted each type of coin; numismatists study many factors behind why different countries chose how much gold or silver to put into their coins, for example. If you're truly interested in building an impressive collection, consider attending a local coin show.

Frequently Asked Questions

When it comes to coin collecting, here are some frequently asked questions.

What is Coin Collecting?

Similar to collecting paper money, coin collecting is a hobby that has been around for centuries. 

People who buy coins usually do it not only as an investment but also for pleasure and challenge, all depending on the level of expertise you wish to pursue.

Where to Buy Coin Collecting Books?

Coin collecting books are available in various places, including book stores and online websites. You can also borrow some from a local library or return them when finished if borrowed from a friend.

What Does MS 64 Mean In Coin Collecting?

Mint State 64 or MS64 means the coin has good, overall average luster and even strike for the type. Small clusters of contact marks, as well as one or two moderately heavy ones, may be seen.

What Does Proof Mean In Coin Collecting?

Proof Coins are the highest quality coin produced by the United States, Royal Mint, or Royal Canadian Mint. The finish of a proof coin is referred to as "proof." Proof blanks are hand-polished, hand-cleaned, and specially treated to assure high-quality strikes. The blanks are then fed into presses with finely polished dies and struck at least twice.

Where to Buy Coin Collecting Supplies?

Coin collecting supplies are available from a retailer or online. Supplies include: 

  • Coin albums
  • Coin holders 
  • Coin capsules
  • Folders
  • Coin flips
  • Coin tubes
  • Boxes and 
  • Holders for displaying coins. 

Money books are popular with new collectors who want to set a budget for their hobby while they learn about coins, grading and purchasing valuable coins from reputable dealers.

What Does BU Mean In Coin Collecting?

A brilliant uncirculated coin can also be referred to as a "BU," or "B." A UNC coin is superior to a circulation coin and a bullion coin. An entry-level collectible, Brilliant Uncirculated coins are polished and finished by hand in the same way as Proof coins.

What Does Clad Mean In Coin Collecting?

Clad coins are coins that have a core and an outer layer composed of different metals. Since 1965, all circulating US dimes, quarters, half dollars, and dollars have been clad.

What Does Obverse Mean In Coin Collecting?

The coin's obverse side is known as the front side ("heads") of a coin. The reverse is the reverse (back) of a coin.

How to Start Coin Collecting?

To start coin collecting, choose the type of coin you are interested in. A popular way to learn about coins is by starting with pennies, but there is much more variety in the world of numismatics than that! You can begin by purchasing some basic coin collecting supplies like a magnifying glass, a coin album or folder, and a notebook. 

These supplies will help you complete your collection because they make it easy to organize. Once you have your supplies, all you need to do is start looking for coins! Banks, coin collectors, and auctions are some of the best places to look for collectible coins. 

Coin collecting is a fun way to learn about history and economics. Coins hold value, so it is wise to treat them with respect. Coin collecting is a hobby that involves the collection of coins or other numismatic items like tokens or medals. Pennies, nickels, quarters, dimes, dollars, euros, yen, world coins, gold coins, silver coins, and many other types of coins can be collected.

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