5 Reasons to Collect Coins and Tips to Get Started

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Last updated on August 27, 2022 Comments: 19

Coin collecting is an interesting pastime, and it can actually be a way to earn some money on the side if you do it right. And even if you don’t ever really make money from your coin collection, starting one can be a fun hobby. So why should you start collecting coins? And once you decide to start, how do you get going? Read on for tips.

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Why Collect Coins

When you think about collecting coins, maybe you automatically assume it’s a hobby only rich people can afford. But that’s not really the case. Many times, you can start a coin collection without spending much money. And you may come across some rare samples just by going through your daily change.

If you’re looking for some reasons to start a coin collection, here are a few of my favorites:

1. Earn Some Side Income

Unless you’re a really experienced coin collector, you probably aren’t going to create a full-time income from buying and selling rare coins. But you can generate some income on the side, especially as you get good at spotting good deals that you can re-sell at a higher price. It’s especially nice to earn a side income from coins you happen across in your everyday life, which often just wind up as change in your pocket.

The key to earning money from your coin collection is having a goal for your buying and selling and understanding the product deeply. We’ll talk more about this in the getting started section.

2. Learn About History or Other Cultures

Many Americans prefer to collect American coins, and there’s plenty to learn from them. For instance, you can learn about different times in history when coin designs changed. Or you can learn interesting facts about mistakes that made their way into coin stamps for whatever reason.

You can also use a coin collection of foreign coins to learn about other cultures. Most coins feature culturally prominent individuals, and learning about their background can be interesting. And you can also learn about other symbols from both your own culture and those of cultures around the world. Coin collecting can be an excellent catalyst for learning all sorts of random and interesting facts.

3. Enjoy Their Beauty

The intricate detail you’ll find in many coins is truly stunning. Older coins can also include even more detail and fascinating symbols from history. These are an artistic collectors item that can be easily displayed in your home even if you don’t have a ton of space available.

4. Rise to a Challenge

Sometimes the catalyst to coin collecting for kids is the drive to meet a certain goal. For instance, maybe they want to collect all the state quarters. Coin collectors have other sets that they aim to collect, as well. And getting all of the coins from the same set can be an interesting and fun goal to work towards.

5. Share a Hobby with Your Kids

Maybe your kids are into things that you’ve never really considered trying. If you’re looking for a point of connection, collecting coins together can be fun. Anyone can get started, and you don’t need a lot of money or time to do it. But you can work together to learn more about old coins and their history, to figure out which sets you want to try to collect, and to collect the coins together.

If you combine this with reason number one, you can even help your kids set up a unique side business that could help them fund their college education or beyond.

In short, collecting coins can be a fun and interesting hobby that may also help you earn money. If you’re thinking about getting a collection started, go for it. But before you do, read on to find out how to getting started collecting coins.

How to Start Collecting Coins

Before you rush out and start sorting through your random pocket change, take some time to figure out how to start collecting coins. Here are the first steps I’d suggest.

Start with Some Research

If you know absolutely nothing about coins or coin collecting (formally known as numismatics), take some time to do research. Learn about why and how people collect coins, and figure out where and how they trade and sell them. Pay attention to things like how individuals have formed their coin collections, which often begin with a theme or with a particular type of coin. Just a bit of digging online can lead you to tons of numismatics blogs for beginners, which are a great place to start.

Choose a Theme or Type

Once you know a little more, give your collecting some direction. Maybe you’ll start with something super basic like collecting a quarter from each state. Or maybe you’ll go with something a little more intriguing, like a particular type of penny or pennies from a particular set of years.

You don’t have to choose something difficult to fulfill. In fact, it can be fun to start with a collection you might be able to grab from your own pocket change. If you choose a type of collection that many others are already working on, you may have to be extra patient to find coins you can afford to purchase at first. So just keep this in mind.

One easy collection for kids is to start a cents collection. This one has you collect a coin with Lincoln’s image on it from every year it has been minted since 1909. You can get coin folders specific to common collecting goals like this one. And this is a fun one, since you can do it mainly from sorting through pocket change.

Another option is a U.S. type set. This collection contains a representative coin from all of the types of coins ever put into circulation in the U.S. You can also define these sets by century or years. For instance, you might collect a 20th century cent, nickel, dime, quarter, half dollar and dollar since 1900.

A full type set would go further back and have a deeper collection, including specimens from each design since 1792. This would include half-dimes, three-cent pieces, gold dollars, and eagles.

Learn About Valuation

At first, you may have to trust expert opinions when buying coins. But as you collect, you’ll get a better feel for the values of various coins. There are four main factors of valuation:

Condition: The first part of this equation is pre-circulation. That is, what happened to the coin at the mint, including how the design was struck and marks other coins left during transportation. The second part is post-circulation. Coins with more lustre and less wear and tear from circulation are worth more. Many companies provide the coin with a 1 to 70 score, or grade, that tells you exactly what condition a coin is in.

  • Rarity: Most modern coins will never be rare. These days, the mint produces many items of each type of coin each year. Unless you happen to find a modern coin with a misstrike or error, it’s probably never going to be rare. Some older coins are fairly common, too. But the rarer a coin is, the higher its value will be.
  • Bullion Value: Most coins are composed of multiple metals, which have a market value. For instance, if silver is worth about $15 an ounce and copper is worth about $3 a point, the bullion or melt value of a 1960 quarter is about $2.70. You should be able to sell a coin for at least its bullion value.
  • Demand: Even fairly common coins can be worth more money if demand for those particular types of coins is high. Demand can be hard to predict. But doing some research online can help you figure out how high demand is for a coin at any given time.

Find Places to Get Coins

You’ll want to figure out where you plan to look for and purchase your coins, of course. For coins that are already valued, you can check out local dealers and online stores. But you can also just turn coin collecting into a treasure hunt by searching your own pockets and rolls of coins from the bank. Of course, there are no guarantees that you’ll get anything interesting even if you sort through hundreds of coins. But you just never know!

Buy the Best You Can

If your goal is to build a truly valuable coin collection, you should look to purchase the best versions of each coin that you can afford. The “afford” piece is key here, though. Make sure that you aren’t wildly overspending on this hobby by setting and sticking to a budget for it!

Be Patient

Collecting hobbies, unlike some other types of hobbies, require a lot of patience. It takes time to find the right coins for your collection or to find buyers when you’re ready to sell. So plan to spend a while researching coins and deciding on the right ones for your collection. And take time to understand the hobby thoroughly before you put your money on the line, of course.

Store Your Coins Properly

Whitman coin folders are a popular option for new coin collectors because they have holes for each individual coin. They don’t take up a ton of space but will protect coins from additional wear and tear. However, if you have more expensive coins, you might want to look into a more protective case like a coin album or individual cases for particularly expensive coins.

Some Potentially Valuable Coins to Start

Even if you don’t want to collect a full coin set, you might start casually looking through your change jar for a few specific coins that could be more valuable in the future. For instance, pre-1982 pennies and nickels are worth more in bullion weight than they are face value. Eventually, the Mint will likely change the composition of these coins to account for the difference.

If you already have a change jar, try to keep the following coins on hand, as they are likely to continue increasing in value, even just based on melt value.

  • 1909-1982 Cent (95% copper)
  • 1946-2011 Nickel
  • 1982-2011 Cent (97.5% zinc)
  • 1965-2011 Dime
  • 1965-2011 Quarter
  • 1971-2011 Half Dollar
  • 1971-1978 Eisenhower Dollar
  • 1979-1981, 1999 SBA Dollar
  • 2000-2011 Sacagawea Dollar
  • 2007-2011 Presidential Dollar

It may seem silly to collect some of these coins, which are relatively common these days. But if your parents and grandparents had held on to silver dollars and half-dollars, they would have passed down some valuable coins after the alloys for these had changed. It’s likely then, that you can do the same for future generations.

Article comments

19 comments
Tony says:

Thanks for the great info

Anonymous says:

This is all fascinating to me…both the article and the comments.

Anonymous says:

I actually had a friend who, when her father passed away inherited his ‘junk’. None of her siblings wanted anything to do with anything from their dad. She just stored it all in her garage.
One day when I was over there I was helping her clean out her garage and we came across his few suitcases of things. When we went through them we found some really rare coins.

She knew he collected coins, but he got them and bottles from the dump and stuff only because he thought they were pretty. I told her to get them valued, along with the bottles.

Turns out her dad left her a small fortune and no one knew. She was going to throw out all his stuff. She is so glad we checked.

I am in Australia so we have a differnet monetary system, but I have looked up which coins to look out for and keep an eye out for them.
Thanks for this post.

Anonymous says:

I had a feeling about this. It reminds me of people hoarding pennies back in the day. Great info. Better start searching for those 95% copper pennies and nickels. Logical points on why the value will go up. Is there a scenario where these coins could go down in value? Almost sounds like a sure thing, but you know what they say about sure things.

Anonymous says:

Depends on how you’re collecting them. If you just sort through your change every so often and pick out the goods ones, then there’s no risk at all. Say the metal market crashes, and there’s only $0.001 worth of copper in the pennies. Well you’ll still be able to spend them as a penny no matter what. Of course there is the opportunity cost. If you manage to get significant amounts of money you might be better off investing it, than hoarding it as pennies.

Now if you’re buying and selling from collectors, then you’re paying for their collectible and bullion value. So if the metal takes a dive, you lose money down to the face value. And if there’s collectible value (e.g. out of print collectible coins) they can lose that value from loss in rarity (mint starts reprinting, someone discovers a stash of them), and their condition being degraded (if you scuff them, or over handle them).

Anonymous says:

I have quite a few coins from my birth year ,which is well before 1982. I never collected them for anything other than the fact that they were minted the year I was born. In high school we had to do a project presenting different things that happened the year you were born and this got me started. Thnik I may just keep a lot more pre-1982 coins. Like you say, I have the room and what will it hurt?

Donna Freedman says:

In the past I’ve found several silver dimes in the rejected-coin cup on Coinstar machines. They’re not “read” correctly by the machine and thus get spit out. The machine now lets users know that coins have fallen out.
However, in the Coinstar’s terms of service section online it tells you that the machine might not give back certain coins — including silver ones. I read a comment on another blog about a guy who knew a guy who was a Coinstar tech and would keep the coins he found when he serviced the machine. Hmmm. I wonder if his supervisor knows that? And I wonder how many techs turn in these silver coins, and how much they add up to in a year?
A relative of mine was a supermarket cashier and then customer-service manager. Whenever she saw older coins turned in she’d scoop them out and replace them with money from her wallet. She’s saving them for her kids.

Anonymous says:

100 old copper pennies are worth $1.00 at face value and $2.71 in copper content. For a possible future profit based on metal content of only $1.71, I think I’ll pass. Collecting them would be too much work. It would give new meaning to the term “penny pincher”.

Anonymous says:

great post flexo….but shhhhhhhhhhh! we do not need this getting around. it is bad enough i have found about 2 pieces of silver in the past 2 years, soon copper will be scarce as well when the masses get to this.

Anonymous says:

This is great information. I knew that the price of copper was such that the pennies were worth more but didn’t know the exact date. Now I can go through the penny jar and pick out all the right ones. A few months ago when I was rolling dimes, I found one from 1964 made of silver. Needless to say, I set it aside.

Anonymous says:

How would you make any money besides melting them down?

Luke Landes says:

By selling to other collectors or dealers.

Anonymous says:

they have been selling on ebay for some time.

Anonymous says:

Just a quick note – it’s illegal to melt down coins for the metal. So while silver is collectible based on intrinsic value, I don’t think copper pennies or nickels are worth the effort. You would first have to find someone wiling to buy them and melt them down (and break the law), then you would need thousands of them for it to be worth anyone’s time.

Luke Landes says:

The legalities are a bit murky when it comes to melting down… U.S. code says altering is illegal only if done fraudulently, to misrepresent the metal as anything other than an altered coin. But I’m not recommending melting, anyway. There’s nothing about silver that makes it value “more special” than the value of copper — intrinsic value is the value of the metal, the same concept whether it’s silver or copper. The price is based on what people will pay (influenced strongly by commodities traders.) It’s the same concept whether it’s gold, silver, or copper…

If potential buyers are reluctant to buy because of the potential illegality, that may prevent a run-up in price… but if the price increase is steady, there will eventually be enough backlash (just like there was with other metals) to allow melting.

From what I understand. the same arguments (inconvenient to melt, not worth the effort like gold would be, etc.) were made about silver when the government changed the composition of coins that contained silver, and those who held onto silver coins (many decades later) have benefited.

Anonymous says:

you have probably done more research on this than have i, but from what i gathered on some coin/bullion forums that i frequent, the members there talk about it as if it is flat out illegal to melt them just for the metal content. great post though. it has inspired me to look into it.

Anonymous says:

Ryan, specifically what law are you referring to—i have not been able to find one. I did find wher you couldn’t deface coins, implicating creating a fradulent coin, but not any law against the melting of the coin.

Anonymous says:

Flexo, you have made my day…my mom has “bequeathed” to me and my children, a fairly worthless collection of coins minted in Liberia. As smart as she is, she is so gullible when it comes to coin collecting and can’t pass up these informercial offers of “rare, collectible coins”. I’ve tried to tell her that she needs to look for coins MINTED IN THE U.S. but my cries seem to fall on deaf ears. LOL

Not only am I going to email her the link to this post, but also send a copy through snail mail so she can carry it with her when she’s ‘shopping’ for coins.

…and, if anyone knows where I can off-load some Liberian coins with pretty pictures of eagles, polar bears and dead Presidents…

Anonymous says:

I wish I had known this when I was a cashier! I used to go through the quarters to check for old silver ones when business was slow!