How To Collect Valuable Coins (5 Coin Collecting Strategies)

How do you collect valuable coins? Coin collecting is a fun and rewarding hobby for people of all ages and budgets. With a little luck, research, and effort, coin collecting can also be a valuable investment. But coin collecting is also unfortunately a world populated by frauds and counterfeits.

The strategies to remember when coin collecting are:

  1. Have A Plan
  2. Do Your Research
  3. Know Your Source
  4. Take Care Of Your Collection
  5. Have Fun

Collecting valuable coins is a complex project that has many steps. By following them, you can be reasonably confident in the coins you buy and build the collection you want. Some of these may seem self-evident, but others may be new. Let’s get started.

5 Coin Collecting Strategies

1. Have A Plan

There are far too many coins for even the richest collectors to try for everything. While you can certainly go after whatever catches your interest, having a particular goal can help you out greatly.

Many coin collectors have a theme to their collection. This allows them to know where to concentrate their efforts and makes it easier to research by limiting the scope. Becoming an expert on coins is hard. Becoming an expert on quarters is easier. Becoming an expert on State quarters or silver quarters is even easier.

Some collectors specialize in a metal, such as focusing on silver or gold coins. Some don’t care about the denomination but want coins from a certain time or location. Others want as complete a set as possible in the best possible condition of a certain type of coins, such as wheat pennies or mercury dimes.

One advantage of having a themed collection, especially if you are considering coin collecting as an investment, is that a ‘complete’ collection can be worth more than individual valuable coins. That said, you don’t have to be limited to your initial plan, especially if your interests change.

Coin collecting tends to be far more about the journey rather than the destination. Most coin collectors never ‘finish’ their collection. Even if they complete a set, there is always the goal of finding better specimens. As a beginner, start small, stick to your budget, and be patient. Your collection will grow in time.

2. Do Your Research

If nothing else, remember this. Research will help you see through frauds, or even well-meaning people who don’t recognize whether something is ordinary or rare. There are guidebooks for collectors, and you should definitely get one before you shell out money on a ‘valuable’ coin.

A common saying in coin circles is, ‘Buy the book before you buy the coin.’ Whatever country the currency is, there is almost certainly a guidebook for collectors, and it probably comes out every year. Get the most recent copy you can, because it will help you estimate values for the coin you are interested in.

But a guidebook is not the only thing you should know about. Coins are judged by their condition, or grading. Not everyone will agree on the grading of a coin, especially as some degrees are like splitting hairs, but you should be able to at least roughly gauge the condition.

The better you know the coin you are after, the less likely you are to fall for a fraud, or even just a coin that is too expensive. Make sure you know the little details of the coins you want to buy. What’s the metal composition? What’s its weight? Does it have a mint mark? Where and what kind? Is it magnetic? Has it been cleaned? Having a reputable dealer will help, but the burden is on you.

3. Know Your Source

Related to the research above, it is vital that you not only know the coin you wish to buy but the source selling it. A dealer who has their own store, allows buyers to carefully physically examine the coin for sale, and is vouched for by other buyers, is safer than an anonymous online seller. We will be discussing strategies for that scenario later, however.

Most of your collection will probably be purchased from someone else.Some who sell coins will happily cheat you. Others mean well but have no idea what the coin is worth. Some have genuine coins and want to get the best possible price for them, even if that’s not in your favor. We’ll discuss where to get coins later, but here are a few things to keep in mind, regardless of source.

How accountable is your source? While it would be nice to think most people are honest, and a lot of them are, it can be easier to be honest if you know you will get caught if you don’t. If your source has no reputation, such as reviews, people who vouch for them, perhaps a regular physical presence at sales, conventions, or a shop, then they probably aren’t worth the risk of an expensive purchase.

What do other people say about them? Are there online reviews? Do they have a good reputation in your local coin community? Do they offer a money-back guarantee? Has a third-party source certified their coins? Are they knowledgeable about their merchandise? Not a single one of those is a guarantee, but the more of those you can assure, the better your chances.

4. Take Care Of Your Collection

You have done your research, found a reputable seller, and bought the coin of your dreams. Now what? Especially if your collection is already valuable, it would be a shame if it lost value while in your keeping. It is important to store and handle your coins properly. Since a strong rule of coin collecting is never clean your coins, it is important to keep them as clean as possible.

There are specialized coin storage options ranging from booklets, envelopes, canisters, and individualized capsules. Your options are best guided by your budget and the type of coin you are trying to protect. In general, the older or more valuable the coin, the more effort you need to put into preserving it.

Do not handle your collection with your bare hands if you can help it. Cotton gloves are best, some use special coin tweezers. Stick to the edges if you use these If you have neither, handle the coin solely by the edge.Work at a table, preferably with a thick, soft towel covering your work area, in case you accidentally drop the coin.

Avoid talking if you can help it, to prevent spittle from landing on the coin. Do not have food or drink around. Yes, this may seem like overkill considering the metals used in coins are pretty durable, but remember, the point is to get as close to perfection as possible.

5. Have Fun

This is a hobby. If you aren’t enjoying it, what is the point? Yes, it is possible to collect coins solely as an investment, but investments aren’t certain. Therefore, you should focus on the coins you like instead of what you ‘should’ collect.

While coin collecting can be an investment, no investment is guaranteed. Metal values fluctuate by the day. The world of numismatics changes rules sometimes too. Cleaning coins used to be the rule until grading became the standard for valuation. Now those cleaned coins are worth less than they were before. If another major rule change comes, what would that mean for your collection?

If on the other hand, you collect what makes you happy, then it won’t matter as much what other people say your collection is worth. Not that you may not be disappointed if your collection has suddenly lost value, but you still had fun collecting it.

Building a collection is not a quick process, and many collectors prefer the thrill of the chase or the search for an elusive coin than to just have the coin. If you don’t enjoy the process of collecting coins, then perhaps it is time to move on to another hobby.

Best Places To Find Valuable Coins

Here are some of the best, most common ways to find valuable coins for your collection. This doesn’t mean you can skip the previous steps, because there are hazards even here, but these are excellent ways to add to your collection.

Coin Clubs

Joining a local coin club is a wonderful way to meet other people of similar interests, learn new things about the hobby, and buy, sell, or trade specimens with other collectors. This is one way to acquire a reputation, so make sure to keep your above reproach and listen carefully to what other people’s reputations are when dealing coins.

Coin Shows

Shows, auctions, or conventions that specialize in coins will likely have larger selections and rarer or more valuable examples than a local coin club will typically have. These people deal in coins professionally and should know the value of their product. This, however, does not necessarily mean they will give you a fair price.

Do your best to stick to known dealers with established reputations. If it is a local show, is this dealer there for every show? Do they have a local store? Has a source you trust certified particularly unusual specimens? Are they in high demand from other buyers?

Brick-And-Mortar Coin Shops

A good proprietor should be knowledgeable about their merchandise, follow safe handling procedures, allow you to examine the product as long as you follow safe handling procedures, and preferably have a good return policy. They are likely involved in the local coin collecting community, a regular at coin shows, and have good reputation. Look them up online if you can.

Mail Order

There are mail order companies for coin collecting. They mail you coins, perhaps a targeted selection or variety, depending on you and the company. You examine the coins and can usually mail back any you decide do not meet your standards.  

When selecting a mail order company, make sure the company is reputable, has a good money-back policy, that you examine the coins, and send back the ones you don’t want as quickly as possible. This way, you won’t be charged for something you don’t want to keep. The burden is on you to handle orders responsibly.

Order Online

Online auction sites are a common place to buy coins, but they are not the best. This is probably the easiest way to get cheated. That said, there are some real treasures out there. Be careful, though. Check seller reviews. Realize that those can be faked too, so be especially suspicious if a lot of the reviews seem very similar.

Don’t buy a coin online from someone who doesn’t specialize in coins, especially if they say they don’t know coins. They may well know coins and know it isn’t worth what they are asking, but that will their excuse when you come with a complaint.

Do not buy from any online source that doesn’t have a money-back guarantee. It would be even better if they have a return policy with no questions asked, but at very least, you need protection if the product you get is not what was advertised. Online sources that are linked to a physical store are preferred. Otherwise, your favorite dealer may have a website.

Unusual Places To Find Valuable Coins

Going to well-known sellers and coin shows aren’t the only places to find coins, however. While the best, most valuable coins will probably be in the places listed above, here are some places where you may find hidden treasure cheaply. Just keep your eyes open and look.

In Storage

Coins in circulation sometimes get passed around, packed up, and forgotten about. Especially if a parent or grandparent set aside coins, either as savings or with a possibility of collecting, it’s worth a look to search through them before passing them on to the bank. Wheat pennies particularly get passed around without people thinking about them.

A coin that is out of circulation might have been in circulation if the coins have been in storage long enough. Also, if you or the original gatherer traveled, there may be coins from other countries, which may or may not have gone through currency changes.

Your Pocket

Related to above, how closely do you examine your change? Do you check the dates? Do you look for errors? Do you have a limited mint? It won’t be the best grading, surely, but you may find an unusual coin or two.

Your Job

If you have a job handling money, such as a cashier or a bank teller, you will sometimes find unusual coins. People don’t pay attention to what they pay with. Or they don’t care. In the United States, wheat pennies are the most common, with some pre-1965 dimes or quarters. In Great Britain, you may find old pence. Foreign currency is also possible.

Again, these will not be the finest of grading. But this can be a good place to start. Naturally, you cannot simply take these coins, as that would be theft, but many bosses will allow you to exchange them for a coin of equivalent face value.

Final Thoughts

Many coin collectors find their enjoyment is richer when they know more about it. The more you know, the more successful you can be. If you know what you want, know where to go or at least where to look for it, you can have a long and successful time collecting coins.

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