Coin collecting is a fun and rewarding hobby, and can be very profitable either with some knowledge, luck, or a little of both. There are many different styles and types of coins that are collected, and the price of entry into the hobby can be very low. Plus, there are still treasures to be found in the coins currently in circulation, and the price of buying these coins couldn't be better.
In this article we will look at several ways to start or increase your coin collection with valuable coins readily accessible to anyone.
There are several different reasons someone may choose to start a coin collection but we are going to focus on coins with an inherent value. That is to say, we want to get our “money's worth” and also ensure our collection will retain value in the future.
While a coin may “look pretty” or feature an uncommon design that is not familiar, this is not always an immediate indication of value. The current U.S. one dollar coin contains only six and a half cents worth of metal, and doesn't have much value beyond what you can spend it for. On the other hand, a U.S. nickel currently contains over nine cents worth of metal. Even though the U.S. mint has recently made it illegal to melt or export nickels, the inherent value of every nickel found in circulation makes it a good buy.
But the value of the metal used in making a coin is not the only consideration we want to be aware of. There are many other reasons a coin found in circulation can far exceed its face value. Looking at the value of the underlying metal that makes up the coin is just one way of filtering out potential keeper coins from the rest.
Another method is to become familiar with the different types of coins currently in circulation and visiting local coin shops to find out which types they will pay a premium for. You may be surprised to find that some coin shops are willing to pay a good price for coins still received as change at the cash register.
One example in the United States is known as Lincoln “wheat” pennies, minted from 1909 through 1958. Many times these coins are overlooked unless the reverse of the coin is closely examined (It features wheat heads, or “ears” as opposed to the current design, which features the Lincoln Memorial). Even though the wheat pennies are at least four decades old, they are still found in circulation to this day and most coin dealers will buy them for two and a half to three times the face value. The rare wheat pennies, or “key dates” can be worth much, much more.
Other examples along these same lines are the older Washington quarters and Roosevelt dimes. Although these two coins look similar to their counterparts minted today, quarters and dimes minted in 1964 and earlier contain 90% silver and are a favorite among coin collectors and dealers. These coins are easily distinguished by their lack of a copper colored band around the edge of the coin. Because of the recent explosion in the price of silver, and the inherent value in these coins, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find silver coins in circulation. Even so, once in a while you can still stumble upon a genuine silver coin or two in circulation, which is quite an exciting (and profitable) find.
One of the lesser known silver coins still found in circulation is the U.S. Kennedy half dollar. Most coin collectors are aware that 1964 half dollars are 90% silver, but some people don't realize the half dollar contained 40% silver from 1965 to 1969. As a result, local banks and even some grocery stores will sometimes have a few half dollars that are 40% silver.
Another thing to look for are error coins. These are coins that don't look quite right from what the mint intended and may be a result of a number of things including die cracks or breaks, die bounces (doubling), imperfections in the metal used to make the coin, or a variety of other causes.
Error coins can command amazing prices but their value can fluctuate dramatically as well. Price fluctuations on error coins are usually the result of supply and demand, and the quality and “grade” of a specific coin, but other factors can come into play as well. For instance, prices can be receive a lot of publicity while it may not be clear how many coins contain the error.
Some of the most common error coins found in circulation today occur in the statehood quarters. This style of U.S. coin was first minted in 1999 and features five different states every year in the order they were admitted to the union. Several different errors and “varieties” have appeared in the statehood quarters, ranging from design features such as an extra “leaf” on a stock of corn, to extra trees on a shoreline, todoubling, filled dies, and even orientation errors where the obverse (front) of the coin is not rotated correctly in relation to the reverse of the coin. It seems that minting five new designs for a single coin every year has proved to produce some interesting results and bring thousands of new hobbyists, buyers, and sellers into the realm of coin collecting.
One last area to note are pennies in general. Although the current composition of a U.S. penny is worth roughly face value, pennies made before 1982 contain over twice their face value in copper. With the developing world growing at an alarming rate, the price of copper has been on a steady rise with no end in sight. That makes the earlier copper pennies a great way to quickly double the value of your money with very little effort.
These earlier pennies are made from 95% copper, and weigh over a half gram more than the modern pennies. Although both compositions were used in 1982, the copper pennies can be distinguished by their heavier weight, or by their distinctive “ring” when dropped on a hard surface. No matter how you find the pennies, it shouldn't take much to agree that anything worth double what it costs is a good deal.
Now that you have some ideas on what to look for, the next step is to get some change and start looking. Make it a habit to quickly scan your change as soon as it is received, and set aside any interesting coins for closer examination. Checking the coins as soon as you get them will ensure you don't accidentally spend a coin that you don't want to. It only takes a few seconds, but can lead to more frequent and interesting finds. If you don't look, you never know what you might be spending.