Compare Cards' Coin Collecting Basics

Collecting coins appeals to many people of varying ages and interests. The hobby of coin collecting dates back to ancient times, but initially, only the wealthiest people could afford to dabble in this pastime. Anyone who enjoys (finance) or learning about history will likely find coin collecting a fascinating exploration because coins often have adventurous tales to tell. Coin collecting can be an enjoyable hobby to pursue by joining a club and meeting with others who spend time collecting and researching commemorative and historic coins.

Getting Started

Beginning to collect coins is generally a simple process. This hobby does not involve a significant investment. In fact, many beginners even start collecting coins with the ones they already have in their possession. A jar of coins might include old coins that have special value. Sometimes family members might have old coins they would be willing to donate to a new collector. Getting started with this hobby will involve learning about coins and exploring various tools that will help with collecting. Most collectors use a magnifying glass to enable them to inspect coins carefully. A coin reference book will provide important information about different coins, mint marks, grading, and values. Collectors also need a padded surface for holding coins during viewing, a lamp for directing light onto coins, cotton gloves for handling coins, and some type of storage method, such as envelopes or albums, for keeping coins safe.

Ways to Collect/Sort

Collectors utilize different methods for collecting and sorting coins. Some people choose to focus a collection around the everyday coins currently in circulation, looking for odd or old coins. Others purchase uncirculated or proof coins to build a collection. Still other collectors have an interest in commemorative or mint coin sets released every year. Some collectors choose to build a collection around ancient or foreign coins that require a concerted effort to find. When focusing a collection around foreign coins, the collector might choose to search for coins belonging to a specific country or coins connected to a specific event or topic. Building a collection around a specific date, such as the year of an anniversary or someone's birthday, might involve hunting for various coins minted in this year.

What to Look for

While searching for coins, the collector needs to learn about various attributes that make a coin valuable or collectible. The luster of a coin describes the innate shine it has when new. Once a coin loses its luster, it's gone forever. Damage to a coin can involve scratches, corrosion, and even bag marks. Bag marks are the marks that occur on coins due to rubbing on storage bags. The extent of damage will determine how it diminishes the value of a coin. Wear occurs over time to coins in circulation, determining the grade of the coins. The grade ranges between "proof" for a perfect coin to "good" or "about good" for coins with heavy wear. The appeal of a coin is a subjective attribute that every collector must determine for coins added to a collection.

Caring for and Storing Coins

Caring for coins is an important part of collecting them to preserve their value. A novice collector might feel tempted to clean coins to restore a lustrous shine. However, cleaning coins is not recommended because this process usually reduces the value of the coins. Old coins showing natural aging have a higher value than coins with an artificial shine. To preserve the value of coins, handle them as little as possible. Many collectors wear cotton gloves when handling coins to prevent oils from transferring to the coins. Hold a coin by the edges only using the forefinger and thumb to avoid leaving fingerprints on the surface. Proper storage of coins involves keeping them in a cool and dry environment to prevent tarnishing. When purchasing commemorative or proof sets of coins, leave them in their original packaging. Options for storing other coins include foldout albums, cardboard holders, plastic coin slabs, and plastic tubes. The storage method utilized depends on the budget, the type of coins, and individual preferences.

Other Information and Fun Facts

Coins have an obverse and reverse side. The obverse is the front of the coin, usually displaying the main design and the date of the coin. The reverse is the back of the coin, usually also displaying a design. Collectors recognize a third side of the coin, known as the edge. The edge of a coin might be plain or decorated with letters or designs. The mint mark of a coin is a special symbol that indicates where it was produced. The United States produced the first commemorative coin in 1892, and this coin featured Christopher Columbus. All United States commemorative coins are considered legal tender.