It starts with a single coin. One solitary piece of currency that could seem unremarkable at first. Its potential for greatness a mere spark of personal interest. But where you take that coin and your interest next could yield brilliant numismatic magic.
We’re talking, of course, about that first coin that got you into collecting. Perhaps you found it on the ground one day while walking down the street. Maybe it was given to you by a relative who noticed your fascination with history. Some of you might have seen a unique coin in an antique store and made an impulse investment. Or maybe you still haven’t found your “first coin”. Well, today’s blog is for you.
Because The Bradford Exchange sells such a wide selection of unique collectible coins and Proofs not found anywhere else, the Gift Advisors have put together a special guide to coin collecting. It’s full of helpful tips whether you’re just getting started or have been building your personal treasury for a while. We sincerely hope you enjoy discovering Coin Collecting 101: How to Begin Expand and Maintain Your Collection.
Table of Contents
Popular Coin Terms
When beginning a coin collecting journey, one typically ends up doing a lot of reading. It’s a great idea to get a general sense of the history and the scope surrounding the coin universe. One of the first things you might notice is the use of numismatic vocabulary. In fact, that’s a key word right there. Numismatic sounds fancy, but it actually just means the study or collecting of currency, whether that’s coins, paper money or objects related historically.
Here are a few other popular coin terms and their definitions.
Obverse – the front of a coin.
Reverse – the back of a coin.
Circulated/Uncirculated – circulated coins have been released by a mint and used in the commerce marketplace for transactions, whereas uncirculated coins have not been released to the marketplace.
Mint/Mintage/Mintmark – mint is the general term for the facility where coins are created. Mintage denotes the number of coins in a series and a mintmark is the letter on a coin that identifies the actual mint it was made in.
Die – the stamping tool used in the minting process to create the design on coins.
Bullion – while precious metals like gold and silver are often turned into coins, ingots and medallions, bullion is the term used to describe their bulk weight and value apart from their final form.
Reeding – the tiny perpendicular grooves along the edge of a coin.
Blank/Planchet – a metal disk that provides the starting material for a coin.
Legal Tender – coins or paper notes that are backed by the issuing country’s treasury and can be used for monetary transactions.
Relief – the elements of the coin that are raised above the surface.
Grade – the condition of a coin based on an already established system of evaluation that uses a series of numbers and letters to determine value.
Which Coins Should I Collect?
If you are just beginning, there are so many ways to approach the art of coin collecting. Unless you are looking to amass the largest and most valued and prized collection on the planet (which is not the motivation behind most coin collecting), there are very few rules to govern your decision. In fact, there is probably only one: collect what you like.
What is it that catches your eye when you’re going through a jar of spare change?
Are there symbols or markings that intrigue you?
Do you enjoy learning about U.S. history or the leaders that have guided our nation? Like to travel? And international approach could show off your love for foreign countries.
All these things can help guide you towards your first collecting experience. Below are a few of the most popular collecting themes to help spark some ideas.
Popular Collecting Themes
Collecting by Denomination
Collecting by Year
Collecting by Subject Matter
The 50 States Quarters
Morgan Silver Dollars
Where Do I Find Coins to Expand My Collection?
Once you’ve got a strategy in place and have started putting your coin collection together, it’s wise to have some reliable resources to help with expansion. In all honesty, the best place to start is around the house or in your car. Spare change is practically everywhere, and can usually be found in couches and chairs, storage boxes in the basement or attic, and those hard-to-reach corners of your vehicle. Once you start digging around, you never know what “rare coin” you might discover that could be an asset to your collection.
Some of the typical places people go to shop for coin collectibles are coin dealers, auctions, estate sales, antique stores, flea markets, banks (to search through coin rolls) and the vast online marketplace. And when it comes to shopping online for coins, don’t forget that The Bradford Exchange (marketed under the name of The Bradford Exchange Mint) is a great place to help you build your coin collection and offers many subscription plans that will send you different coins in a series each month.
How to Determine Value: Coin Grading
If you want to figure out the value for a particular coin in your collection, the first step is to be clear on what coin it actually is. There are a lot of variables out there. Once you determine the particulars: year, minting, denomination, circulation status, series, etc., the next step is to figure out its condition.
The quality of any coin (its grade) will ultimately determine its value, regardless of which coin it is. Obviously, the more worn and physically deteriorated a coin is, the more it decreases value. As mentioned above, there is an established grading scale that includes a number range from 1-70, with 1 being the worst possible state and 70 being the best. But there are many visual scales available online to help you determine the condition of your coin. If you feel you are in possession of a rare coin, it could be worth getting a professional appraisal to have it officially graded and authenticated.
Once you know the type of coin you have and its grade, you can compare it to those for sale online (at places like eBay) to figure out its general value, based on what people are selling it for. Also, one of the best resources for determining coin value is The Official Red Book, a pricing guide for U.S. coins that has been updated and published annually since 1946.
How to Care for Your Coin Collection
The most important thing to know about maintaining a coin collection is this:
Once your coin collection starts coming together, it’s natural to want to show it off. But since we’re dealing with historical artifacts, not every piece is going to be perfectly shiny. That’s completely okay. Collectors should resist the impulse to clean their coins. This is one of the rare occasions where dirty is a good thing. Actually, cleaning collectible coins is akin to “erasing history” and can significantly decrease their value.
You should handle your coins with cotton gloves whenever possible or at least hold them by the edges to avoid damage from fingerprints or skin oils.
For storage and display purposes, there are quite a few options, including flips, folders, albums, tubes, slabs and cardboard holders. Your choice depends on personal needs. Some coins you might want to store safely away for posterity and others you might want accessible for showing off. Of course, the ultimate way to show off your collection is with a museum-quality, multiple-storage display case, an option included with many of The Bradford Exchange Mint collections.
Ultimately the key thing to remember is to keep your collection away from anything that could degrade its condition. This primarily means heat, light and humidity.
Our Top Collecting Suggestions for You
To help jumpstart your collection, we’ve put together a few of our favorite collectible coins and Proofs for your consideration.
The Complete Morgan and Peace Silver Dollar Collection
It’s a collector’s dream come true! Own one of every Morgan and Peace Silver Dollar ever minted when you start this collection, including even the rarest ones, all in 90% fine silver. Each coin arrives in a tamper-proof holder and the collection includes a free custom deluxe display box – a $130 value. This is such an easy way to build your collection with some of the most coveted coinage of all time.
If you’re a football fan, this officially licensed collection is the one to score! It features legal tender Proof-quality coins plated in 99.9% silver with full color artwork marking the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl LVII win. Each collectible coin arrives with a tamper-proof holder featuring a holographic seal and the official Super Bowl LVII logo. This unique collection includes a display, but has an edition limited to 2,500 complete collections worldwide so you must hurry to claim yours!
For followers of the Royal Family, this is a real treasure! To honor the coronation of King Charles III, this regal collection showcases 24K gold-plated Proof coins with full-color portraits of the new King and golden crown privy marks. Each one is unique and arrives secured in a crystal-clear capsule for preservation. Your collection includes a deluxe wooden display box to show off each commemorative Proof.
Check out The Bradford Exchange Mint Collection!
Whether you’re an enthusiastic new collector or a long-time member of the coin collecting community, we hope you found today’s blog entertaining, informative and inspirational. Have a wonderful time on your collecting adventures!Coin Collecting 101: How to Begin, Expand and Maintain Your Collection by The Bradford Exchange