Get Started Collecting Coins

It’s easy to start a coin collection. You can begin with coins that you already have on hand.

Becoming a coin collector involves a common vocabulary. Get familiar with the parts of a coin and basic coin terms.

Ways to Collect

There are many approaches to collecting coins. Common collection themes include:

  • Country
  • Time period
  • Coin finish
  • Denomination
  • Mint mark
  • Design theme
  • Artist

The Mint makes yearly sets, such as uncirculated, proof, and quarter sets, that make it easier to collect based on some of these themes.

Error Coins

Sometimes the Mint makes mistakes. Although most error coins are recycled before they ever leave a Mint facility, the few that make it into circulation are often considered collectibles. Coins made before the invention of modern machinery show a variety of die, planchet, or striking errors. Examples include:

You can learn more about errors through numismatic publications and organizations.

Build Your Collection

A combination of finding and buying coins can be a good way to build your collection.

Before adding a coin to your collection, consider:

  • Is the coin appealing to you?
  • How lustrous is it? There is no way to restore a coin’s shininess.
  • Is it damaged? Scratches, bag marks, staple marks, and corrosion will decrease a coin’s value.
  • How worn is it? Wear tends to be the biggest factor in determining a coin’s grade.

Buying and Trading Coins

If you are unable to find what you’re looking for in our catalog or Coin Seller Database, you may also find coins through:

  • Banks
    Search through coin rolls from a bank.
  • Collectors
    Trade or buy coins privately or through coin clubs.
  • Coin Dealers
    Coin dealers buy or trade coins. You may want to ask an experienced collector to suggest reputable dealers.
  • Coin Shows
    Buy coins at national or local coin shows.
  • Auctions
    The rarest and most expensive coins are often available only through auctions. Tip: compare prices to avoid overpaying and verify a reasonable return policy before ordering.
  • Flea Markets and Antique Shows
    Coins can be found at various events, but less competition can encourage inflated prices or selling “problem coins”.

Coin Grading Scales

The Sheldon coin grading scale is used to determine a coin’s value, based on factors such as how well the coin was made, how much wear it’s developed, and the luster. A coin is assigned a number between 1 and 70, as well as an adjective such as poor, good, very fine, or mint state. The grade is listed as “MS-70” or “F-15”.

There are professional coin grading services, but grading is subjective. As a collector, it’s important to understand coin grading to know the value of a coin and to verify grades given by others. Use resources such as the Official ANA Grading Standards for United States Coins to learn more.

Coin Clubs

Coin clubs allow you to share your collection with others and learn more about coins. There are many national and local clubs and numismatic organizations. The American Numismatic Association provides a database of clubs around the world.

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