One of the most popular hobbies in the world: collecting coins has been a favorite for many nations over many centuries. Coins have always been the most resilient of all collectibles. As many numismatist’s know, there’s just something so enticing about your first coin that readies you for a life long passion of collecting.
The KMS Coin Collecting Guide will help you fine tune your coin buying and selling proficiency. Among the many features in this guide, the basics include; where to buy coins, where to sell your coins, how to get the best deal on a coin, how to ensure the coin you’re buying is original and genuine. In later parts of this guide we will expand to more advanced topics including coin grading, gaining access to dealer auctions, and coin conservation options.
Part 1: New Collectors | Part 2: Building Your Collection | Part 3: Coin Grading | Part 4: Professional Collectors
Your first coin:
Often the first coin or proof set for many collectors arrives in the form of a gift. Whether it be a birthday or graduation present, these coins usually are of greater sentimental value compared to their numismatic or intrinsic values. Some collectors obtain their first coin in change from everyday commerce transactions. Collectors notice the seemingly “un-touched” fresh from the roll coins, and the less common old type coins (pre-1964 silver quarters and dimes, wheat cents, etc.) These coins found in circulation should quickly be placed in either plastic cases or sleeved to preserve their features and prevent any further wear. As with most collectibles, condition is everything. Proper casing, and storage of your coins is an essential part of the hobby that we will discuss in further detail in later parts of this guide.
Where to buy coins:
There are many options when it comes to where to buy or trade coins. Some collectors only buy from a local trusted dealer, some prefer to shop around for the best pricing and for a wider selection. The vast majority of collectors choose a combination of sources which allows for a safer shopping or trading transaction, while at the same time having virtually any coin for any budget available to them. Here are the most common sources for you to choose from.
Local coin stores – Most physical coin shops are the best option for fair priced, honest coin transactions; if you will. The honesty is mostly to the fact that any particular coin at a local store can be physically examined before buying to help ensure value and authenticity. Local stores, however, usually have a fairly limited selection to choose from. This is especially troublesome in cases where you might be looking for certain types, years or grades of coins.
Online coin markets – Major online markets such as eBay, Heritage Auctions, Stacks Bowers, etc. offer the largest selection by far of almost any coin you, or more importantly your wallet, can handle. With such a vast selection you can often find low prices and deals far below list pricing. Online markets are also a great option for people who may not have local access to any coin dealers, whether you live in a rural area or cases where the local dealer’s open hours are of inconvenient timing with your schedule. With greater selection and pricing comes greater risk for scams and over paying for over-sold, cleaned or misrepresented coins. We will discuss how to avoid problem coins in later parts of this guide.
Reputable online coin dealers – There are many online only dealers that operate similarly to the local coin stores, but solely online. While we don’t have any particular sites we would mention, we recommend just a small amount of research before buying. Search for any reviews and try a small first purchase to make sure the product you receive is genuine and as advertised.
Coin clubs, trade shows and expos. – Before the internet, the shows were often the only way to view and trade coins, while in recent years there popularity has declined. Coin shows and coin auction events can be a great way to add to your collection. Search online for local shows or auctions. Your local coin dealers will most likely know of any in your area.
Private sale and trades – While being the most risky, private trades or buying can be greatly rewarding if done correctly. You can network with other collectors online or while visiting local coin stores. It is very common to obtain great coins at very low prices without any dealer markups when buying or trading direct with another collector. Always conduct transactions as safe as possible if meeting face to face as you would with any traditional bartering.
Tools of the trade:
Every collector needs some basic tools, These tools will assist you in everything from examining your coins to properly storing your coins.
Here are the most common tools you’ll use:
1. Magnifying glasses or a loupe, these are essential not just for small coins but for larger coins like Morgan Dollars. They will allow you to see minute details; features on a coin that are very difficult or almost impossible to see with the naked eye.
2. White cotton gloves; It is advised to rarely touch raw coins by hand but if you do you should always wear either cotton gloves or even vinyl gloves. Many coins are susceptible to tarnishing or damage from the oils or dirt on our hands particularly proof coins, silver coins, and copper coins.
3. Proper storage cases/containers; Coins should always be properly stored for both short and long-term safekeeping. If you collect raw coins you should always place your coins in either a protective air tight case or the commonly used 2×2 holders with mylar inserts. The mylar will minimize tarnishing or damage over long term storage. Some collectors prefer only officially graded coins of which are already cased to prevent any damage or unwanted effects to the coin, you can then place your graded coins in cases of 20 pieces.
How to check for fair market coin prices: