If you are interested in collecting rare coins, follow the old adage of “buy the book before you buy the coin.” As a Grand Rapids coin dealer, I know from experience that you can find nice collectable coins in West Michigan that are important, valuable and worth holding for many years. Like any hobby, though, knowledge is power. You need to buy and read numismatic books and magazines, and gain an understanding of what makes a coin desirable to other collectors. Acquiring such knowledge before buying expensive coins should help you make better buying decisions and, most likely, help you build a collection that will be easy to sell in the future.
So what books should you buy and read? By the time you develop specialties, you will know which books to acquire, but there are a few that belong in every numismatic library.
For the beginner, the Red Book… the Guide Book of United States Coins by R.S. Yeoman is ubiquitous. The Red Book includes listings for virtually every US coin ever made, including listings for many of the rare errors and varieties. Also included are images to help the novice visually identify coin types. Read it for the composition data, mintage figures, and for approximate retail prices within a series and across grades. The Red Book is published annually, which means that list prices not exactly accurate; when you read a 20-year-old Red Book, you begin to realize how much coins prices have appreciated.
Another important book is World Coins by Krause Publications. This book is the encyclopedia of world coins with listings by country for most of the world. This one is a terrific reference manual for helping to identify foreign coins.
The Cherry Pickers Guide is perfect for treasure hunters. The book focuses on known varieties and errors of US coins. There are many collectors who enjoy the “hunt,” searching through common coins for mint errors and rare varieties which make some coins more valuable. Once introduced to the Cherry Pickers Guide, collectors often begin to specialize in a specific series of coin, and become experts in that series. If you begin to specialize in one series, you will find there are books dedicated to virtually every known US coin series.
Q David Bowers’ Expert's Guide to Collecting and Investing in Rare Coinsis a comprehensive insider's look at rare coins, and also tokens, medals, and paper money. This is truly a book to read, not just a reference book. Written by one of the most renowned numismatists in the US, this book covers everything from coin grading to determining values to smart auction bidding techniques. For its readers’ education, the Expert’s Guide may be the most important book on the list.
Frequently, novice collectors make expensive mistakes buying cleaned, altered or even counterfeit coins. Knowing how to grade a coin is absolutely critical to long-term success and enjoyment of the hobby. There are several good books about coin grading. Books to consider include Making the Grade: A Grading Guide to the Top 50 Most Widely Collected U.S. Coins from the editors of Coin World, Official Guide to Coin Grading and Counterfeit Detection by John W. Dannreuther, Scott A. Travers, and Official ANA Grading Standards for United States Coins, 6th Edition. All are good reference books for grading and coin authentication.
Subscribe to these two numismatic magazines to keep up with trends, news, and values: Coin World and Numismatic News.
Gain a wealth of information through membership in various online forums. Check out PCGS.com, NGC.com, Coincommunity.com, and Cointalk.com. You will learn from and learn from other enthusiasts who are happy to share a wealth of knowledge. You will also have unlimited opportunities to ask questions, post pictures, and participate in discussions.
Enjoy your reading assignments, and even more important, enjoy your numismatic hobby!
Photo: Steven | Alan