In our last blog we talked about finding valuable coins by going through your spare change. This is one way coin collectors - often young ones - get hooked on the hobby. In order to grade, handle, and store your coins, you will need some supplies, though. In this blog we will talk about six tools for coin collecting you will need.
“Buy the book before the coin.” – Ancient numismatic proverb
Some lucky numismatists learn their coin knowledge directly from other collectors, often people in their family, but buying reference books on coins is still a must for every collector. Here are two excellent resource books that will help you identify coins and assess their value:
- A Guide Book of United States Coins (AKA the Red Book) - This is the standard pricing guide for all coins minted in the United States. It provides mintages for each denomination, including mint facility and years of production.
- Official ANA Grading Standards for United States Coins - This book demonstrates how coin grades are determined and gives a detailed description of every U.S. coin minted.
There are so many helpful books available for coin collectors. If you don’t want to invest in hundreds of dollars’ worth of reference books right away, use your local library to see which ones you find the most helpful and then purchase accordingly.
Soft Pad and Gloves
Once you have your reference material handy, you can begin to handle and examine your coins. It’s very important to touch your coins carefully and to never clean them, no matter how dirty they appear. Cleaning your coins will decrease their value, and handling them improperly can also damage them. Wear gloves so that oils or acids from your skin cannot rub off onto the coins. This is especially important when you are handling uncirculated coins. Soft cotton gloves are best, but you can also wear powder-free latex or nitrile gloves.
Hold your coins over a pad or a soft cloth while you examine them so that if you drop them, they will not be damaged.
Light and Magnifying Glass
You will also need to have good illumination to see all of the details on your coins. Incandescent lighting is better for examining coins than fluorescent or natural lighting which can hide small imperfections or details. A 75-watt light bulb works very well for this purpose. A full-spectrum LED light is also fine to use.
The next tool you will need is a loupe or magnifying glass. There are many different types of magnifying glasses. A typical hand-held magnifying glass has magnification power of between 2X and 3X. This is fine for looking at the visual appeal of the coin, but a jeweler’s loupe will magnify between 10X and 15X and will be much more useful. Most numismatists will use a 7X loupe to grade coins, but if they are searching for minute die variations, they use a jeweler’s loupe.
Finally, you will need a method of storing your coins that will allow them to be viewed without damaging them. Beginner collectors will often use cardboard coin folders because they are simple and inexpensive, but these only allow you to view one side of the coin. Coin albums are more costly, but they offer additional protection and allow you to see both sides of each coin. Make sure you do not purchase coin holders or “flips” that contain PVC.
Be careful when you insert or remove your coins from their folders or albums. Visible fingerprints or abrasions will decrease their value.
If you are new to coin collecting, you have an adventure ahead of you! Welcome. There is a learning curve to this hobby, but it’s exciting to be able to take what you’ve learned and immediately apply it to your pocket change. There are so many coin varieties to find and collect. Using the six tools for coin collecting above, you will be able to dive in and enjoy working with your coins while keeping them safe from damage.
As always, if you have questions about specific coins in your collection, Grand Rapids Coins is available as a resource. We can also help you hunt down whatever coins you are looking to collect. Call us anytime for assistance.