How to Begin a Coin Collecting Hobby

If you’re reading this, you must have at least a passing interest in collecting coins.  So how does this happen?   First, you likely have the collector gene… that little thing inside that makes us crave certain things that we find interesting and give us the treasure hunter mentality.  

Collectibles can be beautiful, ugly, unusual, rare, valuable, historical, or just plain interesting to the collector.   Some collectors specialize in the most unusual minor niche, while others hoard almost anything they find.   But what all collectors have in common is a passion about their personal interest, and they spend untold hours engaged in their hobby.  

If you’re new to coins, what brought you here?   Did you find an unusual coin in circulation?   Did a family member leave you part of their coin collection?  Do you hope to profitably invest in something that provides educational enjoyment?    Do you collect in antiques—and often see coins that may be collectable?  Did you learn about coins from your grandfather or when you were a Boy Scout or Girl Scout?   Whatever the reason, have fun nurturing your new-found hobby.

Here are a few tips to get you started.

    1.    Buy books. Study before spending significant money to purchase coins.   Get a basic knowledge of what makes a coin rare and/or valuable.  Learn about grading coins, and how to tell the difference between nice original examples and cleaned coins.   Understand the basics of detecting counterfeits.   Knowledge is power, and is in the “DNA” of most avid collectors.   If you know at least as much as other collectors about the coins you collect, you will build a wonderful and likely valuable collection.  

    2.    Start with a modest budget.  Having a budget will likely cause you to study possible purchases more closely before making the buying decision.  Research builds knowledge, and choices will include in far fewer mistakes.  

    3.    Know in advance if you are collecting for the interest of the hobby or with a potential profit motive.   Most advanced collectors do both.  
A beginning coin collector can find many different, interesting coins in circulation and enjoy the search, but should understand that the potential appreciation in value of circulated coins is quite limited.  

    4.    Join online coin collector forums and join in the conversation.  Learn to take good photos of your coins and post those photos online.   Experienced collectors are an exceptional source of knowledge.   They love to demonstrate their knowledge by answering the questions of “Newbies.”   Don’t be afraid to ask… it’s a free education. 

    5.    Learn how and where to store coins to keep them safe and protected from environmental damage.   Keep in proper holders and store in a dry steady temperature location.

    6.    Have the proper tools to look at and handle coins.   Use 3-5 power magnifying glass and a 10x loop for closer examination.   Hold coins by the rim to avoid fingerprints and oils.   Use a soft cloth to place coin on when examining.   Avoid cleaning coins… most attempts severely damage the coin surface and devalue the coin. 

    7.    Consider specializing. With US coins, you can specialize in many different ways… collect a specific series of coins such as Lincoln Cents, “Type” Coins (one example of every type of coin), errors and varieties, attractively toned coins, coins from one specific year, and on and on.   Pick what interests you, and pursue it with pleasure.

    8.    If you want to eventually profit from you coin collection, regardless of your budget, buy the highest quality coin you can afford.   One high grade Lincoln Cent will likely appreciate in value far more that many heavily circulated examples.   If you want to fill albums with all dates and mint marks, consider silver dimes, quarters, halves and silver dollars.   Even in circulated condition, as silver values rise, silver coin values also rise.

    9.    Find places to browse for coins to learn more and to add to your collection. Shop online but make certain you are only buying from sellers who offer a ”no-questions asked” 14 day refund policy.   Visit coin shows and take time getting to know the dealers.  Visit coin shops and again, take time to get to know the dealer… many are great, some not so much.  

    10.    Finally, after you have begun to purchase coins, also try selling them.   The best way to really know the value of coins is to sell coins.  You can sell to dealers, online via coin forums or auction sites, or sell at your local coin clubs or shows. Understand that dealers must make a profit to stay in business.

Most important, have fun.  Coin collecting is a hobby that can provide years of fun, and hopefully a profit.  Remember, most other hobbies cost lots of money over the years and, other than the fun, there is no profit to be had.   With coins, you can have all the fun and build real value over the years.  

We love to talk coins so, along the way, if you need help and advice, let us know.  Mullen Coins is a Grand Rapids-based coin dealer. We are happy to help anyone who is learning about the fascinating hobby and investment opportunities presented by coin collecting.

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