Coin collecting is a timeless hobby that has been enjoyed by many for generations. The practice still remains popular today, with individuals collecting coins for a wide variety of reasons. Some hobbyists fall into collecting as they acquire coins that have been passed down from generation to generation. Others purchase coins because they appreciate how precious metals can potentially help safeguard their retirement savings, hedge against inflation, or help them navigate stock market volatility. Alternatively, there are detectorists who find coin collecting to be an enjoyable sport.
Regardless of the reason, coin collecting is an approachable pastime that anyone can partake in. Keep reading for some tips to get you started.
Curating a Collection
Although it may sound counterintuitive, coin collecting starts well before actual coin acquisition. Collecting precious metals begins with exploration and investigation. In other words, before you start attending auctions or searching for products online, it’s important to do some background work to set yourself up for success.
Learning Coin Terminology and Industry Jargon
The numismatic industry is a world of its own. Before diving in head-on, I encourage novice coin collectors to first build their industry knowledge and get comfortable with terms and language associated with numismatics. It’s important to establish this knowledge base before doing initial purchasing research, talking with peers, or approaching professionals with questions.
Rosland Capital’s precious metals and coins glossary is a helpful resource for gaining foundational vocabulary. Definitions are provided in alphabetical order and supplemental images and diagrams are included. Some key phrases all collectors should know include:
- Head (obverse) versus tail (reverse)
- Intrinsic value versus face value
- Rim, relief, legend, field, and edge
Creating a Themed Collection
Once you’re familiar with basic numismatic terminology, you can confidently begin curating a collection. One way to make this step more approachable is by identifying a theme to build your collection around. Doing so can make coin collecting more accessible (collecting all kinds of coins can quickly become overwhelming) and, perhaps, even more enjoyable as you lean into a specialty that brings you joy. Ask yourself if you have a personal preference when beginning to build your niche collection. Some hypothetical themes for a collection include:
- Coin Aesthetic
- Mint or designer
- Type of precious metal
- Coin Type
- Country of origin
- Production year, timeframe, or date range
- Coin finish
- Coin grade (Sheldon Scale)
- Coin denomination
Caring for a Collection
Collecting isn’t just about purchasing. Collectors must also be willing to invest the time into caring for their collection, and perhaps consider picking up some coin-care equipment and tools along the way.
Handling and Cleaning Coins
When it comes to appropriately maintaining your collection, handling and cleaning should be top of mind. Here are some tips to help you best preserve your coins:
- Avoid handling coins as much as possible.
- If you have to move or rearrange coins, wear lint-free cotton gloves with a good fit, and avoid using bare hands, powdered latex gloves, or plastic gloves. During the process, coins should be placed on soft towels and padded coin trays.
- Industry sources caution coin owners against cleaning collectibles. Avoid using abrasive cleaners and harsh brushes which can cause irreversible damage.
Storing, Displaying and Documenting Coins
In addition to handling and cleaning, beginner coin collectors should also consider storage options. It’s important to note that storage will look different from collector to collector based on budget and lifestyle.
While some might opt for out-of-home storage through local bank safe deposit boxes, bullion bank vaults, or bullion depositories, others might choose at-home storage. Alongside at-home storage, collectors should be prepared to think about how to properly display and document a collection. An at-home storage checklist often includes:
- Baby/pet safety devices
- Fire/water protective equipment
- Temperature monitoring, heating, and cooling devices
- A safe and bolts
- Acquisition checklists
- 3-ring binders, inventory logs, pens, and pencils
- Cardboard/plastic/paper flips, peel-n-seal flips, airtight containers, pocket sheets, capsules, coin snaps, display slabs, and BCW coin tubes
Immersing Oneself in the Numismatic Community
Finally, after learning how to curate and care for a collection, one of the most powerful things a beginner can do is immerse themselves in the numismatic community. Although it may be intimidating at first, there are a handful of accessible and low-risk entry points into the industry.
Some virtual resources include free e-publications, digital websites, and online subscription services. Popular examples are Greysheet, the PCGS Newsletter, or the Red Book. Moreover, there are a number of apps for smartphones and mobile devices. Widely-used apps include: CoinSnap, iCoin, Price Guide – U.S. Coin Values, NGC, and CoinManage.
If in-person events sound more appealing, there are coin shows, auctions, and seminars. These events are regularly updated and advertised on prominent auction directories and websites such as the American Numismatic Association events page, the NumismaticNews show calendar, and the Heritage Auctions schedule. Similarly, there are member clubs and coin clubs. Coin club directories can be searched by city, state, personal interest, or a club specialty. As a best practice, consider approaching these events as an opportunity to learn. Remember: There is no such thing as a silly question, there is power in being vulnerable, and — most importantly — everyone starts somewhere.
Above All Else, Have Fun
When you’re just starting out, precious metal ownership can seem daunting. Thankfully, I know from experience that it doesn’t have to be. By taking small steps to educate yourself on coin curation and maintenance, you will slowly chip away at lingering uncertainty or doubt. As you begin researching and collecting, don’t be afraid to ask for help, crowdsource advice, expose yourself to industry events, or join a group or organization of like-minded individuals. Ultimately, leaning on others will prevent you from making common first-time mistakes and set you up for success. Congratulations on taking the first jump! I hope you appreciate and enjoy numismatics as much as I do.