Common Coin Collecting Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

Collector examining coins using white gloves and a magnifying glass

When it comes to hobbies and professions, there tends to be a universal truth that both novices and experienced practitioners alike can attest to: There’s always room to improve. This sentiment is certainly true in coin collecting. Regardless of where you may be in your numismatic journey, there is almost always an opportunity to refine your collecting skills or expand your industry knowledge — an aspect of coin collecting that makes it an exciting pastime. 

Five of the Most Common Coin Collecting Mistakes

Making minor mistakes or oversights in any hobby is to be expected, and coin collecting is no different. Fortunately, some of the most common coin collecting mistakes can be the easiest to correct. As you read through the five popular missteps below, remember that the goal of this post is to provide you with actionable and achievable solutions that you can implement without a great amount of time, effort, or financial resources.

Collecting Without a Solid Understanding of Coins

As with any hobby, establishing a strong foundation of knowledge is an important first step for successful coin collecting. While this makes sense in theory, the truth is, it can be tempting for many to skip this step to get to the fun part — buying, selling, and hunting for collectibles. But, when you dive in head first, you do yourself a disservice. When you fast-track your learning, your decision making can become influenced by assumptions, speculation, and misinformation.

Solution: Do Your Homework

To improve your holistic understanding of numismatics and coins, take a moment to reevaluate what you know and don’t know. For example, if you find yourself struggling with industry terminology, take a moment to unpack confusing jargon. Familiarize yourself with phrases and concepts related to coins, including topics like coin denominations, grade types, conditions, mintage, and coin prices. 

While doing this, be sure to take your learning style into consideration. If you’re an avid reader, borrow or purchase grading and guidebooks that you can consult at your discretion. If multimedia content holds your attention better, pursue more interactive methods, such as diploma programs or webcast series.

Not Adhering to Proper Coin Care Protocol

Proper coin care maintains the longevity and collectibility of your hoard. After all, as collectors, we want our pieces to appreciate in value over time. If cared for incorrectly, a coin’s surface can be inadvertently defaced, negatively affecting its grade on the Sheldon Scale. Proper storage also helps maintain the integrity of your collection and prevents your pieces from being lost or stolen. 

Solution: Learn Which Practices Are Detrimental for Your Coins and Which Are Advantageous

As previously mentioned, pay attention to the overall condition and grade of your collectible coin when cleaning. A cautious step forward would be to research and analyze the obverse and reverse of the coin to see if it has any qualities of note, such as deep age coloration. Carry over this same sense of care to handling and storage. Because metals react to oils (such as the ones found on human hands), many collectors avoid touching coins as much as possible. If you must handle your coins, wear lint-free cotton gloves. 

When deciding on how to store coins, take into consideration your living situation, insurance options, and budget. For more information on properly storing coins visit this blog post

Mistaking Unrealistic Expectations for Realistic Expectations

As a coin collector, it’s important to manage your wants, needs, and expectations. It’s always nice to acquire new coins, but having unrealistic expectations related to how quickly you’d like to grow your collection can create financial strife or result in a collection that isn’t fully personalized to you.

Solution: Remain True to Your “Why” and “What” 

One way to create realistic expectations is by defining your “why.” Do you view coin collecting as a hobby, recreation, or pastime? Or, is it a way to potentially help protect your assets for the future as you inch toward retirement? Understanding the “why” behind your collection can help you form a strategy based on your budget, timeline, and interests. 

It can also be helpful to define your “what”. Are you interested in pieces with a characteristically good resale value? Or, does a strong sentimental value mean more to you than monetary value? Again, drilling down to what’s important to you personally can help you form a plan that’s realistic based on your resources. 

Deprioritizing Your Own Interests In Favor of the Opinions of Others

One admirable attribute of the numismatic community is that most individuals are more than willing to help out their peers, sharing their own experiences and learning points. As you network with others, be mindful of staying true to what is important to you, versus what others believe to be important. Getting caught up in others’ opinions may result in inauthentic decisions for you and your collection.

Solution: Use Your Interests as Your North Star

Ultimately, you make your collection unique. Keep a pulse on what piques your interest, whether that be traditional collectibles or more unconventional coins, such as those with errors. For instance, you might have a strong interest in coinage related to a particular theme, such as professional sports. There is also a method some collectors may use called “type set” or “type collection” which is focused on design or type, as opposed to date or mint. 

Losing Focus

Coin collecting requires planning and strategy, with a clear focus on what you would like to do. Without these two factors, it can be difficult to get the most out of your coin collecting passion and purpose for collecting. It can also lead to purchasing in excess of your collecting budget.

Solution: Know What You Already Own, If Applicable, and What You Want

First, focus on your current collection. Stay organized by incorporating documentation, spreadsheets, acquisition checklists, or coin-specific software into your coin-collecting process. By staying organized, you are less likely to acquire duplicates or pieces that don’t necessarily fit into your collection. 

Second, shift your focus to your future collection. Try to avoid being rash while acquiring coins. Consider creating a wishlist — write down new coin programs, coin series, or coin launches that you want to keep an eye out for. At the same time, monitor or cross-reference inventory at coin shops, coin shows, online marketplaces, and auctions.

A Final Piece of Advice

Whether you’re just beginning your coin collecting journey, or have been a collector for many years, keep these common mistakes in mind to make the most of your hobby and grow your collection in a meaningful and fulfilling way.

For more coin collecting tips, visit my blog post on handling, caring for, and displaying your coins.

Common Coin Collecting Mistakes & How to Avoid Them
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