Coin Collecting

Insider Info

Look at that quarter in your pocket. It's more than just 25 cents. It's also a piece of history.

Coins have been used for thousands of years. Besides allowing us to buy things, they also memorialize important people and highlight events that have shaped our world.

Coin collecting is called numismatics. A person who has this hobby is sometimes called a numismatist. But don't be scared by the big name. You can just call yourself a coin collector.

With approximately 28,000 members in the American Numismatic Association, there is a definite market for coins. So what's the attraction?

"There are at least as many answers to this as there are collectors," says Stewart Huckaby, a customer care specialist with a rare coin gallery.

"Personally, I enjoy the feeling when I fill one more hole in my collection. However, it's also a nice feeling to literally be holding history in your hand. After all, where else can you find a contemporary portrait of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great for under $10 or one of Queen Victoria for 50 cents?"

Add that sense of romance to the fact that anyone can collect coins, and you have a very satisfying hobby. But why stop there? People who collect coins and learn along the way can also find work in the field.

You could become a dealer, and buy and sell coins as a business. Or you may pursue employment with a dealer. And don't forget mints -- the places where coins are actually struck. They also need people who understand collecting.

Getting Started

"There are as many collecting styles as there are collectors," says Huckaby. "There is no wrong way to collect coins."

Eileen Melnick McCarthy works for a mint. She favors a more focused approach. "Any young person who wishes to get started in coin collecting should find a theme to collect," she advises.

"Since there are so many different coins to collect, it could be overwhelming. Choosing a theme that interests you -- such as sports, animals, movies -- will make coin collecting more enjoyable."

Some areas you might consider include:

  • Themes: Do you already have an interest in something? Consider collecting coins on that subject. Some examples include ships, animals, flowers, movies, sports, historical events or people.
  • Countries: Did your ancestors come from Scotland? Maybe that's the collecting area for you - coins from the British Isles.
  • Currency: If you really like nickels for some reason, build your collection on that.
  • Because You Like It: If you just favor design, buy coins that appeal to you visually regardless of their subject matter.

The most important thing to do before starting your collection is to learn about the hobby. There are a number of books, clubs and Web sites available.

"Find a mentor from whom you can learn," adds Huckaby. "Joining a coin club can be a good way to get started, as people in these clubs are only too happy to aid you in your endeavors in the hobby."

Coin collecting can be relatively cheap or very expensive. Some coins can be purchased for their face value. For example, a dime would cost a dime.

Others can be in the five- or six-figure range. These coins usually keep their value or are worth more as time passes. It all depends on what you're looking for and how much you have to spend.

Once you start your collection, you need to learn about caring for it. Coins can be valuable, so make sure they're stored in a safe place. You also need to keep moisture and humidity away from your coins. There are many products available to present and protect your collection.

"Do not, under any circumstances, clean your coins!" warns Huckaby.

With care, your coins will keep their value and be more appealing to other collectors if you decide to sell or trade.


American Numismatic Association
818 North Cascade Ave.
Colorado Springs , CO   80903-3279


The U.S. Mint's Site for Kids
Offers games, cartoons, coin news and a special section for teachers

Kids' Money Store: Coin Collecting
Find resources for youth on coin collecting
Great resource for collectors

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