Have you heard in the news about someone finding a rare coin worth a lot of money and wondered what it takes to be a coin collector?

If so, we’ll let you know the basics of coin collecting for beginners.

Read on to learn more about this exciting hobby.

Coin Collecting for Beginners

Coins of the United States Dollar

Coin collecting for beginners can be as casual and inexpensive as you want it to be. Or you can branch out into searching and seeking some of the rare and odd finds that are out there to discover.

With this brief coin collecting for beginners guide, we are going to keep things super simple. Coin collecting for dummies, so to speak.

How Do You Determine If a Coin is Worth Collecting?

Some people wonder what the best coins to collect are. But, in the beginning, you’ll just be learning about different coins, where they are made, and what makes one unique from another. Eventually, you will learn to recognize what types of coins you are interested in most.

Sometimes you don’t need to know much to start a coin collection. Many people start off by just trying to collect pennies from each year during a specified period of time. Or collecting a coin from different countries. If you take on this kind of collection, you don’t really need to know too much about coins.

To give you clues and to help you differentiate one coin from another, however, there are some things you’ll need to look for. These can also be clues to let you know if a coin is more valuable.

Mint Marks

Mint marks are put on coins to show at which United States Mint facility a coin was stamped. There are as follows:

  • A “P” has sometimes been used to identify coins stamped in Philadelphia
  • A “D” designates coins stamps in Denver
  • An “S” or a “W” can appear on coins stamped in San Francisco

You can also find “C” (Charlette, North Carolina), “CC” (Carson City, Nevada), “D” (Dahlonega, Georgia between 1838-1861), and “O” (New Orleans, Louisiana).

There have been periods where no mint marks appeared on coins, such as during 1965-1967 when The Coinage Act of 1965 was in effect.

There are other oddities and times when mint marks didn’t “follow the rules” set out above, but you’ll discover those along your coin collecting journey.


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Coin grading is probably the hardest part of learning the value of a coin. Coins are graded along a scale from “Perfect Uncirculated” (MS-70) down to “About Good (AG-3). The closer a coin is to Perfect Uncirculated generally the more valuable it is. The coins at the higher end show less wear-and-tear and the relief (the coin’s design) and mintmark are more easily readable.

Coin Composition

Knowing the parts that make up a coin will help you learn what to look for in grading your coins. The front side of a coin is the obverse and the reverse is the backside. The front side contains a major inscription which is called the legend.

Coins have an edge that coin collectors call the “third side” of a coin called the edge. This third side is actually the outer border on the face of the obverse and reverse of the coin. This is the side you can roll a coin on is called the rim.

How to Find Coins

There are many ways to buy coins to add to your collection. Online stores, auction sites, and in-person coin dealers. But there are plenty of options to find coins as well. 

Some people use the coin-roll method to locate new coins for their collection (or to sell). This method involves getting rolls of coins from the bank and going through them to find coins that either fit your collection specifications or are collectible for another reason.

If you normally shop with your debit card, consider using cash for in-person transactions. This will prompt cashiers to give you a change in cash and coins. You can even ask them if they have anything unusual someone dropped off, such as half-dollars or silver dollars (where you may be incredibly lucky and find a Morgan silver dollar). 

Ask your family and friends if they have stockpiles of loose change they would let you go through in exchange for rolling it up for them (to make it easier for them to take the coins in to exchange for dollar bills).

If you’re hunting for quarters to fill in spaces in a 50 State Quarters collection, you can get dollars changed into quarters at laundromats, arcades, and other places where machines use quarters. You can even ask for a roll of quarters or two when you’re shopping at the grocery store.

Basic Tools and Supplies to Get Started

Although you don’t really need anything particular to get started, there are things that will help make the hobby more enjoyable and help you protect the value of the coins you do find:

  • A magnifying glass (will help you read the mint marks and notice any other unique nuances on the relief of the coin, or flaws)
  • Coin holders and storage (you can find paper holders for individual coins, plastic sheets to hold coins in a 3-ring binder, stand-alone albums to hold multiple coins, and more). Anything that keeps your coins from suffering additional wear and tear will suffice.
  • Reference books such as a Guide to Coin Collecting that are put out each year can give you details about coins, their worth in various grading, and more. Prior to buying one of your own, you can check out a bunch of different types at your local library.

You Can Start Coin Collecting Today

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Most of us have loose change lying around, or in jars, or at the bottom of a purse or backpack. It doesn’t take much to start a coin collecting for beginners.

Take some time to check out some of your coins today.

Interested in some more articles about great hobbies and educational topics? You can find them all on the Education tab on our site.

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