WHAT TO COLLECT NOW?
This article is particularly directed to our readers whose first real
experience collecting coins was the U.S. state quarter series. You may
have already added the D.C. and U.S.
2009. You've enjoyed assembling one or more quarter sets, perhaps with
or for your children or grandchildren. Now, you're thinking about
collecting something else but aren't sure what.
The first thing to do is to consider your interests and budget. Is
there a particular time or place that fascinates you, perhaps early
U.S. history or the land of your ancestors? Do you like a particular
denomination or series of coins, such as Morgan
? Or does
getting brand new coins as they're issued give you a thrill? And what
can you reasonably afford? Collecting classic U.S. gold coins can be
fun and potentially profitable, but not everyone has the resources to
spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on each coin.
One popular and inexpensive collecting option is to assemble one or
more series of coins now in circulation by date and mintmark. For
example, many collectors have started with the Lincoln cent. With
patience you'll eventually find most dated 1959 and later by searching
your change, coin jars, rolls obtained at the bank, etc. You can also
expand your collection of Washington quarters to dates that preceded
the first state quarter. Helping children assemble coin sets from
circulation can be
fun for everyone. Should you decide to add coins no longer available in
circulation or want to collect uncirculated examples, with a few
exceptions, each coin in all currently issued U.S. coin series can be
purchased at a modest price from coin dealers.
If there's a particular part of history that intrigues you, consider
adding coins from that era to your memorabilia. Coins from ancient
Rome, Victorian England or the U.S. Civil War years, for example, are
tangible pieces of the past, and the figures and symbols on them give
insights into the time when they were issued. Similarly, if you're
researching your family history, coins in use during the time of
your ancestors (e.g. issued the year they were born) are real souvenirs
As far as collecting new coins, more original designs are on the way.
Only three years and 12 coins have been issued so far in the U.S.
Presidential dollar coin series
. At least
six more years and 26 more
coins are yet to come. With low mintages and many banks unwilling to
order them, you may have to purchase these coins from a dealer, but so
far they're generally available at under twice face value. And in April
the U.S. Mint will release the first coin in the America the Beautiful
quarters program for a National Park or other important site in each of
the 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories.
Under the authorizing legislation, a five ounce silver version of each
quarter will also be issued.
We haven't even mentioned type sets, error coins, paper
and other specialties in the world of numismatics. The possibilities
are endless. Choose one or more areas you find interesting and within
your budget, and enjoy a great hobby for many years to come.
DID YOU KNOW?
Which do you think will bring a higher price at auction - a late 1950s
Thunderbird with high mileage, rusted panels and torn seats or the same
model car in pristine condition that's rarely been driven? As with cars
and most other collectibles, the condition of a coin or banknote often
makes a dramatic
difference in demand and what knowledgeable collectors are willing to
A grade is commonly used to
summarize the condition of a numismatic collectible. A mint state grade
applies to a coin that has no trace of wear, and a circulated grade
will be appropriate to any coin that does. A similar system is used for
grading paper money.
that grade coins and paper money for a fee have sprung up during the
last 25 years or so. There is a
disturbing tendency among some collectors to forgo developing personal
grading skills and rely exclusively on the opinions of third party
grading services. That's not to imply that grading services have no
role in the hobby, but rather that collectors who rely solely on these
services are shortchanging themselves and more likely to make expensive
First, the value of some coins is too low to justify the expense of
being graded by an independent services. When a coin is deemed valuable
enough to send to a grading service, it may receive different grades
depending on which one is used. Coins in holders from services that the
market considers to commonly overgrade trade at a discount (often
large) to those in holders from services considered more accurate.
Furthermore, the same coin may receive different grades if submitted
more than once to the same
service. That's because grades are opinions,
and opinions may differ depending on which employees are offering them
and whether they're feeling well or sick, fresh or tired, in a good
mood or cranky, etc. Some individuals with a keen eye look for third
party graded coins that, if resubmitted, may receive a higher grade and
can then be sold for a nice profit. Meanwhile, coins that have
been overgraded or are low end for the assigned grade languish in the
same holder indefinitely. A savvy buyer with an eye for coins forms his
or her own opinion on a coin's grade, compares it to the grading
service's opinion and acts accordingly. Those who look only at the
service's opinion risk overpaying for substandard material.
Being a reasonably good grader is essential for anyone spending
significant money on coins or paper money. In upcoming issues of our
newsletter, we'll look in more detail at how coins and paper money are
graded and how to improve those skills.
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