Tips & Advice
How should someone handle coins
The first rule of handling collectible coins is to always hold it by the edges with a thumb and forefinger. You can also use clean, soft cotton gloves. Never touch the face of the coin as your fingers can transfer dirt and oils, and this is the most common way that coins are damaged. Wash your hands and have a safe, clean work space and a soft, clean towel or appropriate surface to set it down on. If you are examining a mint set in its original packaging, don’t take it out, because it’s probably never been touched. As crazy as it sounds, be aware of spitting on coins when examining them (spit flies when we talk), which can potentially diminish the value.
How can you tell if a coin has been cleaned
One of the obvious ways to tell if a (circulated) coin has been cleaned is it will have a dull, but bright look; dull from wear and bright from cleaning. Old pennies should appear dark brown in color, not orange and shiny. Silver coins appearing white or shiny have probably been cleaned. Ironically, trying to restore the luster to a silver coins finish actually diminishes the value. Obviously uncirculated coins shouldn’t need cleaning--but some people might clean them anyway. If a coin has been cleaned, the luster will be greatly diminished. The natural oxidation of coins is not a bad thing.
Coins are graded on the 70-point Sheldon scale, ranging from a PO poor) to a perfect MS 70 (mint status), with a wide range in between. Coins are graded out in three categories; circulated (P-1 to EF 49), about circulated or AU (50-59), and the uncirculated or MS coins (60-70). These are broken down even further within each category. Grading, of course, is based on the condition of the coin. Circulated coins will never be 70s because of wear and tear.
Are coins a good investment?
Coins are definitely a good investment--but, like any investment in precious metals, the market fluctuates. Gold, silver, and even copper, market values can and will vary. You are always at risk of their value decreasing. However, overall, precious metals generally retain their value even in turbulent economies and are considered to be one of the safest investments.
What are the most sought-after coins?
Ten of the rarest, most valuable and most highly sought-after U.S. minted coins are the 1913 Liberty Head nickel, 1804 silver dollar, 1933 Double Eagle, 1893 silver dollar, 1838 half dollar, 1870 silver dollar, 1909-S Lincoln cent, 1916 Mercury dime, 1901 S Barber quarter, and the 1916 Standing Liberty quarter.
The first factor in coin value is the mintage, meaning the number of that particular coin that was minted. Survival rate is second; how many coins are left from the original mintage. Sometimes coins are melted down (for their precious metal value) or taken out of circulation, thus dropping the available amount. This increases value in a basic supply and demand world, which is the next factor: demand. Melt value is another major factor; what is the value of the metal in the coin? The condition of the coin is also major factor, because better condition equals more value. While these factors all play a part in determining the value of your coin, ultimately, it is worth what someone is willing to pay.
How should coins be stored?
Ideally, coin storage should start with placing the coins in an album or folder designed for storage that can help organize your collection. The next step is finding a suitable environment for storage. Stay away from areas of humidity or major temperature fluctuations, like bathrooms and kitchens, due to steam, oils, and other potentially harmful elements. Safety deposit boxes are ideal but not necessary.
What is the best way to clean coins?
Cleaning coins can be a simple process
- Using a non-abrasive container, like plastic (you do not want to scratch the coin) fill it with warm tap water and a mild soap solution.
- Put the coin in the solution and rub the dirt and debris off with your fingers in an outward motion, towards the edges.
- Repeat the process until the coin is clean.
- Do this one coin at a time.
- Rinse the coins off with distilled water and let dry on a soft towel. Do not rub dry.
- Make sure the coins are dry before storing them.
- Do not try to remove the natural oxidation on your coins - it can actually devalue them.
Where to find collectible coins
There is no shortage of places to find and buy collectible coins. Pawn shops, jewelry stores, gold and precious metal exchanges, auction houses, rare coin, and collectable stores, eBay, Amazon, and even the U.S. Mint all sell collectible coins and related materials. Places like eBay can be a good source for researching market values for coins. You can (and probably should) also have them appraised by certified appraisers. While the web has hundreds of places buying and selling coins, buyer beware! There are many scammers out there, as well.
Numismatics is the study or scientific analysis of coins, paper money, medals, and any related forms of currency and currency collections. Numismatics is also used to study how currency has been used throughout history by people and cultures. The more popular term for currency collection is coin collecting, a pretty common hobby throughout the world. Are you curious about? Numismatics can research the history of your collectible coin and even study stocks and bonds, a specialty known as scripophily.