Coin collecting is a fun hobby, and it’s easy to accumulate a wide variety of pieces within a short period. As your collection grows, it becomes more challenging to record and remember the details of each coin, which is why proper organization is imperative. If you have a coin collection that continues to grow, you might wonder how to catalog it effectively.
There are many ways to catalog a coin collection, so the method you choose depends on your needs and goals. Digital spreadsheets are one of the most efficient ways to catalog a coin collection. Physical books, computer programs, flashcards, and digital tables are also good ways to keep records.
In this article, I’ll discuss all of the above in much greater detail. I’ll also discuss whether or not a coin catalog is always necessary and the top tips you should know before getting started!
1. Create a Spreadsheet
Firstly, let’s discuss one of the best digital methods for cataloging coins—spreadsheets! The two main spreadsheet types are Google Sheets and Excel, so choose whichever you prefer. Some people may prefer to use Google Sheets because it’s free, while Excel requires a Microsoft subscription package.
However, if you already have a Microsoft 365 package or don’t mind spending money on one, using Excel is a good idea. If using a spreadsheet to catalog your coins, you can create as many rows and columns as you’d like because it’s fully customizable.
- Spreadsheets keep everything organized. Once organized properly, spreadsheets are super easy to read and follow.
- They are easily accessible. As long as you have a functioning computer and the necessary program and internet connection, you can make a spreadsheet. Spreadsheets can also be viewed on smaller devices like phones, meaning you can have your coin catalog with you no matter where you are!
- They are easily customizable. Another benefit of using a spreadsheet for a coin catalog is that it’s unique to you and customizable. So, if you ever want to add or remove a column or row, it only takes a few seconds to do so!
- Spreadsheets can be confusing. If you’ve never made a spreadsheet before, creating one for a coin catalog can be confusing and overwhelming. It requires some learning and practice to get the hang of it, so patience is key.
- They take time to create. While spreadsheets are beneficial for many reasons, they can take up much of your time. Since you must input everything manually, expect to spend a lot of time setting everything up.
Brief Guide on Creating a Digital Spreadsheet
- Choose a program/software (i.e., MS Excel)
- Open the program and create a new file
- Label each column (i.e., description, date of purchase, cost, etc.)
- Input the relevant information for each coin in the rows
- Save changes
With cloud storage becoming more popular in recent years, many people are now opting to save their spreadsheets directly to the cloud. Examples of cloud storage providers include:
- Microsoft OneDrive
- Google Drive (files save automatically to Google Drive when using Google Spreadsheets)
Consider storing your coin catalog spreadsheet in the cloud so that you can access it on different devices from anywhere in the world!
2. Keep a Physical Book
If you’re not interested in keeping digital files, a physical book is one of your best options. All you need to do is take note of each coin and its information and put it all in the book.
Any type of book will work for this, whether a standard copybook or an A4 notepad. No matter which book type you choose, it’s vital that you write everything clearly and in an organized manner.
Some coin collectors might prefer to use a mathematics book (a book with small squares, also known as a graph paper book) because it’s easier to create even lines, rows, and columns.
- Physical books can’t be lost in the same way as digital files. Although it’s entirely possible to lose a book, you don’t have to worry about a hard drive failing and losing all the data. Once you keep it in a safe location, it’s difficult to lose a physical book.
- You can create your own rows and columns. With a book, you can input any information you want. On the other hand, a book with a template isn’t as customizable because you have to work with what you’re given.
- There are a wide variety of book cover designs. When using a physical book, you can choose your favorite cover design!
- Physical books can get lost if you misplace them. A misplaced book means you lose all the coin collection data, so it’s vital to keep yours in a safe place at all times. Also, make sure to keep it somewhere you won’t forget.
- Physical books can’t be synchronized. Digital files are easily accessible on the go if synchronization is utilized, but the same cannot be said for physical books.
- It’s not as easy to rectify mistakes in a physical book. If you’ve made a written error in the book, it can be difficult to fix. One of the best ways to solve this is to always use a pencil that you can erase.
3. Keep the Information With Each Coin
If you don’t want to catalog the coins separately, you may want to use your actual coin collection book (i.e., where the coins are stored) to catalog them. For example, you can place a small piece of paper below or behind each corresponding coin. In this instance, you won’t have to create a digital catalog.
When using this method, be sure to put the most important information on each piece of paper before storing it with the coin.
Some coin collectors might keep each coin in a small box (i.e., one small box for every individual coin). In this instance, you can keep a small piece of paper in each box with the corresponding coin. Once the boxes are stored securely, you shouldn’t have many issues storing your coin data in this manner.
- The data can be easily matched with the coin. If using a separate catalog, it might sometimes be difficult to match the written data to the coin in your collection book. So, keeping the information with the physical coin makes everything easier.
- There’s no need to worry about editing a catalog. Whenever you get a new coin, you won’t have to mess around with a catalog. Instead, all you need to do is get a new piece of paper (with the important coin information written on it) and store it with your new coin!
- If a coin is lost, the corresponding catalog data is lost. Since the data is stored with the coin, losing one means losing the other.
- You might not fit as much information onto the paper. Since you’ll need to use small pieces of paper for each coin (in most cases), you might not fit all the data you want onto the page.
4. Create a Digital Catalog
A digital spreadsheet is one way to catalog your coins, but using a computer program is an even better way if you want to be highly organized and don’t mind spending a little more money.
One of the most popular downloadable software for coin collecting is EzCoin, as it allows you to catalog your entire collection (with photos), making it easy to gather information. However, there are plenty of other programs available, so be sure to look around to see which one is best for you.
With software like EzCoin, all you have to do is go through the drop-down menus and input the required data for each piece. You can also add pictures for each coin, and the program will give you an estimated value for every piece (once the information you give is accurate and up to date).
Here are the benefits of using a digital catalog:
- Coin catalog software keeps everything organized in one place. Adding new coins to the software is easy because all you need to do is answer the questions and choose options from drop-down menus. There’s no need to make your template from scratch.
- It’s easy to add photos of your coins. Many computer programs, like EzCoin, allow you to add photos of each coin, making it easier to match the data to the physical piece.
- Mistakes are easy to rectify. Unlike a physical coin catalog, it’s super easy to edit information when using computer software.
- Some programs offer backup options. If you’re concerned about a hard drive failure, software like EzCoin will give you a free backup option. Be sure to store the backup on a different hard drive/storage device.
If you’re interested in using EzCoin to catalog your items, check out the following YouTube video. It discusses how to backup files:
5. Use Flash Cards
Using flashcards for cataloging coins might sound strange, and that’s because it is an unorthodox way to record data! However, it could be a good choice for those who aren’t interested in keeping detailed information in physical or digital format.
Flash cards are better for smaller collections and for those who don’t want to spend a lot of time creating a catalog.
Below is a brief guide on how to use flashcards to catalog coins:
- Choose a flash card (one flash card for every coin)
- Input the most important coin details (coin name, basic description, cost, year, etc.)
- Place the flash card in a safe place
- Repeat for each coin
Like a physical book, it’s important to keep flashcards in a safe place where they won’t get lost, damaged, or destroyed. Make sure the writing on each card is clear so that you and others won’t have any issues making out what it says in the future.
- Flash cards are easy to read. Since they’re so small, flashcards will only contain essential information. As a result, it will be easy for you and others to make out what each one says.
- They come in multiple colors. If you want your catalog to be colorful rather than dull, flashcards are excellent! You can find flash card sets in pretty much any color, so you’re never out of options.
- It’s a quick and easy process. As mentioned earlier, flashcards are small. So, you won’t have to spend too much time inputting the most important data.
- They’re not the best for large collections. If you have a large collection, it’s not ideal to have a separate flash card for each coin. After a while, you may get confused between the different flashcards, or it may be annoying to store so many of them.
- You can lose them. If you’re not careful, you can lose flashcards easily. Be sure to keep them somewhere you’ll never forget.
- You won’t be able to fit detailed information on the cards. Unfortunately, flashcards are so small that they likely won’t be able to hold detailed coin information. So, if you want to keep comprehensive records, they are not the best choice.
6. Create a Digital Table
While a spreadsheet is one of the easiest and most concise methods, some people are not very familiar with using things like Excel or Google Sheets. If you’re someone who doesn’t feel comfortable using such a program, you might want to opt for something simpler, such as Google Docs or Microsoft Word.
Within these writing programs, coin collectors can create tables that detail each coin and its corresponding information. Creating tables is easier than making spreadsheets, so it’s perfect for beginners who aren’t too familiar with computers.
Here’s how to create a table on MS Word and Google Docs for coin cataloging:
- Create a new document
- Click “Insert” at the top of the page
- Click “Table”
- Choose the table size of your choice. The number of rows/columns will depend on how much information you plan to input.
- Fill in the table!
- Tables are easier to make than spreadsheets. If you want to record your coin data without having to learn about Excel or Google Sheets, creating a simple table is the best choice.
- They can be saved to the cloud. Like spreadsheets and other digital files, tables made in programs like Word and Google Docs can be saved to the cloud, giving you access to them no matter where you are.
- They are easy to edit. Want to add/remove columns or rows to your table? Thankfully, it’s super easy to do so. All you need to do is hover the cursor over the table and add more sections.
- You can’t always insert enough rows/columns. While you can use many columns and rows in Excel and other spreadsheets, tables are often limited. For example, you can only insert 20 rows and columns in a table in Google Docs. While this might be plenty for some, it might not be enough for others.
- Spreadsheets have more features than tables. With a spreadsheet (like Excel), you can easily add/subtract values without having to use a calculator or your head! There are plenty of other features that make spreadsheets better choices in the long run.
If you’re wondering what a coin catalog in table format would look like, below is a basic example:
|Country of issue||Year||Currency||Reference||Price paid|
Important note: The above table is just a simple example. You may need to input more information, such as the denomination and dimensions of each coin.
7. Purchase a Catalog Book
While some coin collectors might want to start a book catalog from scratch (i.e., on plain paper), others prefer to use special coin catalog books. These books already have columns and information in them, so you won’t need to write your own sections (like in an empty-page book). All you need to do is fill in the book, which shouldn’t take too long once you have all the information you need.
- You can save a lot of time. Thinking about which columns and how many sections you need can take a lot of time and effort, but with a coin catalog book, it’s already done for you. Simply fill everything in, and you’re good to go!
- All the information is in one place. With a catalog book, all your coin information is in one place, making it a convenient choice for many coin collectors.
- You might run out of space. Running out of space isn’t an issue for many collectors, but if you have lots of coins to account for, a catalog book might not be big enough. In that instance, you’d need to purchase more than one.
- It’s not customizable. If you want to add extra information that the catalog book doesn’t have a section for, you’re out of luck. Instead, it might be better to use a different catalog method.
Is a Coin Catalog Always Necessary?
A coin catalog is not always necessary, especially if you only have one or two pieces. However, a catalog is always the best choice for larger collections or for those who like to be highly organized. Having a catalog makes it easier to gather information on each coin, which is handy for insurance and tax purposes.
It’s also helpful to have a catalog if you plan to give the coins as a gift to someone (or pass them on after you die). Without a catalog, giftees will find it challenging to know the important information about each coin.
When to Start Organizing Your Coin Collection
Below are some of the main indications that you should have a coin catalog for your collection.
You Have Multiple Coins
Even if it wasn’t your intention, you might have collected many coins over the years. At some point, it becomes challenging to keep track of each coin and the important information (such as the date of purchase or purchase price) that comes with them.
The most effective way to store detailed information about different coins is to keep an organized catalog that you can access and read easily. You might think you can remember all the dates, prices, and unique information about all coins in your collection. However, it’s highly unlikely that you can remember these details.
So, once you notice your coin collection is expanding to the point where you’re losing track of the number of coins, it’s best to start cataloging everything.
You Want To Sell Your Coins at Some Point
When selling coins for a profit, it’s always best to have records of each piece for organizational and IRS purposes. One of the most important details is the price of the coin (when you purchased it), as this will help calculate the overall profit after selling. You must pay taxes on the profits you make from selling coins, so it’s vital to know the original price.
Without a catalog, you will forget the important details, and this could be an issue when you’re trying to figure out the profits for tax purposes.
Additionally, recording things like the price of coins will help determine a good selling price. Without a catalog, you might misremember how much you paid for the coins. As a result, you may set a price that’s lower than what you originally paid without even realizing it, meaning you’d be at a loss!
So, if you plan on selling your coin collection at some point, a detailed catalog will make the process 100 times quicker, easier, and less stressful.
You Want To Give the Coins to Loved Ones
Giving a coin collection to a loved one is a wonderful gesture. To make the process as seamless as possible, you should have a coin catalog so that the giftee has all the information they need about each coin.
Keeping a catalog means everything will be organized for your loved one(s), and it makes it easier for them to decide whether or not they should sell (and the most appropriate price to set).
While keeping a catalog is important if you plan on gifting the coins, it’s even more important if you want to hand the collection down after you pass.
If you’re still alive, at least you’ll be able to help the giftee with any questions they may have. However, if you’re no longer around, they might find it challenging to know which coin is which and how much each piece is worth.
Since your family members likely won’t have much knowledge of coins to begin with, having a concise and easy-to-read catalog will make everything more seamless and stress-free for everyone involved.
Organization Is Important To You
If you’re organized in other aspects of your life and don’t like chaos, having a coin catalog is a good idea. It will keep everything in order, allowing you to relax knowing all coin data can be found quickly and easily.
The good thing about cataloging coins is that you can choose how you want to do it! As you now know from reading this guide, there are so many ways to create a coin catalog, including through spreadsheets and computer software. So, there is an ideal method for every coin collector!
It’s also good to keep the catalog updated by adding new information each time you add a coin to the collection. Doing this will keep everything in order so that you can store and find all coin information seamlessly.
Coin Catalogs: Top Tips
After reading the first part of this guide, you likely understand the importance of having a coin catalog and which method is best for you. However, there is more important information you should know before getting started!
Below are some of the top tips for creating coin catalogs, so read on to learn even more valuable tips and tricks.
When it comes to digital catalogs (i.e., any catalog you store on your computer or another electronic device), it’s best to have at least one backup file. Your primary catalog will likely be stored on the main hard drive of your computer or laptop. If that hard drive breaks at some point and you don’t have a backup, you might not get the catalog back.
Hard drives have a lifespan of up to 5 years in most cases, so if yours is old, it’s vital that you consider a backup!
Let’s say you’re using software (like EzCoin) for the main catalog. In that instance, consider creating a spreadsheet or table catalog and saving it to the cloud or a USB stick as a backup. If anything goes wrong (i.e., your hard drive stops working), at least you’ll have the backup to help you out.
There are also often backup options within the software programs, so be sure to utilize those functions when possible.
Having a backup will give you peace of mind—you can rest easy knowing your data is saved in at least two separate locations.
Consider Physical Backups as Well as Digital Backups
While digital backups are excellent choices, physical ones can also be helpful. Some coin collectors may like to have a digital and physical backup. A physical copy could be in the form of a book or piece of paper.
Be sure to keep it in a secure location, like with anything else physical. It’s not entirely necessary to create a physical AND digital backup, but it’s a good idea if you have a lot of coins and information to keep track of. Any time you add a new coin to your collection, be sure to update all backups (including physical ones).
Keep Physical Catalogs Dry
Keeping a physical catalog in a box is one of the best options because it keeps it protected from damage and moisture. Humidity can cause the book to become wet and destroyed over time, which could cause the writing to become warped and illegible!
If a catalog gets wet accidentally, let it dry by leaving it in a place with plenty of airflow. Only place it back in its original location once it’s dry. Move it to a different location if the original is too humid.
Only Download Official Trusted Software
If you have a large coin collection, computer software is one of the best options. However, you must be careful when choosing which program to download because you certainly want to avoid computer viruses and other problems.
Research the top coin-collecting software to figure out which ones are best for your needs. It’s also good to get information and recommendations from other coin collectors (including people you know or coin collector forums online).
As mentioned in this article, EzCoin is one of the best coin catalog software, and it’s entirely safe. Other examples include:
Ensure Your Handwriting Is Legible
When it comes to physical catalogs, you want your handwriting to be easy-to-read, even after years have passed. If your writing is messy or worn away, it will be challenging for you and others to make out what it says.
So, when creating a physical catalog, be sure to use a dark pen or marker. Write clearly, avoiding rushing through it.
Ensure the Catalog Is Well-Organized
When making a coin catalog for your collection, you might be tempted to just input all the information in no particular order. However, if it isn’t organized, it won’t be easy for you and others to read later down the line.
Be sure to create clear rows and columns, whether making a physical or digital catalog. All pages of the catalog should be organized in the same way for consistency.
What Is the Best Way To Catalog a Coin Collection?
The best way to catalog a coin collection depends on a person’s individual needs and goals. For digital cataloging, one of the best options is computer software because it’s easy to use, and all you need to do is input information in all the sections.
For physical cataloging, the best thing to do is get a graph book and write everything inside, making sure to do so in an organized manner.
If synchronization is important to you, the best way to catalog a coin collection is to create a spreadsheet or other file that you can save to the file.
Cataloging coins is only one important aspect for coin collectors to consider, the other being storage. Once you know how you’re going to catalog each piece, you’ll need to consider the best storage options. Like catalogs, there are also plenty of ways to store coin collections, so the method you choose depends on your preferences.
Below are the different options you have when it comes to storing your coin collection.
Store Them in Hard Plastic Covers and Cases
Once you have a hard plastic cover for each coin, you’ll also need a case, box, or other storage product.
When storing coins in these plastic covers and cases, the sides will be easy to see, meaning you should be able to match them easily with the catalog information without removing them from their cases.
Store Them in Individual Boxes
Some coin collectors might like to store coins in small individual boxes instead of one large container. This method is not the best idea if you have lots of coins because you’d need to buy multiple small boxes. Eventually, you might run out of space!
So, this storage option is most appropriate for those with smaller coin collections. An example of a container would be a small jewelry box that’s big enough to fit one coin. You may also label each box with important details, like a reference number that you can match with the catalog. Make sure the box is secure and hard to ensure each coin remains safe and undamaged.
Create a DIY Coin Storage Book
If none of the storage options mentioned thus far have interested you, you might like to try a DIY approach!
Many coin collectors like to make their own storage books rather than purchasing them because it’s affordable and a fun activity to pass the time. There are different ways to make a coin collection book, but in most cases, you’ll need things like scissors, staplers, and, of course, paper.
A DIY storage method is only recommended if you have a lot of time on your hands and want to save some money.
Here’s a basic guide to making your own coin collection book:
- Draw circles in groups of two
- Cut each group with scissors and fold it over
- Cut into and around the circles (this is where the coin’s face will be visible) on the paper you just folded over
- Place a sheet of soft plastic inside the folded paper
- Staple the plastic in place on all sides except for the open end (as this is where the coin will slide in)
- Cut any pieces of plastic that are sticking out
- Slide the coin into the open end
- Staple the open end shut
- Place the coin into a sleeve in a book
- Repeat as many times as necessary!
Store Them in Special Coin Books or Binders
Another excellent way to store a coin collection is to use a coin collection book. These books are designed for coins, so you won’t have to do any DIY activities to get started. All you need to do is make the purchase, and you’re good to go!
You can also get smaller books, depending on the size of your collection and how much space you need.
When you first start collecting coins, you may not realize the importance of having a well-organized catalog. However, it’s an excellent way to store important information that you may need for tax, insurance, or personal reasons.
After reading this article, you should have a better understanding of the different ways to catalog a coin collection. Be sure to choose the method that suits your needs, and always remember the importance of backups!