Some people collect coins casually from their pocket change, and others spend vast amounts of money purchasing them. But is coin collecting an expensive hobby, and is it possible to collect coins on a budget?
Coin collecting doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby. While old, rare coins cost a lot to procure, these aren’t the norm. Many novices start with coins still in circulation or coins with visible errors. You don’t need one of the fifteen 1804 silver dollars still existing to be a coin collector.
In this article, I’ll talk about why it’s cheap to get started as a coin collector. I’ll also discuss supply costs, the rarest coins in the world, and why novices should wait to buy. Finally, I’ll suggest sets to start out with and talk about why today’s coins are worth collecting.
How Much Does It Cost To Get Started as a Coin Collector?
Getting started as a coin collector is free if you start small. Some novice collectors check whatever change passes through their hands for errors or use it to complete sets still in circulation. Others go straight for rare coins, such as the 1955 Double Die Penny, making starting out more expensive.
Most novice coin collectors don’t spend money on their collection, at least in the beginning. As their collection progresses, they may begin buying coins. However, often this only costs them $100-$300 a month, and not all coin collectors buy coins.
Coin collecting has a reputation for being expensive because of movies and stories about expensive purchases. Some coins can go for as much as $100,000, but they’re rare and are often in peak condition. Most collectors don’t have the money for these types of opportunities and are unlikely to encounter them.
There’s also something to be said for enjoying a hobby simply and casually, without comparing one’s collection to others. It doesn’t matter how expensive your coin collection is, so long as collecting excites you. There’s no need to go after rare coins, even once you’ve become an experienced collector.
Should Novice Coin Collectors Buy Coins?
Many novice collectors don’t buy coins, at least in the beginning. Does that mean you should wait until you have more experience before attempting to purchase coins?
Most novice coin collectors should wait to buy coins. It’s rare to start out knowing which coins one’s most interested in, and novices may purchase pieces they later find they don’t enjoy. Coin collecting can be expensive, so it’s essential to know one’s interests and think your purchases through.
This is not the only mistake novice coin collectors make when buying coins, however. When buying coins, the first thing a collector should do is research them. Not only does this build enthusiasm toward the coins they’re considering buying, but it helps ensure a shady coin dealer won’t fool you.
Another mistake is buying coins that have been damaged and then appraised to be more expensive than their condition suggests. Even experienced coin collectors purchase over graded coins from time to time, but for a novice who’s just starting out, buying a coin only to find it damaged can be demoralizing.
When buying coins, it’s good practice to make sure you’re buying from a reputable dealer. You can also buy the latest edition of the Coin Dealer Newsletter. It lists the most recent prices of many coins, and while these numbers aren’t exact, knowing approximately how much a coin is worth will help you avoid scams.
Coin Sets for Novice Collectors on a Budget
Coin collecting doesn’t need to be expensive, especially if one searches their pocket change instead of buying rare coins outright. But what if you want to collect a widely known set? Are there any traditional sets that you can mostly put together from pocket change?
Two widely known sets you can put together on a budget are Jefferson Nickels and Clad Roosevelt Dimes. Here are more details about them:
The Jefferson Nickel is a five-cent coin commonly used in the United States. A 176-coin date-minted collection will mostly comprise coins still in circulation today, making it incredibly affordable.
However, some coins are out of circulation, which means you’ll need to visit a coin dealer to complete your collection. This gives you an opportunity to gain experience with coin dealers while still saving money.
Clad Roosevelt Dimes
Ten-cent Roosevelt Dimes were issued twice. The first sets were minted from 1946 to 1964 and are made up of an expensive 90% silver. This makes them unsuitable for most novices.
However, the second sets are made of a copper-nickel alloy and are still in circulation today, making them easy to collect. Try purchasing dime rolls from your bank to get started.
Should Novice Collectors Clean Their Coins?
No collector should ever clean their coins unless they never intend to sell them. Cleaning coins scrapes down or corrodes fine details and introduces microscopic marks that appraisers will notice. They’re considered damaged and are worth considerably less.
How Much Do Coin Collecting Supplies Cost?
Like many hobbies, coin collecting requires some supplies. But what supplies do you need, and how much do they cost?
Coin collecting supplies cost $20-$40 and comprise cotton gloves, a magnifying glass, envelopes or albums for storing your coins, and a general reference coin book. Though you’ll need more envelopes as your collection increases in size, this price is unlikely to snowball as long as you treat your supplies well.
Coins react to their environment and sometimes can even react to oils from a person’s skin. If a coin is discolored, worn down, or otherwise degraded, it directly affects its value. Therefore, it’s essential to handle them with cotton gloves and to store them so that they’re adequately protected.
General reference coin books contain information on notable coins. They may also contain interesting history on how coins were developed and how their creation has changed over the years. Some authors may also write about famous coin designers, treasurers, scholars, and other important figures.
While you can collect coins without all these things, having them will make your hobby more enjoyable and help safeguard your collection’s value.
What Are the Rarest Coins, and How Much Do They Cost?
Though you may not be able to purchase them now, you may be curious about rare coins. Which coins are among the rarest, and how much do they cost?
Three of-note coins are the 1893 Morgan Silver Dollar, the Umayyad Gold Dinar, and The Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle. All of them sell for over $500,000 and have interesting histories.
Here’s more information about them:
1893 Morgan Silver Dollar
The 1893 Morgan Silver Dollar is the tenth most expensive coin in the world and is sold for $550,000. The coin was minted several times over the last two centuries, but the rarest version is from 1893. At that time, only 100,000 were struck and since then, many of them have been melted down for their silver.
Umayyad Gold Dinar
The fifth most expensive coin in the world is the Umayyad Gold Dinar. It was minted in 723 A.D., and thus is eye-poppingly old. Going for a whopping $5,405,400 a pop, its inscription reads “Mine of the Commander of the Faithful in the Hijaz.”
The Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle
The rarest and most expensive coin in the world is known as the Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle, and it goes for a whopping $20,165,100. It’s made of gold, and because of a recall of the precious metal, most people exchanged it for paper money in 1933. However, some survived to be traded today.
Will Today’s Coins Become Valuable Collectibles in the Future?
With all this talk about collecting pocket change, you may wonder if today’s coins will someday be as valuable as the rare coins above. Is your pocket change worth holding onto?
Some of today’s coins will become valuable collectibles in the future. However, which ones do depends on how rare they become. Coins today aren’t made of silver or gold anymore, and most people have switched to paper or electronic money. However, this switch may ensure they are remembered.
As humanity moves away from physical coinage toward services such as debit, coins are naturally going to become rarer. Once this change is complete, it’s unlikely we’ll return to the old system—this means that the last of our currencies are likely to become valuable over time.
This is just speculation, however. No one can see the future, and it’s possible we may continue to use coins for a long time. Either way, the trend of collectible coins will continue as it always has. As coins get older and become rarer, they’ll gain value. This is the way it’s always worked, and it’s unlikely to change.
Novices need not make the hobby expensive by buying coins before they know their interests. There are plenty of cheap collectibles, such as Jefferson Nickels and Roosevelt Dimes. The rarest coins can go for over $500,000, and today’s currency is likely to increase in value, too.