Introduction

This FAQ addresses a few of the most commonly asked questions about coin collecting. It is intended only as an introduction to the hobby. Years of research and even entire careers have been devoted to in depth study of specialized topics, and many detailed reference works have been published (a few are listed in Part 2). While some of the material is applicable to other numismatic collectibles, the emphasis here is on coins. In some cases, more complete information is provided for U.S. coins.

Inclusion of a product, dealer or company in this FAQ does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation.

1. What Are My Coins Worth?

Because variations of this question are the most common numismatic queries on the Net, and they are not nearly as easy to answer as you might think, this entire section is devoted to helping you learn the value of your coins. In general, a coin must be physically examined to determine its authenticity, grade and the presence or absence of problems before a value can be established.

Like anything else, a coin is “worth” what someone is willing to pay for it. Several factors will be taken into account by a potential buyer to establish what he or she considers a fair price:

  • Identification: What country issued the coin? What is the face value, the date and the mintmark (if any)? If more than one design was used that year, which one is it? Usually, this information can be determined without much difficulty. Note that if no denomination (face value) is indicated, your coin-like object is, in fact, probably a token or medal.
  • Authenticity: Counterfeits and alterations of many, many coins have been made by unscrupulous persons looking to part collectors from their money. An expert opinion may be needed to determine whether or not a coin is authentic and is mandatory for more valuable coins.
  • Grade: A grade summarizes the overall condition of a coin. Fair market value often varies by orders of magnitude for the same coin in different grades. This topic is covered in detail in Part 2 of this FAQ.
  • Cleaning and other damage: In general, collectors prefer coins which have not been tampered with, such as by cleaning or polishing. A coin that is corroded, scratched, holed (drilled through so that it can be hung on a chain), altered, artificially toned, “dinged” on the edge, or simply unattractive for the grade is less desirable than a problem free specimen. “Problem coins” are still bought and sold but generally at a substantial discount compared to problem free examples.

Grade and damage may have little or no effect on prices of coins which have little numismatic (collector) value but often result in major price differences for coins of interest to collectors.

Price Guides

Once you’ve identified a coin and have have some idea of its grade, a guide can be consulted for typical prices. Some of the most commonly used coin price publications include:

  • The Standard Catalog of World Coins by Chester L. Krause and Clifford Mishler. Four volumes, each covering a different century from 1601 to 2000. Each identifies and lists prices for coins from around the world.
  • “The Red Book” (officially titled A Guide Book of United States Coins), which is published annually, is a commonly used retail price guide with a wealth of other useful information.
  • More frequently published retail prices for U.S. coins are available in Coin World, Coin Prices and Coin Age.
  • The principal price guide in dealer to dealer transactions is the Coin Dealer Newsletter, popularly known as “the Greysheet.” CDN also publishes the Bluesheet, which lists sight unseen prices for certified coins, and the Greensheet, which covers paper money. You don’t have to be a dealer to get these publications, but they’re ordinarily available only by subscription.
  • A Handbook of United States Coins, commonly known as “the Blue Book,” is another guide dealers sometimes consult when buying U.S. coins from the public
  • Numismatic News publishes prices for all 3 levels (dealer buy, bid and retail).

These publications are often available in libraries, bookstores, coin shops and through online coin dealers and booksellers.

An online price guide for U.S. coins is available at the NumisMedia web site. An online price guide for U.K. coins is maintained by Tony Clayton.

Some of the other topics in this FAQ may bring you closer to finding the value of your coins. Learning more about your coins may help you get a better offer, should you decide to sell them, and to know whether or not an offer is reasonable.

Frequently requested values for coins:

Circulated U.S. wheat cents (1958 and earlier)
Most dated 1940 or later are purchased by dealers for less than 2 cents each. Some of the earlier dates are worth more (a few cents to several dollars), and checking a price guide is a good idea if you have them.
1943 “steel pennies”
Zinc plated steel cents were minted only in 1943. A syndicated radio program incorrectly reported in early 1999 that these coins are rare and valuable. In fact, more than one billion were minted. What is rare and valuable is a 1943 cent struck on a normal bronze planchet. Any 1943 cent that appears to be bronze should be tested to determine if it is attracted to a magnet – if so, it’s a steel cent that has been copper plated. Steel 1943 cents, with or without a mintmark, may be worth under 5 cents to about 50 cents if circulated, and up to a dollar or two if uncirculated. Steel cents that have been “re-processed” (given a new zinc coating) are not worth uncirculated prices.
Silver dimes, quarters and halves
U.S. dimes, quarters and half dollars dated 1964 or earlier are 90% silver and were made with 0.723 ounce of silver for each dollar in face value. As some metal may have been worn off from circulation, 0.715 ounce/dollar is often used to estimate the amount of silver still present. Even if the coin is a common date (and most dated 1934 or later are), it’s still worth more than face value because of its silver content. The amount varies with the spot price of silver. Precious metals spot prices are available at Kitco Inc. Multiply the current spot price of silver by 0.715 and by the total face value. For example, if spot is $4.00 per ounce, the bullion value for $100 face value is
$4.00 x .715 x 100 = $286.
Many uncirculated silver coins and some circulated ones may be worth a premium over the silver value. Check a price guide to see if you have any better dates.
U.S. half dollars dated 1965 through 1970 are 40% silver.
Silver dollars
U.S. silver dollars (1935 and earlier) were made with 0.77 ounce of silver each. These coins are popular with collectors and, unless damaged or severely worn, can usually be sold for more than their silver value. Less common dates and higher grades can be sold for considerably more. Check a price guide to see if you have any better date(s).
Susan B. Anthony dollars
If you received it as change, it’s most likely worth one dollar. Proof SBA dollars are worth more, but proof coins are rarely found in circulation.
Bicentennial quarters, halves and dollars
Because billions of these coins were made, they’re generally worth only face value. A few dealers pay about 10% over face for rolls of lightly circulated bicentennial coins and a bit more for uncirculated ones. Special 40% silver bicentennial coins were also minted for sale to collectors (they’re easily detected by the absense of copper on the edge). They’re worth more than face value but are unlikely to be found in circulation.
Coin commemorating the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana
Many millions were made by several British Commonwealth nations. The current price range for most is $5-25.
A coin with two heads, two tails or designs of two different coins
With few exceptions, these pieces are novelty items sometimes called magician’s coins. They’re created by hollowing out one coin and trimming down another to fit inside. A seam can be found along the inside edge of the rim on one side. Because they’re altered coins, they have no value to coin collectors.
However, a small number of legitimate error coins known as “mules” were discovered in 2000. A mule is produced when dies intended for different denominations are paired to strike the two sides of a coin. The recently discovered mules include- at least one specimen of a1999 Lincoln cent with the reverse of a Roosevelt dime- at least six specimens of a Sacagawea “golden dollar” with the obverse (portraying George Washington) intended for a state quarterIn addition, a single Indian cent struck by two obverse dies, both dated 1869, was recently authenticated.
If you have a coin like one described in the previous paragraph or cannot find a seam even under magnification, a coin collector or dealer in your area may be able to assist you in determining if it’s genuine. Once professionally authenticated, you would be well advised to offer or consign the coin at auction to get the highest price.
An unstruck coin
Unstruck blanks or planchets are relatively common. Most retail for a couple dollars or less.
A “misstruck” coin
There are many types of striking errors. Additionally, a lot of coins look unusual because they have been altered after striking. Altered coins have no value to coin collectors. Prices for legitimate striking errors cover a broad range. Minor errors, such as a raised crack, will generally bring little or no premium. Incomplete planchets (known as clips) and off center strikes typically sell for a few dollars. Rare, dramatic errors may sell for several hundred dollars. The first step towards determining the value an unusual looking coin is to have it examined by one or more professionals.

Collecting

2. What is numismatics?

A simple definition of numismatics is the the collection and study of coins, paper money, tokens and medals, and indeed these are the most widely collected and studied numismatic materials. Other items representing current or past financial assets or liabilities are also included under the numismatic umbrella. These include other objects used as money, as well as stock certificates, checks and notes of financial obligations.

Numismatic items are collected and studied for many reasons, including their historical significance and artistic merits, as well as their role in commerce. When significant demand exists, they may obtain numismatic value beyond their current monetary value (if any).

Coin collecting is perhaps the most popular part of the hobby and is sometimes used to refer to the entire numismatic spectrum (e.g. the newsgroup rec.collecting.coins is a forum for all numismatic topics). There are several specializations in coins and other branches of numismatics. With such breadth of material, numismatics offers virtually inexhaustible opportunities for exploration, learning and enjoyment.


3. What coins do people collect?

What to collect is entirely up to the collector. It will normally be a specialization that holds some interest for the collector and is within his or her budget.

Among the most popular types of collections are world coins (coins from several countries), ancient coins, and coins of a particular country. Some specialization within these categories is ordinarily helpful. If collecting from a particular country, you can work on one or more series, a type set, commemoratives, errors, die varieties, paper money, etc. You may also want to set bounds on the grades of coins you collect, e.g. all G-VG, VF or better, or Uncirculated.

Series

The goal of a series collector is to acquire one of each date and mintmark made, usually including any major design differences. For example, the U.S. Standing Liberty quarter was produced from 1916 to 1930 at the Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco mints (coins were not made at all three mints every year, and none were produced at any mint in 1922); a major change to the obverse was made in 1917, and the full set is generally considered to include both designs for that year from each mint.

Type

A collector building a type set seeks to have one of each series and major design variation within each series. Examples would be 20th century Canadian coinage or U.S. gold coins.

Ancients

Contributed by Mike Marotta (mercury@well.com)

From the invention of coinage in Ionia about 650 BC to the last Roman emperor of 450 AD, the gold, silver and bronze of ancient world are surprisingly available. A common silver drachma issued by Alexander the Great might cost about $60. A common silver denarius from one of the early Roman emperors might cost $30. Gold costs more. Bronze — being more common — costs less. For $10 or $20, you can own a bronze coin that circulated during the time of Archimedes or St. Paul. Most collectors of ancients work on themes: the Twelve Caesars, the town of Carthage, the goddess Diana, etc.

Tokens, Tickets, Tallies and Checks.

Contributed by Andrew D N Andison (Andrew@dorothy.demon.co.uk)

When the government ignored the needs of the people and refused to issue sufficient low value coins the traders took matters into their own hands and issued tokens. In Great Britain this took place in the mid 1600’s, the 1790’s and the 1810’s. These formed a local currency and it took several acts of Parliament to ban them. The bans were never completely successful and ‘advertising tickets’ continued to be issued through the mid 1800’s. These were conveniently the same size as farthings, the coin still in very short supply, and undoubtedly circulated as such. By the end of Queen Victoria’s reign the need for tokens had gone but there were all sorts of other similar pieces being used. Pubs issued checks but because they were such an everyday occurrence nobody thought the record how they were used! The co-operative societies used checks to record the value of purchases made so that the correct amount of divident could be paid. Fruit pickers received tallies to depending on the quantity of fruit picked. The most recent use of tokens is probably the ones used in gaming and vending machines, as well as the one used by the many transport undertakings.

Although less valuable than coins, tokens are nevertheless much more interesting if you are interested in local history and like to do research.


4. What’s the best way to get started?

Buy the book before you buy the coin is frequently offered and sage advice.

Coins can be rewarding for the collector who makes the effort to study the hobby and the market. Someone who does not make that effort is more likely to waste money on overgraded, problem or counterfeit coins. Before spending a lot of money on coins, invest in your knowledge of the hobby. This FAQ is a start, but for your own protection you should have at least one reference book covering your area(s) of interest. Reading a few issues of periodicals is another good idea.

Collecting coins from circulation is a great place to start. The risk is negligible (you can always spend the coins), and you can learn a lot examining your coins carefully and seeing what your reference book says about them.

Join a club! Local coin clubs are usually great for learning more about the hobby, getting material for your collection, and you just might make some good friends, too.


5. Where to find collectible coins

When the coins you’re interested in collecting are not available in circulation, it’s time to look for other sources (see previous topic). That almost always means purchasing coins. Among places to buy coins are

  • Coin shops
    Dealers with their own stores can be good resources for information as well as coins.
  • Coin shows
    Here you can shop from several dealers at once. The selection will obviously be better than at most shops, and you may be able to get better prices due to the presence of competition.
  • Mail Order
    Coins can be purchased from many dealers through the mail. Check any of the periodicals listed below for advertisements. Unfortunately, it is all too common to receive overgraded and/or problem coins from some mail order sources. Make sure the source has a reasonable return policy before ordering, examine the coins carefully on receipt to ensure they’re satisfactory (get an opinion from a more experienced collector/dealer if you are unsure), and return them if they are not.
  • On the Web
    Hundreds of dealers offer coins on the Internet and online services, including many of the conventional mail order advertisers. Again, make sure the source has a reasonable return policy before ordering, examine the coins carefully on receipt to ensure they’re satisfactory (get an opinion from a more experienced collector/dealer if you are unsure), and return them if they are not. Also, watch out for the occasional scam artist who may pocket your money and not send anything in return.
  • Auctions
    – The rarest and most expensive coins are often available only at auctions promoted by major specialty auction firms, such as Stack’s, Heritage and Bowers & Merena.
    – Numerous auctions are conducted online. In some of them anybody can offer coins to the highest bidder. Before bidding, check feedback on the seller, if the auction service makes it available. Make sure the seller has a reasonable return policy, examine coins carefully on receipt to ensure they’re satisfactory (get an opinion from a more experienced collector/dealer if you are unsure), and return them if they are not. It is not uncommon for bids in these auctions to go considerably higher than prices for comparable coins from other sources. Check prices in shops, mail order ads and/or web sites and limit your bids to those prices to avoid paying too much.
    – Relatively common collector coins are sometimes included in auctions of antiques, other collectibles, etc. The collector is forewarned that material in these auctions is more likely than usual to be overgraded, have problems not mentioned (if even known) by the auctioneer, and/or to garner inflated prices. Better material at lower prices can often be readily obtained from other sources.
  • Other collectors
    It’s not often easy to locate another collector selling what you want, but when it happens, you may get a better price. Post what you’re looking for in rec.collecting.coins or attend some local coin club meetings.
  • Flea markets, bazaars, etc.
    Coins are sometimes available at flea markets, antique shows, craft fairs and other events where they are not the primary focal point. Because there is little if any competition for the seller and many potential buyers are not well informed about the hobby, these venues can be used to move problem coins and prices may be inflated. While the collector always needs to be able to evaluate the quality of potential purchases and fairness of their prices, extra caution is warranted in these situations.

6. How to handle coins

In general, collectible coins should be handled carefully to avoid the possibility of causing wear or introducing substances that may lead to spots or color changes. Many holders will provide adequate protection for ordinary handling. Before removing a coin from its holder, consider whether it’s really necessary.

Never touch an uncirculated or Proof coin anywhere but the edge. Fingerprints alone may reduce the coin’s grade and consequently its value. Handling on the edge only is mandatory when examining another person’s coins, regardless of grade. Get in the habit of picking up collectible coins by their edges, and it will soon become routine.

Avoid holding numismatic items in front of your mouth. Small particles of moisture may eventually cause spots.

When setting a coin down outside of a holder is necessary, place it on a clean, soft surface. A velvet pad is an ideal surface and essential for regular handling of valuable material. A clean soft cloth or clean piece of blank paper may be sufficient for less valuable items. Do not drag coins across any surfaces.

If you will be handling very valuable coins or lots of uncirculated and/or higher grade circulated coins, wearing clean white cloth or surgical gloves and a mask may be advisable.


7. Grading

The condition of a coin is commonly summarized by a grade. Because the value of collectible coins often varies dramatically with grade and overly generous grading is not uncommon, reasonable grading proficiency is an important skill for collectors. The material presented here is intended only as an introduction to the subject. Grading is a skill that can only be developed over time through referrals to grading guides, consultation with experienced collectors and dealers, and lots of practice.

Published standards set objective criteria for grading, yet some amount of subjectivity is inevitable — even expert graders will often assign slightly different grades to the same coin. While you can often ask an experienced grader for an opinion, being able to make your own reasonable assessment of grade is your best protection.

An overview of American Numismatic Association standards follows. ANA standards are widely used in the U.S. but are not the only system used. Much of the rest of the world uses the grades Fair, Fine, Very Fine, Extremely Fine, Uncirculated and Fleur-de-coin.

Numerals used in coin grades have been taken from the Sheldon scale (see Glossary).

Uncirculated Coins

Coins with no wear at all are referred to as uncirculated or in mint state (MS). Grades from MS-60 to MS-70 in one point increments are used for mint state coins. Criteria include luster; the number, size and location of contact marks; the number, size and location of any hairlines, and the quality of the strike and overall eye appeal..

An MS-60 coin may have dull luster and numerous contact marks in prime focal areas, as long as there is no wear. To merit MS-65, a coin should have brilliant cartwheel luster (attractive toning is permissible), at most a few inconspicuous contact marks, no hairlines, and nearly complete striking details. Grades from MS-61 to MS-64 cover intermediate parts of this range. Truly exceptional coins may be graded MS-66, MS-67 or, if absolutely flawless, as high as the theoretical maximum of MS-70. Many numismatists consider MS-70 to be an unobtainable ideal.

Terms such as brilliant uncirculated (BU), choice BU, gem BU, select BU and premium BU are still used in lieu of numerical grades by some dealers, auctioneers and others. Correlations between these terms and the numeric MS grades are difficult at best, because of inconsistent usage and in some cases overgrading.

Market values for many uncirculated coins vary dramatically from one grade to the next. Remember that whether a coin is described with a numerical or an adjectival grade, it’s only someone’s opinion. Until you are comfortable with your ability to grade uncirculated coins, make liberal use of other opinions, such as those available with slabbed coins or from experienced collectors and dealers you trust, or concentrate on circulated coins.

Circulated Coins

For circulated coins the grade is primarily an indication of how much wear has occurred and generally does not take into account the presence or absence of dings, scratches, toning, dirt and other foreign substances (though such information may also be noted).

ANA grading standards recognize 11 grades for circulated coins (listed here with brief, generic descriptions):

  • AU-58, very choice about uncirculated: just traces of wear on a coin with nearly full luster and no major detracting contact marks
  • AU-55, choice about uncirculated: small traces of wear visible on the highest points
  • AU-50, about uncirculated: very light wear on the highest points; still has at least half of the original mint luster
  • EF-45 or XF-45, choice extremely fine: all design details are sharp; some mint luster remains, though perhaps only in “protected areas”
  • EF-40 or XF-40, extremely fine: slightly more wear than a “45”; traces of mint luster may show
  • VF-30, choice very fine: light even wear on high points, all lettering and design details are sharp
  • VF-20, very fine: most details are still well defined; high points are smooth
  • F-12, fine: major elements are still clear but details are worn away
  • VG-8, very good: major design elements, letters and numerals are worn but clear
  • G-4, good: major design elements are outlined but details are gone; for some series the date may not be sharp and the rim may not be complete.
  • AG-3, about good: heavily worn; date may be barely discernable

While coins more worn than AG are rarely collected, two additional grades are nevertheless used to characterize them:

  • F-2, fair — very heavily worn; major portions may be completely smooth
  • P-1, poor, filler or cull — barely recognizable

While not included in the ANA standards, intermediate grades like AU-53, VF-35, F-15 and G-6 are used by some dealers and grading services. When a grader believes a coin is better than the minimum requirements but not nice enough for the next higher grade “+” or “PQ” may be included (e.g. MS64PQ or VG+) or a range may be given (e.g. F-VF).

Split Grades

When there are significant differences between the obverse and reverse sides, a split grade may be assigned. Split grades are denoted with a “/”. For example, “F/VF” means that the obverse is F and the reverse is VF.

The overall grade is often determined by the obverse. An intermediate value may be appropriate when the difference is significant, especially if the reverse is lower. A coin graded MS-60/61 would be considered to have an overall grade of MS-60, and another at MS-65/63 could be considered to have an overall grade of MS-64.


8. Pricing

Coin prices are a function of supply and demand. Market prices decline when inventories cannot be moved at current levels and eventually rise when insufficient quantities are available to meet current demand. Of course, if the buyer or seller is unaware of current trends, a transaction may occur outside the normal range of prices.

Demand is ultimately established by collectors and investors but often more directly by dealers, who must sell coins for more than they pay for them to cover expenses and make a profit. Consequently, there are multiple tiers of prices for any particular collectible coin. Retail refers to prices dealers charge most collectors and investors, while wholesale means prices they charge each other. Collectors and investors with a substantial market presence (spending considerable amounts, especially on a regular basis with the same dealer) may be able to buy at or near wholesale levels. Published price guides list typical prices for retail and wholesale transactions — actual prices may be somewhat higher or lower.

Dealers will usually pay less than wholesale when buying coins from the public. Therefore, collectors and investors should be aware that it is difficult to “get their money back,” should the need arise to sell their holdings. Of course, they may do better by bypassing a dealer altogether, but it is seldom easy to find another collector or investor looking for the specific coins one wants to sell, and even then the potential buyer will consider it an opportunity to acquire the coins at a discount. In addition, there are some advantages to purchasing coins from a dealer. A reputable dealer will guarantee the authenticity of the merchandise. He or she will be knowledgable enough to form reasonable opinions on grades, to detect problems that may be missed by less experienced persons and will usually be willing to share knowledge with the public, especially customers.


9. What’s the best way to clean my coins?

In most cases, the best answer is DO NOT CLEAN COINS. While you might think they’ll look nicer if shiny, collectors prefer coins with an original appearance. Cleaning a coin may reduce its collector value by half or more.

Cleaning coins is similar to restoring works of art – they’re both jobs best left to professionals who have the knowledge and experience to know when it’s advisable, what techniques will work best and how to use them properly.

Never abrasively clean coins. Even wiping with a soft cloth will cause small but undesirable scratches, which will reduce the coin’s value.

If the surface of a coin appears to be tarnished, it is best left alone. The color change is the result of a natural process, which collectors call toning. Atoms on the surface of the coin have reacted chemically, often with sulfur compounds. The reaction cannot be reversed. “Dips” which strip molecules from the surface are available. Dipping is the quintessential example of a technique that should be used only by professionals, if at all. Additionally, natural toning sometimes increases the value of a coin (i.e. when it’s considered attractive).

Dirt and other foreign substances adhering to a coin can sometimes be safely removed. Try soaking the coin for a few days either in olive oil or soapy water, followed by a thorough rinse with tap water. Dry the coin with compressed air or allow it to air dry. Do not rub the coin. Commercial coin cleaners may also be carefully used to more quickly loosen foreign substances.


10. How can one tell when a coin has been cleaned, especially if it was cleaned long ago?

Contributed by Mike Locke (karenml@rahul.net)

If the coin has been cleaned with an abrasive, the coin will have hairlines. Have a look at the coins in Overton’s half dollar book; a large proportion (maybe 20%) of them appear to have been harshly cleaned with an abrasive. Also, abrasive cleaning often leaves some crud in the recesses of the coin (untouched dirt or left over abrasive).

If the coin has been dipped, it may or may not be detectable. A bright white 1801 half dollar is immediately suspect. Although it is possible for such an original coin to exist, it is unlikely. Also dipping can strip the lustre off of the coin, with the end result that there is no lustre where you would expect it to be for a coin in said condition (XF and better coins).

A natural coin has a particular appearance which reflects the history of its storage. Haphazardly stored coins tend to have a “dirty” appearance to the toning. Coins that have lived for a long time in a coin cabinet tend to have spectacular colored toning. Coins stored in a clean metal vault (such as an old style “piggy” bank) may stay white (or red) for a long time. Coins stored in albums develop either the familiar “ring toning” (slide type albums) or the much less desireable “one sided toning” (all cardboard albums). Coins stored in mint bags often show spectacular rainbow toning, similar to that seen on coins stored in coin cabinets.

Copper/bronze/brass coins that have been cleaned have an unnatural color, often looking like a toned gold coin. Even after they retone, they tend it tends to be uneven and a slightly odd color (watch out for dark areas). See that red in the recesses of that VF copper coin? Not a good sign! Naturally toned, *circulated* copper tends to be very uniform in color, although they might be dark and dirty around the lettering and similar protected areas. Uncirculated copper may tone very unevenly (especially proofs), so do not automatically count this against such a coin.

Exactly the other way around, silver coins that have been cleaned tend to be extremely uniform in color after they retone, including the tops of the letters and protected areas. Silver coins with natural toning will usually show some variation in the color at these places. Be aware that a uniform slate gray color can be produced on silver very easily with a number of chemicals. Finally, a heavily toned and subsequently dipped silver coin will tend to have a gray appearance caused by surface roughness rather than tarnish. This can be detected by careful examination with a strong magnifier.

The ANA advises that sudden “hard line” changes in color do not occur on naturally toned coins. Naturally toned coins exhibit a gradual change in color or darkness. In any event, its mostly a matter of looking at a lot of coins and forming your own opinions. Assuming that you are buying coins for your personal collection, in the final say, it is *your opinion* that really matters.


11. How should I store my coins?

Environment

A relatively constant, moderate temperature and low humidity are preferable for long term storage of numismatic collectibles. Placing packets of silica gel in coin storage areas helps control atmospheric moisture.

Holders

Several types of “containers” for coins are available. Most anything will do for coins with little numismatic value, while nearly airtight holders made of inert materials are a good idea for valuable coins.

  • Bags, jars and boxes are adequate for pocket change and circulated bullion coins.
  • Paper envelopes of various sizes are sometimes used for one or more coins. Be sure to use envelopes made explicitly for holding coins, or your coins may change color (tone) over time due to reaction with sulfur or other chemicals present in the paper.
  • Various brands of folders and albums are sold for series and type sets. When properly used, they offer some protection from wear and handling. Over several years coins may tone due to reaction with sulfur or other chemicals present, and they are therefore not a good choice for long term storage of higher grade coins.
  • Plastic flips are available in various materials. “Soft” flips are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) which decomposes over time with disastrous results for coins. They are therefore not suitable for long term storage. Mylar and acetate flips do not contain PVC. However, they are hard (may scratch the coin if not inserted and removed carefully) and brittle. While not airtight, they are reasonable choices for moderate value coins that will be “left alone” for multiple years but less so for coins to be shipped or that will be removed and reinserted.
  • Mylar-lined cardboard, often called “2x2s” but also available in other sizes, are similar to plastic flips. A coin is placed between the two halves, which are then stapled together (some brands contain an adhesive).
  • Tubes are plastic containers designed to hold a number of the same size coins. They are fine for bulk storage of circulated coins and can be used for higher grade coins, provided the coins do not move. A disadvantage is that the coins cannot be viewed without being removed from the tube.
  • Hard plastic holders are preferable for more valuable coins. They are not known to contain any materials that harm coins and offer good protection against scratches and other physical damage. They are available for individual and small sets of coins.
  • Slabs are sonically sealed hard plastic holders for individual coins. They offer good (though still not perfect) protection. Because of the expense of having a coin slabbed, they are generally suitable only for more valuable coins.

12. Tools of the trade

What tools and other resources does a numismatist need? The answer depends on the material being collected and its value. At a minimum, collectors should have a magnifier and an applicable reference book, though someone collecting only coins from circulation may be able to get by without them. A comfortable location with a suitable light source for examining coins is also advisable.

All sorts of magnifiers are available. For grading, 4-10 times magnification is sufficient, with 7x magnification considered by many to be ideal. Collectors of die varieties need 10x magnification or more.

Anyone purchasing coins should own at least one general reference book with information on dates and mintmarks, major varieties, grading guidelines and prices. Additional references examining topics in more detail (e.g. grading, counterfeit detection or die varieties) are often useful. Periodicals will have more recent pricing information and news. Good reference works can pay for themselves several times over by helping you avoid bad decisions.

Recommended lighting for examining coins is an incandescent source of about 75 watts (higher if other light sources are in the room) located within half a meter of where you’ll hold the coins. Some people prefer halogen lamps, while fluorescent lights should be avoided. Find a comfortable location in your home where you won’t be frequently distracted.

Depending on the collector’s interests and value of the collectibles, other useful tools sometimes include a microscope, gloves, mask, velvet pad, additional references, metal detector, scale and/or photographic equipment.


13. How can I protect my collection from loss by fire or theft?

A number of precautions can be taken to minimize the possibility of loss by fire or theft. Which ones make sense depend on the value of the collection and the relative risks. Note that most homeowner insurance policies specifically exclude coins and other numismatic items from coverage. A rider can be obtained for an additional premium, or a separate policy can be obtained. ANA offers optional insurance for collections to its members. Maintain records about your collection and store a copy separately from the coins.

Most safes providing protection from fires do not provide very good protection from theft, and vice versa.

A fire can damage or destroy numismatic collectibles. Even if the flames don’t touch your coins, the heat may be sufficient to melt them. One option is to keep your collection in a home safe providing protection from fires. Another option is to keep the collection (or at least the most valuable parts) in a bank safe deposit box.

Top priority for preventing theft should be measures to prevent or dissuade a burglar from entering your home, such as lighting and locks. More extensive tips are available from law enforcement agencies. Consider storing your collection (or at least the most valuable parts) in a safe deposit box.

Be discrete about being a coin collector. Avoid telling anyone you don’t know well and trust, and when the subject does come up, be sure to mention that you keep the coins in a safe deposit box or the collection isn’t worth much (even if not strictly true). The more people you tell about your collection, the more likely that information will eventually reach the wrong person. If you regularly receive coins and/or promotional materials in the mail, consider getting a post office box and having all numismatically related mail sent there. (A PO box offers little additional security in the UK, where anyone can write to the PO to obtain the real address behind it.)


Internet Resources

14. Numismatic Newsgroups

Two newsgroups on the Usenet portion of the Internet exist for discussions of numismatic topics:

If you need help accessing these or other newsgroups, contact your service provider.

These groups are distributed just about everywhere in the world where Internet access is available, and articles are posted by participants from several countries. While most articles are written in English, posts in other languages are part of the international nature of the groups.

In addition to usual “netiquette” (see news.announce.newusers), please keep the following guidelines in mind when posting articles to these groups:

  1. Only write about subjects that are “on topic” for the group, as defined in the group’s charter (see below). Any area of numismatics is ok in rec.collecting.coins. Articles without numismatic relevance are not.
  2. When requesting information about a numismatic item, provide as much identifying information as possible, including (when known) what country issued it. Dollars, pennies, and many other denominations have been minted in multiple countries. Do not assume those who read your article will know which one you mean.
  3. Never post images or other binaries. It’s ok to post a text only article with an offer to send images by e-mail or to view them on a web site, and they may be posted to appropriate groups in the alt.binaries hierarchy.
  4. If posting about material you wish to sell, include “FS” (for sale) or “FA” (for auction) in the subject header, e.g. “FS: Ancient Greek Coins”
  5. If posting about material you wish to buy, include “WTB” (want to buy) in the subject header, e.g. “WTB: Early U.S. Proof Sets”
  6. Limit the number of buy and sell offers you post. One per day is generally accepted. More than 3 per day will get you a lot more enemies than customers. Combine announcements about coins you are interested in selling or acquiring into one post rather than separate posts for each item.
  7. Avoid reposting the same buy or sell offers too frequently. Once a week for the same announcement is plenty. Most news servers save articles for a week or more, and yours will still be there when each reader gets around to checking the group.

Charter for rec.collecting.coins

[from the “call for votes” during the proposed group creation in 1994]

rec.collecting.coins will be for the discussion of all things related to coin collecting. Suitable topics will include:

  • Tokens, currency, pattern, medal collecting
  • News relevant to coin collecting
  • Grading
  • Cleaning
  • Upcoming coin shows/programs
  • History behind coins
  • How not to get ripped off by dealers, mail order places, etc.
  • Book reviews
  • Rare finds in circulating currency
  • Questions about particular coins– identifying, appraising, etc.
  • Offers for trades, price lists, auctions

15. Numismatic Web sites

New numismatic WWW sites are appearing almost every week. Places where links are maintained include

Numerous registries and “search engines” such as Yahoo maintain databases of web sites. Search on “coin collecting” or other keyword(s) at these sites to get related web page listings.


16. Other numismatic resources available on computer networks

  • COINS mail list: a general numismatic e-mail list; offers to sell coins are expressly forbidden. To subscribe, e-mail coins-request@uni.edu with an empty subject header and only SUBSCRIBE COINS in the body of the message.
  • NUMISM-L mail list: a mail list for numismatics from its beginnings through the Middle Ages; offers to sell coins are expressly forbidden. To subscribe, e-mail LISTSERV@UNIVSCVM.CSD.SCAROLINA.EDU with an empty subject header and only SUBSCRIBE NUMISM-L your-real-name in the body of the message.
  • NumisLit mail list: a mail list about numismatic literature. To subscribe, send a blank e-mail toNumisLit-subscribe@listbot.com or visit the NumisLit web site and follow the instructions.
  • The American Numismatic Association (ANA) has a Web site and other on-line resources:
  • Compuserve collectibles forum
  • Delphi Coins & Currency Conference Area (GO CU 426 CON)

17. Are lists of coin values available online?

An online price guide for U.S. coins is available at the NumisMedia web site. An online price guide for U.K. coins is maintained by Tony Clayton.

Teletrade posts prices realized from their auctions.

Precious metals spot prices are available at Kitco Inc.


Coins as Investments

This material is not investment advice. It is only an introduction to coins sometimes purchased as investments and the risks inherent in this form of investing. More extensive research is advisable before making a decision to purchase any coins for investment purposes. The authors of this FAQ are not responsible in any manner or extent whatsoever for the results of any reader’s investment decisions.

18. Risks of investing in coins

All investments entail risks. While coin collecting is a rewarding hobby and is sometimes financially profitable, anyone purchasing coins with the expectation that they may be a good investment should understand and be prepared for the risks inherent in such investments.

Counterfeit and altered coins are not uncommon. Various techniques have been used to produce counterfeits. Some are deceptively realistic. Common coins have been altered to appear to be valuable collector coins, e.g. by adding a mintmark. Coins certified by one of the major grading and authentication services (see Slabs) offer a high degree of certainty for authenticity. In the absence of reliable independent authentication, the purchaser should know the diagnostics of genuine specimens of the coin and counterfeits.

Coin values often vary markedly with grade. The buyer must know if the coin is reasonably graded or has any problems, such as cleaning, to determine if the seller’s price is fair. The risk of overgraded and problem coins is reduced with certified coins and bullion coins (see topics below). However, the grade assigned by the certification service is only an opinion, and it is not uncommon to find certified coins which, in the opinions of other experts, are overgraded.

While markets for all commodities rise and fall, precious metal and coin prices can be particularly volatile. This volatility creates both opportunities for sizable returns and for dramatic losses. For example, in 1980 the price of gold peaked at more than $800 per ounce and the price of silver at more than $50 per ounce, approximately double and eight times, respectively, what they are today.

Also to be considered are buy/sell spreads and liquidity. Higher value rare coins are often sold at auction. It may take several weeks or months from contacting the auctioneer to receiving payment (less auctioneer’s commission). Coins can be purchased from or sold to a dealer much faster. The difference between dealer buy and sell prices can be substantially higher than the commissions charged by brokers for other types of investments. Therefore, a larger appreciation often must occur before coins can be sold at a profit.

Yet another risk is the possibility of material loss, such as by theft or fire. Storage in a bank vault or home safe may reduce (but not eliminate) this risk, but the added expense of such storage again increases the appreciation necessary before the coin(s) can be sold at a profit.

Because the risks of investing in coins are higher than for many other types of investments, they are not suitable at all for many investors. Even for those investors willing to accept higher risks in exchange for possibly greater returns, at most only a modest fraction of the portfolio (perhaps 5 to 15%) would be recommended by many investment advisors.


19. Bullion coins

Coins composed primarily of a precious metal and with no significant value beyond that of the metal are one form of bullion. Prices for bullion coins vary with the spot price of the metal. Many investors prefer coins to other forms of metals, such as bars, because coins do not need to be assayed when sold.

Several governments produce gold bullion coins. Examples include the South African Krugerrand, the Canadian Maple Leaf, the Chinese Panda, and the American Eagle. Each sells for a small premium above the value of the gold in the coin.

Silver and platinum bullion coins are also produced by some mints. For example, the U.S. mint has made Silver Eagles (containing one ounce of silver) each year since 1986. Uncirculated silver eagles sell at a premium above spot silver, generally ranging from $1.35 to $4.00 per coin (depending on quantity, dates and source).

Common date circulated silver coins are also bought and sold as bullion. U.S. dimes, quarters and half dollars dated 1964 or earlier are 90% silver and were made with 0.723 ounce of silver for each dollar in face value (as some metal may have been worn off from circulation, 0.715 ounce/dollar is often used to estimate the amount of silver still present). These coins were often melted and refined to other forms.


20. Rare coins

Investments in rare coins are made with the expectation that their numismatic value will increase. Technically, “rare” means very few examples are known (e.g. no more than 75 to earn that designation on the Sheldon Rarity Scale), but coins with much higher populations are sometimes promoted as “rare coin investments.”

Coins sometimes purchased for investment purposes include ancients, Morgan dollars, Walking Liberty halves and older gold coins. High grade coins are usually preferred.

An investor might include some rare coins in his or her portfolio if there is reason to expect demand from collectors and/or investors for those specific coins to increase. A savvy investor understands the risks inherent in coin investments and takes appropriate measures to minimize them.


Miscellaneous Topics

21. Numismatic Publications

A coin book bibliography is available at the Numismatic Bibliomania Society (www.coinbooks.org).

Reviews of several numismatic books, including many concerning specific coin series and other specializations, can be found at Mike Locke’s web site (http://users.scronline.com/lockem).

Descriptions of some of the books below and others are available on Chuck’s Books for Collectors web page.

Book list compiled by John Muchow from the suggestions of rec.collecting.coins participants.

Grading Guides
  • American Numismatic Association. Official A.N.A. Grading Standards for United States Coins, 5th ed., Whitman, 1996.
  • Ruddy, James F. Photograde, Bowers and Merena Galleries, 1990.
Price Guides
  • The Standard Catalog of World Coins by Chester L. Krause and Clifford Mishler. Four volumes, each covering a different century from 1601 to 2000. Each identifies and lists prices for coins from around the world.
  • “The Red Book” (officially titled A Guide Book of United States Coins), which is published annually, is a commonly used retail price guide with a wealth of other useful information.
  • More frequently published retail prices for U.S. coins are available in Coin World, Coin Prices and Coin Age, which may be found at many newsstands, supermarkets, etc.
  • The principal price guide in dealer to dealer transactions is the Coin Dealer Newsletter, popularly known as “the Greysheet.” CDN also publishes the Bluesheet, which lists sight unseen prices for certified coins, and the Greensheet, which covers paper money. You don’t have to be a dealer to get these publications, but they’re ordinarily available only by subscription.
  • A Handbook of United States Coins, commonly known as “the Blue Book,” is another guide dealers sometimes consult when buying U.S. coins from the public
  • Numismatic News, which is available at many magazine and coin shops, publishes prices for all 3 levels (dealer buy, bid and retail).
General Numismatic
  • Official Guide to Coin Grading and Counterfeit Detection, published by Professional Coin Grading Service.
  • The Coin Collector’s Survival Manual, by Scott A. Travers.
  • One-Minute Coin Expert, also by Scott Travers.
  • Let’s Collect Coins, by Ken Bressett.
  • The U.S. Mint and Coinage, by Don Taxay.
  • The Art and Craft of Coinmaking, by Denis Cooper.
  • Numismatic Art in America, by Cornelius Vermeule.
  • Coin Clinic – 1,001 Frequently Asked Questions, by Alan Herbert, Krause Publications, 1995.
General U.S.
  • Walter Breen’s Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins, by Walter Breen.
  • The Comprehensive U.S. Silver Dollar Encyclopedia, by John W. Highfill.
  • Commemorative Coins of the U.S. by Anthony Swiatek.
  • United States Coins by Design Types, An Action Guide for the Collector and Investor, by Q. David Bowers.
  • United States Copper Coins, An Action Guide for the Collector and Investor, by Q. David Bowers
  • United States Three-Cent and Five Cent Pieces, An Action Guide for the Collector and Investor, by Q. David Bowers.
  • United States Dimes, Quarters, and Half Dollars, An Action Guide for the Collector and Investor, by Q. David Bowers.
  • United States Type Coins, by Norman Stack.
  • The Coin World Encyclopedia
  • A History of United States Coinage, as Illustrated by the Garrett Collection, by Bowers.
  • The Cherrypicker’s Guide to Rare Die Varieties, 3rd. ed. by Bill Fivaz and J.T. Stanton, Bowers and Merena Galleries, 1994.
  • The Error Coin Encyclopedia, 2nd ed., by Arnold Margolis.
Early U.S.
  • Encyclopedia of U.S. Half Cents, by Walter Breen.
  • Early United States Dimes 1796 – 1837, by Davis, Logan, Lovejoy, McCloskey, and Subjack.
  • Fractional Money, by Neil Carothers.
  • Earlier Half Dollars Die Varieties, by Al Overton.
  • Bust Half Fever, 1807-1836, by Edgar Souders.
  • The Early Quarter Dollars of the United States, 1796-1838, by A.W.Browning, completely updated by Walter Breen, c.1992.
World
  • Coins of England and The United Kingdom (Standard Catalogue of British Coins), by H.A. and P.J. Seaby
  • The Charlton Standard Catalog of Canadian Coins.
  • Standard Catalog of German Coins, compiled by N. Douglas Nicol.
  • European Crowns and Thalers (various vols), by Davenport.
  • Coins of the World 1750 -1850, by Craig.
  • Monnaies Francaises, by Gadoury.
Ancient
  • A Handbook of Ancient Coin Collecting, by Klawans.
  • Ancient Coin Collecting, Volumes 1-6, by Wayne Sayles.
  • Roman Coins and Their Values, by David Sears.
  • Guide to Biblical Coins, by David Hendin.
Periodicals
  • The Celator (ancients), P.O. Box 123, Lodi, WI 53555
  • Coin World, P.O. Box 4315, Sidney, OH 45365. 1-800-253-4555.
  • Numismatic News, Circulation Dept., 700 E. State St., Iola, WI, 54990. 1-800-258-0929.
  • World Coin News, published bi-weekly by Krause Publications, 1-800-258-0929.
  • Coins Magazine, published monthly by Krause Publications, 1-800-258-0929.
  • Coin Prices, published bi-monthly by Krause Publications, 1-800-258-0929.
  • Bank Note Reporter, published monthly by Krause Publications, 1-800-258-0929.
  • The Numismatist, published monthly by the American Numismatic Association. A subscription is included in most membership categories.
  • COINage, 4880 Market St. Ventura, CA 93003. Phone: 805-644-3875
  • Canadian Coin News (CCN), 103 Lakeshore Rd. Suite 202, St. Catherines, ON L2N 2T6 Canada
  • Coin News, Published monthly by Token Publishing Limited, 105 High Street, Honiton, Devon, UK, EX14 8PE.


22. What are proof coins? What’s the difference between the various proof sets offered in recent

years by the U.S. mint?

Proof coins are specially manufactured for sale at a premium to collectors and sometimes for exhibition or for presentation as a gift or award. Proofs are generally distinguishable from ordinary coins by their mirrorlike fields, frosty devices (especially in recent years) and extra sharp details.

To obtain these qualities, each proof coin die is polished to produce an extremely smooth surface and used for a limited number of coins. Planchets are hand fed to the coin press, where they are struck at a higher than ordinary pressure. Struck coins are removed by hand with gloves or tongs. Modern proof coins are usually packaged in clear plastic to protect them from handling, moisture, etc.

For many years the U.S. Mint has sold annual sets of proof coins. These “regular” proof sets usually contain one proof coin of each denomination minted. In 1983, 1984 and 1986-97, Prestige Sets were also sold. Prestige Sets include all the coins in the regular set, plus one or two commemorative coins issued the same year. Since 1992, the Mint has also offered Silver Proof Sets, which include 90% silver versions of the proof dime, quarter(s) and half dollar. From 1992 through 1998, the Mint also offered a Premier Silver Proof Set. The two types of silver proof sets contain the same coins, with the premier set housing them in fancier packaging.


23. What are slabs?

A certified coin, or slab, is a coin that has been authenticated, graded and encased in a sonically sealed, hard plastic holder by a professional certification service. The holder affords protection from subsequent wear or damage but is not airtight and therefore will not prevent toning. Because any tampering with the holder will be obvious, it also prevents replacing the certified coin with something else.

Counterfeit and altered coins slabbed by major certification services are not unknown but are uncommon. The authenticity of a coin may be guaranteed by the company that slabbed it. Therefore, a coin slabbed by a major certification service offers some protection, especially when fakes are known to exist and the prospective buyer is not able to reliably determine its authenticity.

Some certification services will not slab coins that have been altered, whizzed, cleaned (dipping is often acceptable), artificially toned or otherwise damaged. Others slab the coin and identify the problem on the label.

Grades are opinions. The same coin may receive different grades if submitted to different services or even if “cracked out” and resubmitted to the same service. Furthermore, grading standards for some uncirculated coins have changed since slabs were first produced (1986), so a coin in an early slab may may receive a different grade if resubmitted now. The grade indicated on a slab represents the opinions of no more than a few persons who examined the coin at the time it was submitted, and not the final word on the subject. As a result, slabbed coins given identical grades may have different market values. Whenever possible, buy the coin, not the holder.

Companies that slab coins include (in alphabetical order)

Prices range from $7.50 to $175.00 per coin, depending on the service and turnaround time, plus shipping costs in both directions.

The skills and equipment needed to encapsulate coins in slab-like holders can be acquired more easily than the expertise needed to accurately authenticate and grade coins. Holders from the services listed above are not the only types that appear in the marketplace. However, slabs from some “services” may not be regarded by experienced numismatists as legitimate and may not even be backed by a guarantee of the coin’s authenticity. Learning about the service’s reputation and soliciting other opinions about a coin’s condition may save you from paying considerably more than its true market value.

24. How can coins be removed from slabs?

Coins can be removed from NGC, ANACS, PCI etc. holders without great difficulty. An even simpler technique works for PCGS holders. Wear safety glasses or goggles when performing either method!

General Method

Tools required: vise, hammer, chisel; safety glasses or goggles Method: Secure the slab in the vise along either long side. The vise should overlap only enough plastic to ensure that the holder is secured (1/4 inch or so). Tighten as necessary to avoid slab movement while you’re using the hammer and chisel. Position the chisel in the seam between the two pieces of plastic near the upright corner further from the coin. Carefully tap the chisel with the hammer until the plastic pieces separate. Ideally, the chisel will wedge between the two pieces and can be used to pry them completely apart. Carefully remove the coin from the separated/fragmented plastic.

PCGS

Tools required: lineman’s pliers or wire cutters; safety glasses or goggles Method: Position the pliers along either long side of the slab at the middle of the coin such that the cutting edges are outside the edge of the coin. Squeeze forcefully. The plastic will crack across the entire width of the holder. Carefully separate the plastic pieces and remove the coin.


25. What metals have been used to make coins?

Tony Clayton provides extensive information at http://www.tclayton.demon.co.uk/metal.html.


26. What’s the best way to send coins to someone?

Here are some tips for packaging, addressing and shipping coins.

Packaging

Coins should be packaged securely for shipping. Any stapled holders should have the staples flattened with a pair of pliers before packaging. Safe-T-Mailers, which are sold at many coin shops, are useful for a small number of flips, 2x2s, similar holders or slabs. You can also cut pieces of corrugated cardboard and sandwich coins in these holders between them (make sure they cannot slide out). The Postal Service does not allow “irregularly shaped” objects to be sent in “regular” size envelopes. If your “sandwich” is not much thicker than a greeting card, a letter or legal size paper envelope may work. Otherwise, use a padded envelope (if not shipping by registered mail) or box the coins.

For larger quantities of individual holders, bundle them tightly together with rubber bands. When shipping rolls of coins in plastic tubes, place a small piece of foam, cotton or bubble wrap in the end to prevent the coins from moving and seal the cap in place with a piece of tape. Place bundles of 2x2s, tubes, and multi-coin holders (e.g. proof sets) in a sturdy box. Use bubble wrap, foam, styrofoam peanuts or newspaper to completely fill extra space, ideally with some padding between the contents and every side of the box.

Addressing

To reduce the chances of the package being stolen, do not use any words in the address or return address suggesting it may contain something valuable. Omit words like Coin and Gold or abbreviate. For example, use XYZ Company rather than XYZ Coin Company and AGE, Inc. rather than Antarctic Gold Emporium, Inc.

Shipping

Mail, rather than a private courier such as UPS, is generally preferable for shipping coins. Some couriers will not insure packages containing coins. Different types of mail service are available, and the best one depends on the value of the package. For packages delivered by the U.S. Postal Service, options include first class, third class, priority mail and registered mail.

For packages worth $600 or less, first class mail may be sufficient. If the package weighs under 13 ounces, third class may cost a few cents less. Packages weighing up to 2 pounds can be sent by priority mail to a U.S. address (including APO) for $3.00. Insurance is additional. A package can be insured for up to $50 insurance at a cost of 75 cents. This form of insurance does not require a signature by the recipient. “Blue label” insurance, which is available for packages valued at up to $5000, is supposed to require a signature for delivery. The fee starts at $1.60 for up to $100 of insurance, and is more for higher insured values. The USPS will not accept a claim for non-delivery of an insured package until 30 days after it was sent.

Registered mail is the safest way to ship valuables and the only way to insure for more than $5000. A registered package must be signed for by every postal employee who handles it, as well as the recipient. Postal regulations prohibit padded envelopes and all but paper tape (which does not include masking tape) for registered shipments. For packages valued at more than $400, registered mail may be cheaper than first class mail with insurance!

Nothing is gained by using certified mail for coins or other valuables, and return receipts are only useful for proving that the addressee received the package. If the package is sent by registered mail or is insured for more than $50, it must be signed for on receipt anyway.

UK Supplement to sending coins through the post.

Contributed by Andrew D N Andison (Andrew@dorothy.demon.co.uk)

The British postal service is still an extremely safe way of sending anything, including coins. There are of course some things you can do to ensure that everything arrives safely. All the above information on packaging should be followed. Ideally padded envelopes should be used to and the coins placed more than 40mm from the top edge (the franking machine and coins don’t mix).

For low value packages of a few pounds (value) either first or second class is fine. There is no compensation if it does get lost. The only advantage to using recorded delivery is that someone has to sign for the package at the destination – that is all – coins are specifically excluded from this service.

For anything more valuable then use registered (or registered plus) post. This offers compensation of up to 500 pounds (or 2200 pounds) as appropriate. Oh, and by the way, next day delivery is guaranteed.

Make sure that anything send by registered post is clearly identified as numismatic specimens otherwise compensation may be paid on the face value of coins. Documentation both in with the coins and sent under separate cover is extremely useful if you ever have to make a compensation claim.


27. Clubs and other collector organizations

Local coin club listings are available on the ANA web site. Here are several specialty, regional and international organizations.

  • Active Token Collectors Organization
    P.O.Box 1573
    Sioux Falls, SD 57101
  • American Nickel Collectors Association
    Michael Wescott
    736-D St. Andrews Road, Suite 163
    Columbia, SC 29210
  • American Numismatic Association (ANA)
    818 North Cascade Avenue
    Colorado Springs, CO 80903-3279
    telephone 719/632-2646, FAX 719/634-4085
  • Ancient Numismatic Collectors
    P.O. Box 954
    Fowlerville, Michigan 48836
  • Barber Coin Collectors Society
    Stephen Epstien
    P.O. Box 382246
    Memphis, TN 38183-2246
  • Bust Half Nut Club
    David Finkelstein
    P.O. Box 87641
    Canton, MI 48187
    Email: dfinkel@mediaone.net
  • Canadian Numismatic Association (CNA)
    P.O. Box 226
    Barrie, Ontario, Canada L4M 4T2
  • Classical & Medieval Numismatic Society
    P.O. Box 956, Station B
    Willowdale, ON
    M2K 2T6
    Canada
  • Colonial Coin Collectors Club (C4)
    Mr. Angel Pietri (Treasurer)
    1560 Manchester Blvd.
    Fort Myers, FL 33919
    e-mail: 73562.3131@compuserve.com
  • Colorado-Wyoming Numismatic Association
    P.O. Box 102136
    Denver, CO 80250
  • Combined Organizations of Numismatic Error Collectors of America (CONECA)
    James Wiles
    9017 Topperwind Ct.
    Fort Worth, TX 76134-5501
    e-mail: jwiles@flash.net
  • Early American Coppers, Inc. (EAC)
    c/o Rod Burress
    P.O. Box 15782
    Cincinnati, Ohio 45215
  • Fly-In Club (Flying Eagle and Indian Cents)
    P.O. Box 257
    Seahurst, WA 98062
  • Full Step Jefferson Nickel Club
    Susan and Rich Sisti
    P.O. Box 363
    Newfoundland, NJ 07435
  • John Reich Collectors Society
    P.O. Box 135
    Harrison, OH 45030
  • Liberty Seated Collectors Club
    John McCloskey
    5718 King Arthur Drive
    Kettering, OH 45429
  • National Token Collectors Association
    Membership Chairman
    P.O. Box 4221
    Oak Ridge, TN 37831
  • New England Numismatic Association (NENA)
    P.O. Box 3003
    Nashua, NH 03061-3003
  • The Original Hobo Nickel Society
    Gail “Bo-ette” Kraljevich
    P.O. Box 43
    Malvern, PA 19355
  • Society for U.S. Commemorative Coins
    Helen Carmody
    P.O. Box 302
    Huntington Beach, CA 92648
  • Society of Lincoln Cent Collectors
    Dr. Sol Taylor
    13515 Magnolia Blvd.
    Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
  • Society of Private and Pioneer Numismatics (SPPN)
    c/o Dave Showers
    P.O. Box 4423
    Davis, CA 95617-4423
  • Society of Silver Dollar Collectors
    Jeff Oxman
    P.O. Box 2132
    Sepulveda, CA 91313
  • Standing Liberty Quarter Collectors Society (SLQCS)
    P.O. Box 14762
    Albuquerque, NM 87191-4762
  • Texas Numismatic Association
    P.O. Box 14711
    Austin, TX 78761-4711
  • Token & Medal Society
    David E. Schenkman
    P.O. Box 366
    Bryantown, MD 20617
  • Token Corresponding Society (British tokens)
    tokens@dorothy.demon.co.uk

Coin Collecting FAQ written by Chuck D’Ambra, Mike Locke, Michael Caver, Andrew Andison, Mike Marotta, Andrew Tumber, John Muchow, Tony Clayton, Clint Cummins, Lou Coles and Mike Dworetsky.

FAQ Maintained and Master Copy is Hosted by:

Chuck D’Ambra Coins

This FAQ may be copied for noncommercial use provided that this notice and all credits to the authors are included unmodified.