Starting a collection can seem overwhelming at first…
The decision to start a coin collection is one that’s sure to be fulfilling, and may even be deeply personal to you. I know that the task can seem overwhelming at first – there’s so much beauty and history behind each coin series, and so many different kinds to choose from – but don’t give up hope! The good news is that because the possibilities are endless, it doesn’t matter which direction you choose – regardless, your collection will be as unique as you are, and it will be the perfect fit for you!
Step 1: Find your passion
Where are you feeling the biggest draw? Many collectors start with a popular series like the Lincoln cent. But maybe you prefer the beauty and artistry of classic coins, many of which were struck in precious silver or gold… Or, if you’re looking for a simple way to learn about different countries around the globe, consider world coins! Paper money is another great area, offering both the joy of collecting and – especially on older U.S. notes – beautifully detailed art.
The best part? It doesn’t matter what you choose. You’re building this collection for you – and only you can determine what it is that you’re passionate about!
Step 2: Decide how to achieve your goal
Now that you’ve decided what you want to collect, it’s time to decide how you want to collect! Again, your options are wide open – but the main ways people choose to start are:
By Type – Do you like cents? Start there and build a collection that holds each small-size cent design ever issued. It would have one coin from each series – Flying Eagle, Indian Head, and Lincoln (a series that can be further divided by its various reverse designs – Wheat Ears, Memorial, Bicentennial and Union Shield).
Another kind of Type Collection features the various coin designs issued during a specific time period. For example, a 20th-Century Type Set would hold one coin of each denomination and design issued from 1900-1999.
By series – if there’s a specific series (like Lincoln cents or Buffalo nickels) that you’re fond of, you can start there. The simplest form of a series collection is the Year Set – one coin from each year a series was issued. For Lincoln cents, that would be one coin from each year, 1909-date.
Once you’ve finished a Year Set, you can expand to a complete date and mint mark collection. With that, you’d own all the coins struck for a series – every date and every mint mark.
By design theme – a number of themes recur on America’s coin designs. Liberty is one of the most popular, as is our country’s national symbol – the Bald Eagle. You can vary your collection to any theme you like!
By specific date span – many collectors like to honor a specific year span when building their collection. Perhaps your parent or grandparent fought in World War II, and you’d like to honor them with a collection of coins from the war years. Or maybe you grew up in the ’60s, and are feeling nostalgic for coins from that era! Here’s yet another opportunity where you can create a collection that’s tailored to your needs.
Organization is key!
Step 3: Get organized!
Finally, you’ll want to consider how you plan to organize and store your collection. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen coins stored in random jars or boxes, left in hot, dry attics or damp basements smelling of mildew… these are all HUGE no-nos. There are a lot of safe coin and paper money storage options out there to choose from – and not one of them involves the old coffee can that you’ve had kicking around for a while!
There are a number of manufacturers, including Littleton, that offer archival-quality storage solutions for your coin collection. If you’re looking for ideas, this online Supply section is a wonderful place to browse. Personally, I prefer the easy-to-use folders – they fit beautifully on my bookshelf at home, and they’re fun enough that my young daughter loves to help when it’s time to add new Presidential dollars and National Park quarters at the end of each year.
When handling your coins, always hold them by the edges. Even though it might not seem like a big deal, touching the obverse and reverse surfaces can leave behind oils from your fingers. Over time, those oils can damage your coins. If you’re worried about safely handling your coins, a simple pair of cotton gloves will offer excellent protection.
Oh, and one last important thing to remember – don’t try to clean your coins! Each piece represents an important place in history. Things like marks and coloring are a key part of that past – and trying to remove them can take away some of the coin’s intrinsic value.
Best of luck! I’d love to hear about your collection and how it’s growing – please leave a comment below and let me know!