Littleton Coin Company

Top tips to fully enjoy your coin collection!

How to get more from your hobby…

As any experienced collector will tell the more you know about your coins, the more you’ll enjoy and appreciate them. Each coin series, and each issue within a series, has its own unique story to tell.

Red Book and coins - Littleton Coin Blog

Use resources like guides and books to discover interesting facts about coin dates and series.

Perhaps you own a coin from the first year of a series. Before those first coins were struck, the new series had to be approved by Congress, a design had to be chosen from various proposals, and trial strikes had to be conducted to determine the suitability of the design for coinage production. All of these behind-the-scenes procedures can be intriguing sagas…

#1 Discover the stories behind your coins

Despite the careful preparations for a new series, modifications are often made to the earliest coins. The original Lincoln cents boldly displayed designer Victor David Brenner’s V.D.B. initials on the reverse. But objections that the initials were too prominent soon brought their removal, and the original 1909 V.D.B. Lincoln cent became one of America’s most famous coins.

The first Buffalo nickels featured a bison standing on a raised mound inscribed FIVE CENTS. But the inscription wore away quickly with handling, so FIVE CENTS was placed in a protective recessed area and the prominent 1938 Variety 1 Buffalo nickel was created. The first Standing Liberty quarters in 1916 were artistically acclaimed – until criticism arose over Liberty’s exposed right breast. She was “covered up” in early 1917 and the “scandalous” Variety 1 Standing Liberty quarter was born!

#2 Learn about mintage figures and scarcity

The value of a coin is directly related to how many of the issue exist today – though popularity of the design, composition, denomination and age are also factors. A coin may be significantly scarce because it was struck in limited quantities, or because few were saved or have survived from their time of issue.

As an LCC copywriter, the first place I look to learn more about a U.S. coin I’m writing about is the latest issue of the Red Book – A Guide Book of United States Coins – which offers fast, easy access to mintage figures and relative valuations for each date, mint mark and variety in a series.

#3 Explore history associated with your coins

Series of coins as well as individual issues within a series can have special historical significance for a variety of reasons. Here are just a few examples:

  • Short-lived bronze Two-Cent Pieces of 1864-1873 and nickel Three Cent Pieces of 1865-1889 were the result of a Civil War-era coin shortage and are prized mementoes from that challenging period.
  • Open Red book with Nickel - Littleton Coin Blog

    Stories add to the coin’s value – and make them fun to talk about.

    All 1909 coins with “O” mint marks are from the final year of the New Orleans Mint and are important artifacts from that historic facility. Visit for more about the former gulf coast mint.

  • Jefferson nickels of mid-1942 through 1945 were struck in a 35% silver alloy to save the strategic metal nickel for the war effort and are popular WWII collectibles see (silver wartime nickels).
  • Coins dated 1859 are from the year the fabulous Comstock silver lode was discovered in western Nevada (1889 Indian Head cent), coins with 1969 dates recall the first men to walk on the moon (1969 U.S. Mint Set), and coins struck in 2000 mark the turn of a new century (first-year-of-issue 2000 Sacagawea dollar P&D set).
  • Because coins display their year of issue, they are among the few dated keepsakes from specific years in history.

#4 How to learn more about your coins

There are many different numismatic or historical reasons that coins or bank notes in your collection may hold more interest than first meets the eye. So how do you go about learning what might be significant or intriguing about your coins? Here are a few suggestions…

Books and Site - Littleton Coin Blog

Finding information on coins is as easy as searching the web, visiting your local bookstore or library.

Consult “the bible” about each U.S. coin. The Red Book, Whitman Publishing’s annually updated U.S. coin guide book, is nicknamed “the coin collector’s bible” and will be found at the fingertips of every experienced collector as well as every member of the LCC writing team. The Red Book contains general information about each series, mintage figures and valuations for every date, mint mark and major variety, and enlarged images of mint mark locations as well as each variety. These images are essential to properly identify coins you own and coins you may wish to purchase.

Build your own numismatic library. While the Red Book provides a good overview of U.S. coins, experienced collectors look to more in-depth reference books for important information about specific issues and varieties. Whitman’s Official Red Book Series by noted numismatic experts also offers fully illustrated collecting guides to individual series of U.S. coins, such as their Guide Book of Morgan Silver Dollars. If you also collect paper currency, check out Whitman’s Guide Book of United States Paper Money. Many other excellent specialized books are available and may be of interest to you (visit CoinWeek/Numismatic Books).

Visit respected numismatic websites. There are many online resources where collectors can learn about coins and currency – including the American Numismatic Association and Littleton’s extensive Learn Center at Numismatic forums where collectors can ask specific questions about coins or bank notes include Coin Talk, Coin Community, Coin People and Coin Network.

Discover America’s year-by-year history. Several websites feature year-by-year listings of significant historical events and range from brief to remarkably comprehensive. You can also find books that feature U.S. or world history timelines in any local library or bookstore. So you can easily discover the important and memorable things that happened when coins in your collection were struck!

I hope you enjoy the background information that Littleton’s writing staff provides for each coin, bank note or set featured in our catalogs and special mailings, and that it whets your appetite to learn more about coins and currency in your collection. You’ll enjoy your coins and bank notes all the more, and you’ll become a more discerning and knowledgeable collector.

Please share your thoughts and recommendations for learning about coins and currency with other collectors.

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