How do I begin collecting?

Question: What is the best tip for beginner coin collectors and why?

Answer: That’s a tough question, because by saying one tip is the best, it forces you to rule out others. I’ve thought about this question for some time and while I’m sure there are dozens of answers, for the sake of being concise, I’m going to give just one.

The short answer is to learn about coins.

What I mean by that is to study and research all you can about the history of coins, because without that knowledge you’re just collecting discs of metal. If you know the reasons why certain coins are rare it makes history come alive for you. In order to learn more, you’re either going to have to study online, check some books out of the library or talk with someone who knows about coin collecting and can steer you in the right direction.

If you want to begin you study of coin collecting online, here are a few links that will be helpful.

A US Coin Gallery - This will give you a quick overview of the US coins that were minted within the past 200 years. You can pick and choose the ones you want to learn more about.

How to Grade US Coins - Jim Halperin wrote this book a while back and has made it available for free online. If you’re going to start collecting coins, you’ll want to be confident that you’re buying coins of a certain grade. Unless you restrict yourself to slabbed coins (coins that have been graded by a third-party grading service) you’ll want to be able to grade coins yourself.

As for books, there are too many to mention. Here are a few popular coin books at Amazon. Any one of those would be a good start in learning about coins.

Lastly, finding a knowledgeable numismatist. The best way to find someone is to join a coin club. The ANA used to have an excellent directory, but now they’ve made it private so you have to be a member to use it. I’m really disappointed with how their web site is becoming progressively less and less useful. Thank goodness for the internet archive because they have a copy of the old club directory by state.

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