Valuable Coins - It All Depends

By David W. Baker

If someone mentions coin collecting, what comes to mind?

Valuable coins, right?

You may be thinking, “Coin collectors must have a lot of money to have a collection of… MONEY! Could I make money with coins?”

Or, “What’s the big deal? Most of the coins I see all look the same.”

Maybe instead, “When I saw my cousin’s coin collection I was amazed he could own so many that were so old, and from so many different places.”

Or even, “I know someone who made the down payment on his first car with one coin from his collection!”

“I wonder who had that old silver dollar in his pocket? If only that coin could talk!”

“If I could have just one old coin… I’d want it to be an old GOLD coin!”

“Hey, what’s that famous rare penny? A VDB something or other?”

And so forth and so on.

Everyone knows that coins have value. They’re money. You can spend them, or save them, or jam them into a Coinstar machine at the grocery store for some folding money. But when we learn that there are people who have a hobby of carefully building a collection of coins, a whole new perception of these small, ever present metal disks comes into being. Coin collectors are (sometimes) normal people in every other way.

Except that they have this strong interest, some might say obsession, with finding and acquiring odd little pieces of copper, silver, nickel, and even gold. And not only do these coin collectors add coins to their collections, they pick up all sorts of information –knowledge – not just about the coins, but how and why they were made, and beyond that, who and what was happening in the time and place they first appeared.

Coin collectors always have a story to tell. And they seem to do real well in school – especially when it comes to history, but also in economics, or even math.

OK, so it’s fun to collect coins. But these coins, and these collections… are they valuable? Are they worth real money?

It all depends on what your interest is. A coin is always worth at least its “face value”. For example, a penny bears the words “One Cent”. At minimum, it will be worth one cent, or as we say, a “penny.”

If scarce, or in excellent condition, or both, a coin may have a much higher value as a collector piece. This will be especially true if the coin is collected by a large group of people – the collector base – whose interest is fed by a strong body of literature, or a colorful connection to history.

And remember, if a coin is scarce (few were minted or few have survived) and if it is in excellent condition, AND in demand by collectors over a substantial number of years, AND you can identify the current market value and purchase the coin at approximately that value, well then, you have what will likely be a profitable coin investment.

But be prepared to hold the coin for at least 5 years. Ten would be better. Time does good things to a coin’s value – especially if it meets all of the above criteria.

The good news is that collectors vary in their approach to the hobby. And no one can say that another collector has it wrong!

I've collected coins since age 11 - so, more than half a century. Coins have been a pleasant distraction over the years. Though I've never been a coin dealer, I have occasionally sold a coin or two at a nice profit, when the market was right. These experiences have taught me a bit about coin value in the marketplace. But I have to say that my greatest pleasure with coins has been the hooks they have to history and other areas of learning. And, I can never quite get beyond the feeling that, if any of my coins could talk, the stories would be priceless!

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