Collecting and Handling Coins
How to Collect Coins
A coin collection can be whatever an individual wants it to be. Collect what you like and what brings you pleasure as a leisure-time hobby. It’s also good to have a strategy and a road map to your collecting pursuits. Thus, following are some tips and comments on traditional collecting strategies.
By series. The traditional coin-collecting pursuit of acquiring one example of each date and mintmark within a particular series may seem daunting at first considering the vast scope of world coins. Some denominations and designs within those denominations span several decades or even a century or more.
To get started, a collector can break down a series into smaller parts. For example, a collector interested in Lincoln cents can start with those depicting the Lincoln Memorial on the reverse, which begin in 1959. A collector can also get started by collecting simply one date of each Lincoln Memorial cent rather than seeking an example of every mintmark of a particular date.
By type. Rather than seeking an example of every date and mintmark within a series, many collectors seek just one example of each type of coin within a particular focus. For example, a collector assembling a 20th century type set of U.S. 5-cent coins would seek one Liberty nickel, one Buffalo nickel, and one Jefferson nickel. The representative coins could be of any date and mintmark within each series, thus accommodating any collecting budget.
By country. Collectors sometimes focus on coins of a particular country because of some emotional nexus with that land. It may have been their ancestors’ homeland, or they may simply like the coin designs and history of a particular country.
By region. A coin collection can also focus on a particular continent or geographic region, such as Europe, the Middle East, or Southeast Asia.
By empire. A coin collection can be a virtual history book of an empire. It can document the dates of an empire’s rise to power, the reigns of monarchs, and changes in political entities.
By era. Some collectors focus on coins of a particular era. It could be a certain century or decade, the reign of a certain monarch, an era with personal significance to a collector, or an important historical time.
One per country. Another common collecting strategy is to acquire one example of the coinage of as many countries as possible. Narrowing the focus here could include a particular geographic region, century, or era.
By theme. The proliferation of modern commemorative and circulating commemorative coins gave rise to collecting coins with a common theme. Examples include coins that depict animals or ships, coins from one or more countries that commemorate a certain event, or coins of a certain date, such as 2000.
By collector’s choice. Various aspects of the listed strategies overlap and can be combined and mixed to form a goal that interests an individual collector. The result should be a coin collection that is affordable and attainable for the collector, and a collection that brings enjoyment and satisfaction.
How to Handle Coins
The less coins are handled, the better. Dirty, oily hands – even if they appear to be clean – lead to dirty, oily coins. Oftentimes, however, coins have to be handled, particularly when searching circulating coins or when transferring a coin to a holder. When it is necessary to handle a coin, it should be held by the edges between the thumb and forefinger. Avoid contact with the coin’s obverse and reverse surfaces.
Also, handle coins over a soft surface so they will not be damaged if accidentally dropped.
Should I clean my coins? No.
Luster is an important aspect when grading certain highend coins, but in general, a coin’s grade and its corresponding value depend on the amount of wear on the coin, not how shiny it is. Cleaning – particularly home-brewed methods – is often abrasive and will damage a coin rather than improve it.
There may be certain instances when it is desirable to clean a coin, but that is best left to experienced opinions as to when and how.