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So you want to be a coin collector? Advice for newbies

46 posts in this topic

Grading companies have different standards and there are distributions of quality within a single company's holders. Don't buy Accugrade - their standards are not appropriate. In the long run, most people lose money on coins but those that do make money are the ones that read a lot, learned about their series, bought quality coins for just a bit more and held them for a long, long time!

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On the topic of 3rd party grading...


Many people feel that 3rd party grading is a good thing for the hobby. However, the newbie should realize that all that glitters is not gold.


First of all, 3rd party grading is not a not-for-profit public service. It is an unregulated business, and has all the consumer traps and pitfalls. Apply caveat emptor liberally, as there is considerable variance in warranty, accuracy, price, consistency with ANA standards, market reputation and quality of the actual plastic holder.


Second, with all firms, grading standards change over time. Sometimes standards loosen, and other times will tighten. The periods of change is inconsistent amongst the various firms, and may even vary depending on the series.


Third, even during a period of static standards, there is variability in the accuracy of grading. Remember that grading has been, is and will always be an art and not a science.


Four, however one defines ``better,'' a firm that is better now may not be better a couple of years from now.


Five, market perception is frequently not a good way to determine current quality of product or firm. Remember that marketing is intended to drive up the cost of goods and services. So, a heavily marketed product or firm may be overpriced or overvalued.


Six, with all this built-in fallability to the system, you should always buy the coin and not the holder; you should buy eye appeal; and, you should learn how to grade and assess a coin yourself.




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Here's my contribution


#10 - "Fishing lure" is insider-slang for anything you don't collect


#9 - "Buy the Coin not the Holder" is an often repeated bit of wisdom and common sense. It is not only wholly true, but it also has an additional benefit. If you would like to sound like you know what you're talking about, you may safely post this comment in reply to just about any thread on the boards and then nod knowingly. It may take you years to perfect your ability to buy the coin rather than the holder, but in the meantime, you can start reaping the rewards of the phrase immediately on the message boards. wink.gif


#8 - Toning is good. No, it's bad! No, it's good! No, it's bad! (fist fight ensues)


#7 - Always leave ebay feedback for both your sellers and your buyers. If you don't, the Numismatic Ebay Fairy will turn you into a pumpkin or something.


#6 - You may safely make up any abbreviation that contains any of the following letters: N P A G C S N E. Any combination of 3 or 4 of these will be a fairly believable invention of the name of any type of coin related company. Do this often and claim that everyone knows about this company - it's funny.


#5 - Don't spread yourself too thin. Focus on one series until you're good at it before moving on. I suggest fishing lures.


#4 - Modern coins are great. No, they're ! No, they're great! No, they're ! (fist fight ensues)


#3 - Buy a scanner. Now. No, now! Go on, get in your car! If you don't buy a scanner, everyone will whine about not being able to see your coins. Don't you want to share, you selfish schlub?!?! wink.gif


#2 - Slabs are for sissies. Real collectors crack all their coins out and keep them in an old pickle jar in their closet. (Ok, that was a joke. Do NOT keep your coins in an old pickle jar. The pickle residue is corrosive. Keep them in an old coffee can. After all, we have to be numismatically responsible here.)


#1 - The most important thing about collecting is that you enjoy your collecting. As long as you have that going for yourself, you may be serenely confident that you're doing the biggest thing right. Even if the only coin in your Certified Registry database is an 1875 Water Girl.





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1) For the sake of this hobby and for your own benefit, try not to become plastic bias, it is the coin that matters!

2) Don't make the mistake in passing up that real nice above average coin because it is priced higher then the price guides suggests. The truly nice ones always sell above sheet. In the long run these could be some of your best buys.

3) Eye appeal is a top factor when buying and even more so when selling coins.

4) When buying coins on eBay, have patience and learn what to avoid.

5) Many coins have been carefully dipped, this is not as negative as harsh cleaning. But over-dipping is a negative because the luster will be stripped away.

6) Buy the books, knowledge is key.

7) Learn to grade yourself. I know easier said then done. It isn't easy but will come with experience. The experts are still learning every day, so will you.

8) Learn to spot problems such as cleaning, environmental damage, etc. You'll need to learn that "look", this will come with experience.

9) Common mistakes new collectors make in grading mint state coins are- Seem to put more emphasis on marks and not enough emphasis on luster and strike. Study the surfaces of mintstate coins. Learn what flow lines are and the difference between hairlines-(bad) and die polish lines-(acceptable). Original mint state surfaces can not be faked or replaced.

10) Lastly do not, i repeat do not collect capped bust halves, i don't need any more buying competition. Just kidding, collect what *you* like.

Enjoy! smile.gif

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Here are a few thoughts I have on the subject that haven't been mentioned yet.


1) Ebay - make sure the seller has a return policy (you will be surprised how many don't and also check their feedback).


2) Gain some information on the coin series you are interested in before starting your collection.


3) Pick out the level of collecting that you are comfortable with (e.g.- AU, MS, Proof, Gem, etc.) before starting your collection. Remember, coin collecting can be quite inexpensive or can literally cost you the farm.





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Coins are NOT good investments, yes some people do make money from coins but on average you are better off putting your money to work in traditional investment vehicles. Collect coins because you like the way they look and for the history they represent, do not buy coins to help finance your retirement.

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this is the most important thing to do before you go out and get in trouble like the rest of us have . smile.gif


pick a series and then go buy the books and learn about it as you go. there are several good books about grading but there not going to help you very much until you start looking at alot of coins. they will give you a general idea .


walter breens complete encycopedia of us and colonial coins is a great book.


of course the red book is also very helpful.


my best advice to the new collector is start with lower grade coin until you get a better idea of grading.


and never go out and buy super high grade coins until you can tell the difference between an ms67-ms70 grade yourself.



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There's only one thing a new collector needs to know. If you're going to buy coins then you have to sell some once in a while to know how you're doing.

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One more:


When buying coins, select the specimens that retain the vast majority of their value out of the holder. The additional value of the slab (plastic+insert) is unpredictable over the long haul, especially as the hobby and industry evolves. The coins themselves will always stay, but the infrastructure behind the hobby and the industry will change over time.




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The 10 second test -- once you've looked at enough coins from a denom to form a frame of reference, always trust your immediate gut reaction. If you're drawn to it in the first 10 second lookover it's a keeper. If you have reservations they almost always turn into regrets as time goes by.

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1. Read all you can

2. Talk with other collectors

3. Read some more

4. Find a good dealer that shares information

5. Go to coin shows

6. Look into coin clubs

7. Learn to grade for yourself

8. Continue to read

9. Learn to value coins

10.(Most important of all). Collect what you like!

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10 - "Fishing lure" is is a silver 3 cent piece-another insider slang for anything you don't collect


#9 - "Buy the Coin not the Holder" ---Old fogies.


#8 - "Buy the Holder not the Coin" ---Young punks.


#7 - Always leave ebay feedback for both you sellers and you buyers. If you don't, the NGC Fairy will turn you into a pumpkin or something akin to himself.


#6 - Use many acronyms that don't make sense. It confuses the uninitiated and impresses the experienced.


#5 - Spread yourself thin like a really bad taco. Focus on anything that looks good before moving on. Fishing lures is a good start.


#4 - Modern coins are great. Anything after 1776 or thereabouts is considered modern.


#3 - Get a scanner. Or steal a scanner like my late selfish neighbor tried to do. Be somebody.


#2 - Crack all those coins out and keep them in a mason jar in your closet. Ok, that was a joke. Keep them in my closet to be numismatically responsible.


#1 - One important thing about collecting is that you enjoy your collecting. As long as you have that going for yourself, you may be serenely confident that you're doing the biggest thing right. Even if the only coin in your Certified Registry database is an 1875 Water Girl.


That really is the most important thing. Have fun while you chase the elusive coin or the 1875 WG.


Aim for the stars.


Rule number one reads enjoy yourself.

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1. Get yourself a good loupe that you can carry in your pocket - you never know when you'll want to take a closer look at a coins details. Sigh, as I get older, the details get fuzzier...


2. Take the time to read a lot. Monthly periodicals like CoinAge are a good place to start as there's usually some pretty good articles. Its also a great place to see what the dealers are pricing things at as there's lots of adds.


3. The adage is buy the coin, not the slab - but, its predated by read the book, then buy the coin. Get used to learning - coins have a great amount of history associated with them and you'll learn tons.


4. Learn to grade. Once again, there are lots of books out there on grading - buy some and start comparing their standards to the coins you already won to learn how they stack up and to work on your grading skills.


5. Although there are lots of differences between 3rd party graders - and even within the coins graded by a service - purchase several slabbed coins in the series you're interested in and note how the coin's grade was determined...especially when compared to the books on grading that you've read. The best thing you can do is to look at LOTS of coins to hone your grading skills. Like anything else, this takes practice to learn how to do it correctly.


6. Be cautious of raw coins sight-unseen. There are honest people and there are sharks. Try not to get taken advantage of by knowing how to grade, knowing what the return policies are for those you buy from, and by doing your research on fair prices for a given coin in a given grade. Let's face it - a dealer isn't going to give you the deal of a lifetime - he's there to make money - so, if its too good to be true, then it probably isn't.


7. There's no substitute for research and education. Even though a dealer will try to make as much as he can from the coins he sells, if you're better educated on coin varieties and attributes the playing field is much more leveled and could even be tilted in your direction occasionally.


8. Pick a series or two and really stick with them. Learn all you can about them and really focus. History, varieties, rarities, grading - you're expertise will grow and you'll be able to make smart decisions in what you buy and why. Become an expert in what you collect before you branch out.


9. Become a member here. Besides the free submission coupons you get, you also become a member of the ANA and receive the Numismatist. All in all, its a darn good deal.


10. Surf the web - there's lots of resources for coins. Monitor what people are paying for coins and pay attention to places like Ebay - both great and poor deals happen there on a daily basis - the only way you can tell one from the other is to watch often and participate as your finances allow.


11. Don't overspend. Set a budget for yourself and stick to it. If you're spending the bread money on coins, it won't be too long before your spouse cuts you off frown.gif

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One thing that Dave Bowers is absolutely correct about is "buy the book before you buy the coin"!!!


Look at lots of collections at coin shows and maybe even join a local coin club. The old guys there can teach you alot. I have been in this hobby for 40 years and I still am learning something new about coins every day. Now, if I could just remember it all!

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Oh for heaven's sake, what can be added to the replies above? Great generalities, great advice, one and all.


But learning the specifics is daunting. Don't be daunted. You WILL make mistakes, so learn from them. Just budget yourself so that your mistakes do not cost you more than you can afford.


The ANA, besides being a target for criticism, tries its best to reach out and educate. The best thing I've done for myself in this hobby is take the ANA School of Numismatics Diploma Program. Fantastic. My best money spent. Basic to advanced topics, there is always more to learn and the ANA can provide every collector the avenues to greater learning in numismatics. If you ever think you know too much or even enough, visit the ANA museum and library, or simply count all the money you've lost on coins.


Engage your children in numismatics (not just collecting). If you have no children, borrow someone else's.


Respect yourself for what you do. Everyone fully engaged in this hobby is on the fringes of the mainstream.


Buy from those whome you may know or trust before you race out to test your every skill.


Don't listen to daveperry or Arch, even though they are right. wink.gif


Be well and pass it on. Hoot

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Patience is a Man's/Woman's Best Virtue. Must be applied to Collecting Coins as Most anything else you attempt.


"Fishing Lure" is a Term that was Coined by a Fellow Coin Collector (Lincolns and Early Coppers) to describe One Series of Coins (Mercury Dimes) over on the other side of the street. Fishing Lure Is Not a Blanket Term for Something You Do Not Collect. The term Applies to Mercury Dimes Only.smile.gif


Read, Read, Read and Observe !!!

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Hi all,


I'm starting this thread as an advice thread to new collectors. The idea here is to make a big fat compilation of all the things that new collectors should know about the hobby and/or look into. When we've got a nice list of stuff I'm going to move the thread to the Q&A forum as a resource to point new people to for a quick ramp-up on the learning curve.


SO, what price guides do you use, what's important to know about ebay, which industry magazines are worth it, how do you get the best use out of the ANA etc. etc. etc.? Chime in and be eh... immortalized? Sort of? smile.gif


Here's a good approach. What are the Top 10 things a new collector should know?



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I might add, start a MS63/64 collection of Buffalo nickels, Roosevelt or 1940's Merc dimes, Jefferson war nickels (this set is one of my favorites), etc. I started this way because my mistakes did not cost very much.


However, you can learn a lot about doing business with dealers, pricing and how to grade coins by looking at alot of coins in your local dealer's store.


People are jumping into high grade registry sets right from the get-go without any experience. That is why we mention "buying the plastic" so often. Mainly have fun and read all that you can find about coins.


Promotion of a particular set or coin often does not have any substance. Once the promotion is finished, the prices may drop like a rock.

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One good book to buy is the Official ANA Guiding Standards for US Coins.


And the previous advice about looking at a lot of coins and not making big mistakes at first (and not to worry about the little ones) and taking the ANA grading course is excellent advice. I've heard nothing but good things about the course.


Do your research before buying. Search the net and read everything.

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Arch the term "Fishing Lure" as a numismatic term, is a Spooly trademark. Please send 3 free grading coupons! smile.gif


Ok here is one!


Garloo's Razer

States the all coins I collect will go down in value and all coins I don't collect will go up in value.

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Lots of great advice so far. I have been collecting for 45 years and have come full circle. Support your local coin dealers and develope relationships with them. Over the past year I have started attending the local show on a monthly basis. These guys aren't big dealers, and most are part timers. But, you know what some of the nicest coins I own have come from them. Sometimes their advice is invaluable and sometimes not. Nothing beats holding a raw coin in your hand and studying it. The other day I was looking at some raw Indians and ended up spying a bust half in the guys case. You guessed it I just purchased my first bust half. Its a marvelous coin, with nice color and doubling on her face. It didn't take me ten seconds to buy it, about 3. smile.gif

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To newbies from a newbie who "got lucky"...


1) Buy when gold/silver are low-don't jump on bandwagons

2) RESEARCH-go to the newsgroups!!!! Ask questions and LEARN!

3) Don't do what I did-throw money around on EBAY without knowing more facts!

4) Learn something about grading, but if you're like me and don't know, stick with PCGS first, NGC second, ANACS third...NO ACG

5) Get the greysheet, look at retail trends...

6) Go to shows armed with price lists and NEGOTIATE

7) Have fun, meet people, develop relationships, and be careful!


I made 4% on gold that I bought from Dec 2001-April 2002. I was forturnate that gold went up and that I was at Long Beach at just the right time. Found a dealer (buyUScoins.com) that made me a decent offer.


Good luck! grin.gif

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Luck is nice but remember experience works more often than luck. A combination of the (2) is better, but knowledge and experience are the (2) long term survival tools in this hobby.


An Ingenue who thinks that they are more experienced, more knowledgeable, than many dealers, is a sheep in the wolf's den!

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Hi all,


I posted the following advice for new collectors in another thread, where it scored praise from braddick, hoot and oldtrader3 (CDR) ... but it really belongs here in this thread:


1) Study the Redbook and other coin books to learn about the different types of coins out there, and to get a sense of prices.


2) Visit coin shops and coin shows and look at coins.


3) Decide ahead of time what you might like to buy ... a particular series, older coins, newer coins, proofs, mint state or circulated coins ... then decide if you would like one coin each of several different designs (a "type set") or if you would like to collect every date and mintmark of a particular series. You have to have a plan and stick to it. Nobody can collect everything !!!


4) Either put together a set of uncertified and inexpensive circulated coins (preferably under $50 per coin), or if you want to skip this step, buy higher quality certified coins. I agree with Hoot that it's a good way to get a sense of how things work, if you pick a series (or type set) and put it together in an album, buying inexpensive circulated coins.


5) If you intend to buy better coins and spend more money, here is my recommendation for higher quality, more expensive coins: NEVER EVER EVER buy anything unless it is certified by either PCGS or NGC. Nobody else. No exceptions, until you REALLY know what you are doing, after at least 2-3 years. Also, NEVER buy anything unless you really like what it looks like, no matter what.


6) Don't go for hyped marketing programs, like state quarters with "vibrant state flag inserts," or gold coins from sunken treasure ships. Also, don't buy expensive "super grade" coins like state quarters in PR70 (which may cost 10-20 times as much as one that's looks pretty much the same in a PR68 or PR69 holder).


7) Figure out how much money you can afford to THROW AWAY on coins before you buy anything. Set yourself a monthly budget and do not exceed it. Always assume that whatever money you put into coins is SPENT for your enjoyment. Do NOT consider coins an "investment." Assume that if you try to sell your coins, nobody will give you much for them. That way, you will never be disappointed, and if you ever do sell your coins, you can be pleasantly surprised to get some money back from your hobby.


8) I am adding one more point which did not appear in the other thread. This was a piece of advice given to me by dealer Wynn Carner, who was very supportive when I was starting out: "THERE ARE ALWAYS MORE COINS." In other words, never feel that you just HAVE to buy any particular specimen, regardless of price or flaws. Another one will always come along. I have seen this to be surprisingly true over and over again, even concerning the most exceedingly rare coins. That said, once in a while a memorable specimen comes along that you don't buy, and for years you think, "Oh I wish I had bought that one !!!" However, that is the rare exception, not the rule. The rule is: "THERE ARE ALWAYS MORE COINS !!" Thanks Wynn !!!




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The only thing that I can add to Sunnywood's advice is: become a grading expert in maybe (2) denominations Specialize on these (2) coin sets before you startout to collect other denominations.


The internet contains a plethora of information. It can take you to libraries of information (i.e. The Harry Bass gold collection).


Enjoy and derive pleasure from collecting. Actually, this site contains both knowledge and humor.

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1-Books, lots of them

2-Local clubs

3-Ask questions

4-Buy coins and have fun...


I'm sort of new myself so these are my guidelines.....

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1. Read enough books to find a series that interests you. Brief infatuation can be expensive if you buy coins with little knowledge then turn around to sell with lots of regret.

2. Learn how to grade and spot problems. Just because its shiney doesnt mean its a decent coin. Just because its in a PCGS or NGC slab doesnt mean its a decent coin.

3. Dont buy coins just to fill holes in your collection. If you dont like the coin wait for another.

4. Price guides are ONLY GUIDES. Really common coins can wait. If you arent sure of the price check it out and compare. Beautiful rare coins are another issue. If it has great eye appeal and rarely comes up for sale expect to pay much more than Gray Sheet prices.

The Gray Sheet is a wholesale guide for accurately graded coins in sight seen trading. Dont expect to buy premium coins at wholesale prices unless youre a dealer. Dont settle for paying Gray Sheet prices on ugly or sight unseen coins.

Learning the series you collect is the only way to have a good handle on prices.

5. Take time to enjoy your collection. Slow down and look at your coins. Buying lots of coins and not remembering what you have makes you a hoarder not a collector.Coins should be an enjoyable hobby not a compulsion.

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Coins should be an enjoyable hobby not a compulsion.


Funny... With me, I call it a hobby but it oftentimes seem more like a compulsion! frown.gif


Still, F-C-G makes a good point here.




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One last thing. Dont collect a series just because everyone else does.


Prices are based on supply and demand. When you collect a popular series you are going to pay more for coins if supply is limited. Recent raw MS-65 Lincolns are so common they wont cost you much even if a lot of other collectors buy them. Morgans, Walkers, and other series with key dates that have limited numbers available get more expensive when theyre really popular. Price swings can be huge.


Half dimes, shield nickels, and other less popular series are much less money for equal or greater rarity because fewer people are competing for the same coins. If you like less popular coins you expose yourself to less risk in prices falling but you can expect less upswing in prices.


Read a lot about coins and nail down what you like. Dont feel pressured to collect something just because its hot. Dont collect what you dont like just because its cheap. Dont collect what you dont like that is expensive to show off either.


Learn first. Buy later. Haste makes waste.

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