If you’re new to rare coins collecting, you might be struggling to figure out just where to begin. After all, there are an estimated 28 billion coins in circulation. That’s a whole lot of jingle-jangle!
Some collectors collect coins to sell them soon to turn a profit. Others are more interested in the history and cultural significance of the coins that they add to their collections.
There’s no ‘wrong’ way about coin collecting. If your intention is to make money from your hobby, then learn what rare coins are worth cold hard cash.
And yes, the puns have begun!
That age-old expression ‘all that glitters isn’t gold’ is especially poignant in this context. Just because a coin looks fancy and has an excellent luster to it, doesn’t mean that it’s automatically valuable. Rare Coins are worth a pretty penny but some equally worn and unassuming-looking coins might fetch quite a bit at auction.
At the end of the day, it’s all about whether you can actually move your wares. Just because you have a coin in your collection that the internet tells you is worth a great deal. It’s worthless until you can actually put it into the hands of the right buyer.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder – and so is value. Just think about that iconic scene at the end of Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail. While greedy treasure seekers that come before him assume that the chalice of Christ must be ornate. Our man Indy understands that it becomes less valuable. Lackluster one that everyone else fails to notice, that Jesus sips from at the last supper.
The same often goes for coin collecting. You’ll see a bunch of ads on late-night television trying to sling aesthetically pleasing. Hand-painted coins that will be worth a fortune. A few decades from now, those “must-have” collector’s items are going to be worth less than their initial asking price.
There are the most important thing to remember when collecting coins. Whatever preconceived notions you will have about the pursuit of coin collecting are probably inaccurate. So join us as we take a look at what some of the best and worse types of coins are worth searching for if you’re hoping to turn your hobby into a profitable venture.
While there is no singular answer to the question of what constitutes a coin worth collecting, seeing as how everyone and mother has a different opinion about which coins are the best ones to hold onto, there are a few types of rare coins that, generally speaking, are smart investments.
1909 – S VDB Lincoln Cent
There really isn’t a more famous rare coin than this bad boy. While numismatics – which is just a fancy name for someone who studies and collects coins and currency – call the 1804 Draped Bust dollar the reigning king of American coins, the 1909 Lincoln penny still is thought of as the most sought-after one in the public’s imagination. One of these is a must-have addition to anyone’s Lincoln cent collection.
Approximately 485,000 mint, and estimates that only 50,000 survive to the present day. While both of those numbers might seem a little high to you, especially for a ‘rare’ coin, keep in mind that there are literally millions of people out there that want to get their hands on one. So, by the rules of supply and demand, these are still worth a fair bit. Today, a genuine 1909-S VDB Lincoln is worth at the very least $600. And that’s for one that grades as well-worn. That price exponentially increases for cents that are in more pristine or uncirculated condition.
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1883 “No Cents” Liberty Nickel
If you’re lucky enough to get your mitts on one of these rare nickels, you’ll certainly have something in your collection worth talking about. That’s because there’s actually a pretty fascinating story attached to these.
When the 1883 Liberty Head Nickel was first minted, some shady people tried to pass them as $5 gold pieces. These swindlers managed to convince some naive buyers into shelling out well more than they were actually worth at the time because of the fact that its design incorporated the Roman numeral V instead of the word cents for its five-cent denomination.
It didn’t take long for these con men to realize that the nickel was also just about the same size as a $5 quarter eagle gold coin. Lacking the word ‘cents’, these unscrupulous grifters would plate the nickel with gold and attempt to pass it off as a genuine $5 coin with varying degrees of success.
While it might not be the most valuable rare coin in the world, today, an 1883 ‘no cent’s Liberty Nickel in the well-worn condition is worth about $10, but if you come across one that is in better condition, it could fetch you about two to three hundred dollars.
1796 Draped Bust Quarter
The American Quarter has a robust and storied history. It is in production for more than two centuries, with the first one, ever producing the 1796 Draped Bust Quarters. Its iconic Draped Bust layout is the work of designer Robert Scot, and only 6,146 are mint.
While all early quarters dating back to the founding of the nation are rare, these are especially sought-after by collectors as they are the first of their kind.
To the right collector, these say to be worth upwards of $10,000.
1938-D Walking Liberty Half Dollar
Many collectors consider the Walking Liberty Half Dollars to be some of the most beautiful silver coins by the US Mint. It designs by Adolph A. Weinman, who also helped create the famous Mercury Dime, which we’ll get to in just a moment.
The Walking Liberty Half Dollar was made from 1916 through 1947, and while there are several dates that stand out among collectors as being especially valuable, many of these are far too pricey for the average collector to consider investing in.
One that purchases for less than $100 dollars, however, and would definitely be a worthy addition to your collection is the 1938-D Walking Liberty Dollar. 491,600 are mint, and they are still to this day prizes by coin buffs. While well-worn ones can be at auction or at a coin shop for around a hundred bucks, uncirculated ones are worth closer to $500.
1916-D Mercury Dime
One of Adolph A. Weinman’s other famous designs, the Mercury Dime considered by most coin collectors to be one of the greatest United States coins ever produced.
The 1916-D Mercury Dime, which mints during the coin’s first year in production, saw about 264,000 enter circulation. Today, however, only about 10,000estimats to still be around across all grades. This means the 1916-D Mercury Dime is rarer than that 1909-S VDB Lincoln penny we discussed earlier.
These beautiful works of art run about $1,000 and up in well-worn grades.
Other Types of Coins Worth Collecting
While we could spend all day telling you about all the specific varieties of rare coins you might want to consider investing in, we’ll give you a few pointers to help you know what’s worth looking for. When you’re out and about searching for new specimens to add to your collection, be on the lookout for these.
- US Mint Uncirculated Coins
- Uncirculated Silver Eagles
- Proof Shield Nickels
- Proof Barber Half Dollars
- Common Date “Saints”
- Standing Liberty Quarters
- 3 Legged Buffalo Nickels
- Morgan Silver Dollars
- Peace Dollars
Coins To Avoid: Cleaned Coins
One of the first rules you should know when coin collecting is that you should never clean your coins. While many collectors prefer their coins in their original mint luster and condition, depending on how they are stored, coins can lose their sheen and not look nearly as pleasing. In an attempt to make old, tarnished coins shine again, people will sometimes try to clean their antique coins.
The problem with cleaning coins with solvents such as Tarn-X is that oftentimes these heavy chemicals will cause the detail on the coins to disappear, rendering them either far less valuable than they were in their previous condition – or even worthless. Most dealers won’t even look at cleaned coins, so if you come across one, stay away!
This phenomenon and marketing gimmick promotes for the last couple of decades or so. Mint and non-mint coins are getting coated with a slathering of paint to make them appear more appealing to novice coin collectors who don’t know any better. Obviously, the main reason why companies are doing this is to make a quick buck off of folks that typically aren’t interested in coin collecting, but to serious coin collectors, these aren’t anything special. You would probably find it difficult to sell one of these painted coins for more than their melt price.
Gold Plated Coins
Once again, simply coating a coin in another material, be it paint or gold plating, isn’t going to do much in the way of enhancing it’s value to collectors. If they were solid gold, however, that would be a whole different story.
Gold plated simply means that a coin has been electroplated with an extremely fine layer of gold. Really, the amount of gold required to cover even something like a half-dollar is negligible and not worth more than the change that it was coated on.
But when the uninitiated see gold, they think that they have to be getting something that’s worth more than what they’ve paid for it. Ultimately, however, this kind of novelty coin isn’t very sought-after in the coin collecting community. They look pretty, though!
Are you a coin collector already, or are you just thinking about getting started? If you already have a little collection going, what are some of your most prized pieces? Let us know in the comments down below.
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