Make Money Collecting Things Old and Rare Coins

About how to make money collecting old and rare coins, where to buy and sell coins for your collection.

How to Make Money Collecting Things


The first gold coins were minted around 640 B. C. by the Lydians and later standardized in weight and value by King Croesus of Lydia. The silver coin was introduced about the same time, but didn't come into its own until the 20th century.

The U. S. began minting coins in 1792 under the Mint Act. The smallest denomination, or unit, issued in the U. S. was the halfpenny, which went out of circulation in 1857. The U. S. minted 3 cent coins made of nickel and silver between 1851 and 1889. The silver dollar appeared in 1794, the $1 gold piece in 1849. The U. S. went off the gold standard in 1933.

Coin collecting--numismatics--became enormously popular in the U. S. after W. W. II and created a shortage of many coins. When the Mint cut back on its copper and silver in the 1960s, Americans hoarded their old coins like gold--or rather, like silver, since the silver in even a common old coin is worth more than its face value. Nowadays few coins more than several years old are still in circulation.

Where to Look for Old Coins

Check your pockets first, and your friends' pockets, then rummage through desk and bureau drawers. Once you've overturned the attic and garage, you'll probably have to start dealing with other collectors and antique shops. For new U.S. coins, you may want to get special uncirculated specimens from the Bureau of the Mint (55 Mint Street, San Francisco, Calif. 94175).

If you decide to join the millions of American numismatists, it's wise to specialize and limit yourself. Choose carefully which coins you want to look for. Remember that collecting just Lincoln Head pennies could take most of a lifetime. Without direction and knowledge, buying coins can be both dangerous and expensive. According to the American Numismatic Association (P.O. Box 2366, Colorado Springs, Colo. 80901), buyers spend $1 million a year on bogus coins.

If you are a beginner, you should buy the latest coin catalog (prices of coins continually fluctuate); subscribe to one of the good coin publications, which will introduce you to other collectors; and join a coin club or association.

Prices (1977)

An 1856 Flying Eagle cent in good condition sold for $500; an 1872 Indian Head cent in fine condition sold for $16; a 1914-D Lincoln cent in fine condition went for $45; an 1879 Shield Type nickel in good condition sold for $12; an 1886 Liberty Head nickel in fine condition went for $22.50; a 1914-D Buffalo nickel in good condition sold for $6; a 1939-D Jefferson nickel in very good condition went for $1.25; an 1895-O Liberty Head dime in fine condition sold for $45; an 1850 Liberty Seated half-dollar in good condition sold for $12; a 1927-D Double Eagle (gold $20 coin) in excellent condition was worth $12,500.

Where to Sell Coins

You can sell or auction off your coins in these hobby magazines:

The Numismatist

P.O. Box 2366

Colorado Springs, Colo. 80901

Coin World

P.O. Box 150

Sidney, O. 45365

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