US Coins

Knowledge is first step to hobby fun

A 1652-dated Massachusetts Pine tree shilling - a great "story coin." Read all about it and you will likely want to read more about other coins. Give it a try.

Images provided by the author.

There are two main types of coin buyers:

The first and most common is attracted by coins as an investment — perhaps silver, perhaps gold. Contacting one or another sellers, he or she quickly spends a lot of money — often thousands of dollars. Mint State 65 is a great grade, but MS-66 is even better, and MS-69 or MS-70 — wow! They are not aware that the vast majority of MS-69 and MS-70 coins bought and sold are of very modern issues that are common. The cachet of desirability for these grades is for old coins, not new ones, but buyers do not know that.

With no intellectual “skin in the game,” such a buyer has no emotional attachment and is usually gone within two years.  

It has been said that if someone is a collector for five years or more, they will be a collector forever. This is the second type of buyer. Coin investment is important, but rather than concentrating on it, the sophisticated buyer — as I will call him or her — usually finds that it comes naturally. Over a long period of years, I have bought or auctioned thousands of collections, large and small. I cannot think of a single instance in which someone has carefully (important word) collected for 10 to 20 years or more and has done other than profit. 

In the meantime, the rewards of numismatics are the enjoyment of art, history, and romance of a collecting specialty, plus the camaraderie of other enthusiasts.

Most coins and other items have stories. The best way to capture this information and to enhance the enjoyment of collecting is to build a nice library. For starters the Guide Book of United States Coins is essential (full disclosure: I am the research editor). Today (not tomorrow) take your latest copy and carefully read the first three dozen pages. No better synopsis of American coins exists.

Next, buy new or used copies of Dr. William H. Sheldon’s Penny Whimsy (1958) and Sylvester S. Crosby’s Early Coins of America (1875, widely reprinted). Go to the Whitman, Wizard Coin Supply, or other website or to your local coin shop and buy a half dozen more books that have stories (not price or investment guides). Next, spend a month reading them. Read about the 1652 Pine Tree shilling, the 1883 Liberty Head, No CENTS 5-cent coin, and other landmarks.

I guarantee you’ll become a collector for life and have a great time along the way! 

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