The leisure pursuit of collecting coins has long been a popular pastime. For centuries, hobbyists have passed down their collections and enthusiasm from generation to generation.
As with any long-held tradition, newcomers inherit wisdom and advice from elders and those who share their breadth of experience with those just beginning. Due to their perceived authority on the subject, it is easy to take their words as gospel without looking deeper to validate what has been passed on. Myths and misconceptions are spreading more rapidly than ever these days, causing people to fill in the gaps in their knowledge with what they have heard or from quick answers found on the internet. As we are about to break down, neither of these are reliable sources for complete accuracy.
Common Misconceptions About Coin Collecting
You may be surprised to discover that some of your own knowledge about numismatics is about to be challenged. Believe it or not, even your own grandfather, aunt, or whoever it was who first got you hooked on coin collecting could have imparted methods and ideas we now consider to be debunked. Read on to reveal some of the most popular myths and misconceptions out there about the hobby we hold so dear.
1. Dirty and Tarnished Coins Should Be Cleaned
Put down the vinegar! When you find a coin that looks like it could be more impressive with just a little facelift, it can be tempting to implement a cleaning regimen to shine it up. However, it is highly discouraged to clean the coins in your collection.
Cleaning a coin can actually cause damage which can diminish the value of your coin. So if you thought that enhancing the appearance can enhance the value, hold off. It might also be helpful to know that if you do attempt to clean a coin to have it appraised, a professional will be able to tell. To you, it might seem like a clever way to make your coin more awe-inspiring, but this can easily backfire.
If you absolutely must clean a coin, use nothing more than mild soap and water. Better yet, take it to a professional who will know how to properly remove grime and dirt with care.
2. Television Coin Sales Are a Good Deal
One place many people commonly see collectible coins for sale is on TV shopping programs. Shopping Network often sells Silver Eagles and Morgan Dollars, proof sets, and certified coins for higher than market price. The program might suggest their coins are too rare or exclusive to find elsewhere. However, you can usually find these coins easily from a trusted coin dealer for a lower price. If you ask your favorite coin dealer to compile a set for you, they can usually do this rather easily.
The hosts of these shopping programs will do their best to dazzle their viewers with assortments of reasons to call in and purchase their coins. They will make each coin appear scarce, and only purchasable through for a limited time. This is their job, and they often do it well. Many people buy these coins under the impression they’ve encountered an amazing opportunity or that buying these as gifts for their grandchildren is a wise investment.
The truth is, buying a collector’s coin from television is neither lucky nor economical. It is simply buying into what they are selling. It is fine to buy the coins you see for sale on TV if that is what you want to do. However, the reality is the coins sold on these programs are generally not worth more than their bullion or face value, and this is unlikely to change over time.
It is helpful to know in advance that if you are looking for a bargain or for something truly special, your best bet is to visit a trusted coin dealer or online shop. These places are where the sellers are more likely to not only have more interesting inventory, but also a genuine shared interest to accompany their deep knowledge and experience of coins.
3. Collecting Coins Is For The Wealthy
Some who might otherwise be avid collectors themselves are held back by the belief that there is no point in pursuing this hobby if they are not already wealthy. This could be due to the idea that coins worth collecting are very expensive. Or the idea that collecting coins must mean you have more than enough money to spare if your hobby is collecting obscure forms of currency for fun.
Neither of these ideas is necessarily true. As for collectible coins being expensive, they can be. However, most collectors are not driven by acquiring the most expensive coins they can afford. Many fascinating and interesting coins are readily accessible and affordable for those who have an interest in building a collection. The price, rarity, or value of the coin itself is not necessarily what attracts a collector to it. Historical significance, artistic aspects, and interesting features are more common draws.
Centuries ago, coin collecting was not a hobby everyone could afford. If you had extra coins you kept for enjoyment and had the means to collect currency from other parts of the world, you were most likely very well off, far wealthier than the average person. Therefore, coin collecting used to bear the title “The Hobby of Kings”.
These days, societies operate much differently.The world of numismatics is accessible to virtually anyone who has an interest. If you find coins fascinating, but have been resisting the desire to dive deeper into building your own collection, give it a try. You might be surprised by the sheer joy you get from starting right where you are and seeing where the quest takes you.
4. Collecting Coins Is A Dying Hobby
While the methods of the more youthful collectors might look different than what we think of in traditional coin collecting, there is actually an influx of new collectors today. Not all of these recent enthusiasts would fall into the “youth” category, either. In coin collecting, it is common for many people to get into it at a more mature age, oftentimes rekindling an interest first born during childhood that sat on the backburner for a few decades.
Coin collecting tends to be associated with an older generation. This could be because many people remember their grandparents or another older relative sharing their collections. Granted, a person who has been collecting coins throughout their life might be more likely to have an impressive show for their efforts as their collection grows.
However, do not underestimate the interest of younger people who are also taking up the hobby. As our money becomes more digital over time, the younger generations are developing a different relationship to physical money than those born earlier. Consider that children today rarely see physical currency take part in most of our transactions. The concept of a physical coin being used to make purchases is becoming more of a relic, itself; a physical representation of a former time. This evolving reality breeds new layers in the reasons a person might find themself interested in collecting coins.
Coin collecting has also opened new avenues to pursue in recent memory. Take for example the 50 State Quarters minted between 1999 and 2008. These quarters became the perfect first project for many new collectors to get started. The affordable price and ample availability made for an ideal introduction to the hobby for almost anyone of any age. The United States Mint estimates 120 million Americans sought to obtain these quarters. This statistic alone tells us there is still new interest in coin collecting.
That being said, it might still look like the hobby is dying down. Evidence such as dwindling numbers attending coin club meetings or purchasing from storefronts make it seem so. However, new collectors also have new ways of connecting to one another and building their collections. Sourcing through the internet and discussing in online forums are two such methods developed over the last 20 years or so. Understandably, not all dealers have kept up with the trends.
For coin dealers who only use their brick-and-mortar storefronts to trade coins, their future in business might look bleak. However, it is a good idea not to overlook these establishments. They may have something you are interested in and their inventory is less competitive as it is only viewed by their specific patrons. These shops might also be run by a person who has an incredible wealth of knowledge and experience to share.
If the person running the store does happen to be older, take the time to appreciate the unique value they have to offer while you have the chance. It is always nice to form a connection with those who share your interests. Coin collecting is one of those activities that easily bridges people across generations and backgrounds.
5. Coin Collecting Is A Solitary Hobby
Being social and being a coin collector are not mutually exclusive. One great thing about living in the digital age is how much easier it is to build communities around virtually any interest, coin collecting notwithstanding. Of course, you can find these communities in social media apps and online forums. These are great avenues to explore and connect with thousands of collectors around the world.
Remember your local community, too. If there is not already a local meetup in your area, you can start one. Your local coin shop might even have a club you can join to connect with other nearby collectors. Collecting coins can in fact be a fine way of making genuine connections and friendships.
6. Coin Collecting Can Make Me Rich
Possibly, but not likely. While it is true that there are some coins out there worth exorbitant amounts of money, the chance of happening upon one of these coins is not something to bank on. The highly valuable coins are that valuable for a reason: finding them isn’t as easy as checking your pocket change or even finding the oldest coin on the market. There are ancient coins out there worth next to nothing, and some 20th-century coins worth thousands.
If your goal is to strike it rich as a coin collector, prepare to also spend a pretty penny on one for sale, then time spent in hope of its value appreciating. Also, be sure to take on some in-depth scholarly training. You will need expert-level knowledge to know what you are looking for and how to tell if a coin is counterfeit (hint: unfortunately, many people unknowingly possess counterfeit coins they believe to be highly valuable. Their coins may be old and have been passed down in the family along with stories about the coin’s worth. Others were simply tricked into buying counterfeit coins. Counterfeits have undoubtedly existed since just after the striking of the world’s first official coin).
The best recommendation to get the most value out of coin collecting is to revel in the pure enjoyment of the hobby. Coins are endlessly fascinating, and there is always more to discover. Dive into what each coin can reveal about where it originates and its historical context. Connect with other collectors, share what you’ve found, and enjoy what others share with you.
It’s Never Too Late
Whether coin collecting is something you have dabbled in, put on the shelf, or actively pursue, it’s never too late to pay more attention to the things you enjoy. Hopefully, this article helps clear up some of the common misconceptions about this timeless hobby. You do not have to shy away from it out of concern for your budget or being labeled a loner.
If you’re in need of professional and certified help from a local dealer, contact Infinity Coins based in Idaho Falls, Idaho. With over 40 years of combined experience in numismatics, their expertise can aid in any pursuit of the coin collecting industry.