The Great American Coin Hunt: A Guide For Collectors

For the first time, hundreds of coin dealers and collectors plan to drop more than a million classic American coins like Buffalo nickels, Eisenhower dollars and more into circulation to spark greater interest in numismatics. The change in your pocket could be worth more than you know!

For the first time, hundreds of coin dealers and collectors plan to drop more than a million classic American coins like Buffalo nickels, Eisenhower dollars and more into circulation to spark greater interest in numismatics. The change in your pocket could be worth more than you know!

The American Numismatic Association’s National Coin Week is being celebrated this year from April 21-27 with a very exciting special event that is making numismatic history. For the first time, hundreds of coin dealers and collectors plan to drop more than a million classic American coins from the 18th to 20th centuries like Buffalo nickels, Liberty Head dimes, Eisenhower dollars, and even valuable paper money like silver certificates into circulation to spark greater interest in numismatics. AND, the lucky people who find or receive special tokens will be receiving even more valuable items. The Change in your pocket could be worth more than you know!

Finding valuable coins in your change has long been a great way to get more people into coins. When the 50 State quarter program was issued (1999-2008), it was estimated that up to half the population, or almost 150 million people, was collecting them, but today collecting coins from circulation is much less popular. The 2019 Great American Coin Hunt is going to change that and bring new collectors into the hobby the same way millions of collectors got started with numismatics.

For years the idea of distributing valuable older U.S. coins into circulation to promote the hobby has been discussed within the numismatic community, especially among coin dealers, some of whom have dropped some valuable coins into circulation in the past.

However, this year a national coin drop is for the first time being organized by a group of coin dealers called Coin Dealers Helping Coin Dealers who are active on Facebook and have their own YouTube channel. Their aims are to inspire a new generation of collectors, increase traffic to local coin shops, and give the hobby increased attention in the national media.

To see a list of which coin dealers around the country are currently scheduled to participate, see this list.

For those participating, keep looking at your change! Do you see a coin that looks unfamiliar? It might just be worth digging into. Any coin besides the typical circulating rotation might be a potential find! Another great way to tell if you’ve found something special is to check the date. While coins from the 1970s and 1980s are common finds in change, a coin stamped with a 1930s or 1940s date is a good indicator you’ve found something worth finding. Another good tip is that circulating coinage, including Roosevelt and Mercury dimes, Walking Liberty, and Kennedy half dollars as well as Washington Quarters, struck in 1964 and earlier are composed of 90% silver as opposed to today’s cupro-nickel composition. So even if a piece is not glaringly valuable, it might just be worth its weight in silver!

The organizers of the coin hunt have made things even more interesting because, as they noted, they “will also be releasing 250 specially marked holographic medallions. If these medallions are found, treasure hunters will be able to redeem them for actual numismatic rarities at participating coin shops across the U.S. Additionally, five “Golden Tickets” will be distributed. When these specially marked medallions are found, the lucky treasure hunters can redeem them for truly rare coins valued at up to $1000 each by contacting the Great American Coin Hunt’s website.

The dealers behind the hunt are also exploring other ideas such as distributing “Keys to the Coin Shop,” which would open a treasure chest inside the store filled with cool coins worth a total of several hundred dollars, and having dealers and collectors put coins in areas where metal detector enthusiasts could find them.

Collectors and hobby leaders are very excited about this event that will make searching your change a lot of fun.  There is lots of buzz on social media about the hunt, and NGC is preparing special “Great American Coin Hunt” holders for coins submitted to the firm for grading that were found in change, whether they are “W” quarters or vintage coins. NGC was selected by the group that organized the event as their official grading company.

Michael “Miles” Standish, NGC Vice President and bestselling author of books on American Silver Eagles and Morgan dollars is also bullish on the event: “I believe the event is positive for collecting. Any way to provide more public awareness to ‘collecting’ is a great thing. I would like to see even more creative ideas like the Mint partnering with retailers [Nordstrom’s, Target, Wal-Mart, Costco, Sam’s, and grocery chains] offering special drops as well to draw folks out. I believe retailers would cover the cost and be open to have large populations flock to them.”

Remember that anyone can participate in the Great American Coin Hunt by putting collectible coins into circulation themselves and by finding them in change. The rewards from participating go far beyond the monetary value of the coins and could have a lasting impact on the hobby. Let the hunting begin!

In 1923 Julius Guttag, then a governor for the American Numismatic Association, suggested to ANA President Moritz Wormser that the organization establish a week-long event “to attract the general public to our hobby and consequently increase our membership, and aid in our science.” The first “Coin Week” was held the week of February 9-16, 1924, and its success led to a discussion about making it an annual event. In 1925 the name was changed to “Old Coin Week,” which celebrated from 1925 to 1927, while from 1928 to 1938 the ANA did not promote the event. In 1939 an ANA member suggested the name be changed to “National Coin Week,” and a date in March was set along with a plan for the organization to offer prizes to coin clubs and individuals who made the greatest contributions to the event. In 1942 the event was scheduled for the third week of April, and it has continued to be celebrated then each year.

For 2019, the 96th National Coin Week, whose theme is “Discover the Past, Envision the Future,” the ANA will hold its usual array of events such as coin club and daily ANA trivia challenges, and this year the chance to design a coin for 2069 that celebrates a future invention or innovation. For further information, see the ANA’s website.

This year, hobby leaders, including coin dealers and the U.S. Mint, decided to do something special to stimulate more interest in numismatics, which is to put valuable and scarce coins into circulation all over the country!

The Mint is contributing to National Coin Week 2019 by for the first-time issuing quarter dollars struck at the West Point Mint with a “W” mint mark for each of the five-quarter designs being issued this year. Each coin is only available in circulation and has a mintage limited to two million coins, or about 1% of the total mintage of 2019-dated quarters. Those coins are mixed in with other quarters before they leave the Mint.

The best way to find such coins is to purchase rolls of quarters from banks and search through them for the quarters, which are selling for a substantial premium on eBay. Those rolls will include a mixture of quarters from various years and may not even have any 2019 quarters. Searching your change is also important. This could be a fun activity to do with your children and other family members, a way to get them interested in the hobby you love, and to spend quality time with them too.

For a list of the cities around the country where the Federal Reserve is sending the first two “W” quarters (the Lowell Park and Memorial Park issues) to member banks, scroll to the end of this Coin World article!

By the first week of April, collectors were already finding “W” Lowell Park and Memorial Park quarters and selling them on eBay. Two individuals were the first to submit “W” coins to Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) for grading and split a $5000 prize offered by the company to reward them for sending their coins to them.

The first Lowell Park “W” quarter sent to Numismatic Guarantee Corporation (NGC) for grading was submitted by an actor named Shawn Pyfrom, best known for the roles on the television show, “Desperate Housewives”. NGC President Rick Montgomery said: “This is a really exciting time in numismatics. Mr. Pyfrom’s find shows that the U.S Mint is getting more people to look at their change, and that can only be a positive for numismatics.”

One of the first two PCGS-graded coins found by a collector in Fairfax, Virginia was graded Mint State 66 along with the notation, “PCGS First Discovery 1 of 2,” and then consigned for sale to an auction company on April 15, whereby the following day bidding reached $3200 for an auction that ends on April 28. The other first Lowell ‘W’ quarter was found by a collector in Topeka, Kansas, and sent to PCGS, where it was graded Mint State 65. Both collectors have been interested in numismatics for years and regularly search their change.

“PCGS First Discovery 2019-W Lowell Quarter in GreatCollections Auction,”, April 16, 2019

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