Although collecting coins can be a fun pastime, there are certain areas where common but detrimental mistakes can occur. Here are some of the top 5 biggest coin collecting mistakes you can make, and more importantly, how you can avoid them!
Coin collecting is a hobby full of information, tips, and tricks. Whether you are a new collector or you have been learning about numismatics for a while, there are several devastating mistakes that could damage the value of your collection. Let’s cover some of the biggest threats to your coins and what you can do to keep your collection safe.
Mistake #1 – Mishandling Your Coins
If you’ve been around other collectors or dealers for any length of time, such as at a coin show or local coin club meeting, you’ve probably heard someone warning against touching your coins. While touching them in some way is necessary for inspecting them and general viewing purposes, there is a correct way to do so. Please note that this point only pertains to raw coins. Coins in slabs or capsules are already protected from your hands.
The wrong way, and something many of us did before we knew better, is to pinch the coin with your bare hands by putting your thumb on the obverse and your pointer finger on the reverse. Don’t ever do this! A better alternative is to pinch the diameter of the coin by placing your thumb and pointer finger on the edge. However, this is still not ideal. The best way to handle your coins is wearing a pair of thin cotton gloves while touching a coin, holding it only by the edge. Using gloves not only protects the coin from the oil on your skin, it also prevents scratches and various signs of wear.
Mistake #2 – Cleaning Your Coins
The condition of a coin is so important that many collectors and dealers have tried everything they could think of to improve it. One thing that is widely attempted to improve a coin’s condition is cleaning.
Over the years various types of cleaning have been tried, from acids to cleaning cloths, and all of them come with significant risks. The secret to combating these risks is simple- avoid cleaning your coins! If you happen to possess a rare coin that is dirty or encrusted in something and you think it can be improved, don’t try to do it yourself. Let the professionals at the Numismatic Conservation Service (NCS) handle it.
Mistake #3 – Improper Storage Conditions
Deciding how and where to store your collection can have a significant effect on its value. Moisture and severely high or low temperatures can damage coins. This means both basements and attics tend to be poor choices. The ideal location is both dry and has a consistent, moderate temperature. Additionally, sunlight can affect the condition of a coin so be sure to keep that in consideration. Two of the best locations to store coins are in a personal safe on one of the main levels of your home or in a safety deposit box at the bank. To make sure moisture is kept at bay, you can place some silica gel packets in your safe or safety deposit box.
Now that we’ve covered the location, it’s important to mention that what you store your coins in plays a role in maintaining their condition as well. The best containers for coins available today are the slabs used by the third-party grading services. The runner up is the standard coin capsule. 2×2 holders are a classic choice, but the plastic film has been known to react with copper coins. High quality albums are also a good choice. Never tape your coins in place or leave them near regular paper. Most paper is processed with sulfites which can lead to premature toning, or even complete blackening in the case of silver coins.
Mistake #4 – Selling Too Quickly
Many of us do some selling from time to time, it’s part of the hobby. When it’s time to sell some individual coins or even your entire collection, be patient. Selling too quickly typically leads to the pawn shop or the local “cash for gold” setup. Many times, by waiting until you can sell your coins to another collector or a coin dealer you will receive significantly more than you would by selling elsewhere.
Mistake #5 – Investing Too Much in a New Type of Coin
It takes time to learn about certain aspects of any hobby, and collecting coins is no exception. When you begin collecting a new type of coin, take your time and learn about the series. For example, let’s say you begin collecting Barber dimes. Do you know how much you should be paying for a given date or how difficult it is to acquire the key dates? Should you be cautious, run the other way, or just dive right in when you see an 1894-S Barber dime graded Mint State 63? When you know enough about the coins, it’s easy to make great buying decisions.