There are a lot of guides (over 2200 on Ebay) and a lot of books written on the subject of buying coins. I'd like to share some thoughts with you about the subject of collecting coins. The act of purchasing your coins, or other collectibles for that matter, I will cover in a separate guide. Even if you collect things other than coins, you may find these ideas apply to you as well.
I've been dealing in coins and collectibles for over 25 years, so I'm drawing on a vast amount of observation and experience to try and help your hobby be as rewarding as it can be. I purposely used the word "hobby" to bring up my first point. The biggest mistake I see people make when they begin to collect coins is their motivation. Far too many people that I've dealt with "collect" coins because they perceive them as a good investment. Notice that even the sentence itself sounds contrary. Collecting is not about how much your items are worth or their future value, collecting is about a passion for something that has a deeper meaning to the collector and his/her peers. Not only does this approach pervert the whole idea of collecting, but it always leads to the buyer quitting. If you're looking for an investment, call your financial planner, not your coin dealer.
Probably next in line is diversification. To go back to investing for a moment, diversification may be a great idea for a bigger return on your 401K, but it's a horrible idea for your collection. Many enthusiastic new collectors run out and buy folders for every coin ever minted in the US. The common result - feeling overwhelmed by a far too difficult task that lies ahead. This quickly leads to frustration followed by hopelessness and boredom. And usually what's next (if you haven't already guessed) is they quit. Try and pick one or two series that you really like and concentrate on them. If you just can't pick a favorite, try a type set. Give yourself a chance to feel the accomplishment that goes along with watching your set(s) become more complete. It's fine to like too many coins, just don't collect them all at once.
Next is a common saying in the coin business, "buy the book before you buy the coin". This is great advice for someone looking to put together a set of Draped Bust Dollars by Bolender Number. If you're going to collect that calibar of coins then you darn well better learn all you can about what you're buying. But for most collectors it really doesn't apply. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge advocate of education, but you really don't need to read a book about collecting Roosevelt Dimes. All you need are patience and a little common sense. Save your money for that key date you're missing.
Now on this next subject I have to admit I've flip-flopped like a politician in an election year. Maybe you've heard the saying "buy the best coin you can afford". There was a time I would have argued this point until I needed an oxygen tank. Now I'm not so sure. I think this too closely relates to the idea of how much your coins are worth and how much they'll be worth in the future. Before I go any further, let me stress that this subject applies to earlier circulating coins, not modern coins. If you're collecting proof Kennedy Halves, there is no good reason not to buy a high quality coin. I don't neccessarily mean a PR70 Deep Cameo, but if you're buying them with big carbon spots or hairlines, you're doing yourself a great injustice. The coins I'm really talking about are things like circulated Indian Cents. It's true that XF 1872 is going to appeal to a lot more people. And it will probably go up in value more than the one in VG. So if you have the money in your pocket, then by the XF! No! There's more to it than that. Maybe you'd like to buy a couple other coins along with it. Maybe that VG looks great to you. And if you saved a couple dollars because it has that little scratch on it, that's great! As long as it doesn't bother you. Everyones tastes and standards are different. Collect what's acceptable to you. But don't ever buy a coin that doesn't fit your eye. If you have to think too much about it now, you'll only regret it in the future.
Store and handle your coins properly. There is no worse feeling than to find out you've ruined your treasured collection. Don't store your coins in the damp musty basement. If you keep them in a safe, go get some silica gel to keep them dry. Even if you don't spend a lot of money on your coins, you aren't collecting them just to see them destroyed.
Lastly, share your collection with others. I'm lucky enough to have two boys that I can share my collecting interests with. Honestly I think they could care less about coins, but there's nothing like watching their eyes light up when Dad has some special time to spend with them. If you aren't fortunate enough to have kids, share with your friends. Share them with your spouse/partner. Share them with your co-workers. Yes you're going to get your fair share of "You paid $50 for a penny?!?!". All of us have. But where's the joy in sitting in a closed room alone hunched over a desk like some sort of Scrooge obsessing over your coins? In case you're new to collecting, I'll give you a perfect analogy. I love to play golf. I have for years. The feeling of being on the course on a bright sunny day with two or three buddies is my perfect drug. But on those rare occasions when I have some time to myself, I never play golf. Without friends to share the experience with, it just isn't much fun. You'll find it's the same with collecting.
I hope you found this guide to be helpful, if not at least a little entertaining. I could probably come up with some more ideas, but I was afraid if I made this too long people wouldn't bother to read it. If enough people find it helpful, I'll try and write another one and add to it. Or maybe cover a different subject. Thanks for spending your time with me. John Scanlon
2001-S Rhode Island State Quarter - Gem Proof Deep Cameo (90% Silver)
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