The key to finding a rare and valuable coin: expertise, patience and enjoying the search!
If you like treasure hunts, you will love numismatics and the pursuit of rare and valuable coins. Even with fairly common coins, there are many collectible “varieties” and “condition rarities” to be found that are worth a significant premium. But, before you get started, there are a few tips which might help you have more success.
First, have a focus for your search…
Zero in on a specific series or type of coin and study the series to know which coins are truly rare – knowledge is power… or in this case, knowledge can lead to profit. There are coin treasures to be found if one knows what to look for, where to look. But to know what to look for, you have to study the series and gain as much knowledge as possible. As an example, Eisenhower Dollars are quite common and can be found in rolls, mint sets and local coin shows for a very minor premium over face value. In fact, you can often find “Ikes” at your local bank for no premium at all! What the most knowledgeable collectors know is finding an Ike in GEM+ uncirculated condition is very tough, but when found, the coin can be worth hundreds of dollars. Additionally, there are numerous Ike varieties which carry a significant premium… for example , the 1972 Type 2.
Second, have patience.
You normally do not find valuable coins in your first or second attempt. These coins are valuable because they are rare… but they are out there if you look for them. Have patience and enjoy the hunt.
So, how does a collector go about searching for these treasures?
Start with the obvious. Depending on the series you are focusing on, check your pocket change. For example, search for modern coin varieties such as doubled dies and repunched mint marks in pocket change. Finding and selling a 1995 double die cent might net $50, finding a 1972 doubled die cent might net $500, and finding a 1969-S doubled die cent might net you $50,000!
Check with your bank. The main offices of local banks can be great stops in your search for uncirculated coins. If your focus is Kennedy half dollars, search for the varieties but also keep an eye open for any 1965-1970 coins. These dates are 40% silver and worth about $8 in silver value alone.
Attend Coin Shows.
Coin shows come in all sizes… local, regional and national. The major shows include the winter and summer FUN shows in Orlando, ANA shows, and numerous other large regional shows. Local shows are often staffed by enthusiastic dealers who have other jobs but spend their weekends selling coins. The most knowledgeable collectors who specialize in a specific series will find valuable varieties at almost any show. Often dealers either simply do not have time to review every coin for varieties or the lack specific knowledge about the series you collect. Again, knowledge is power.
Local Coin Shops.
Get to know the reputable dealers in your area. Stop by frequently to find out what new inventory they might have. Years ago, whenever I traveled for work, I made a habit of stopping by coin shops in my free time. My dealer friends began to know my collecting focus and would let me know when they found something that would be of interest to me. I found great value in dealers that had in-depth knowledge of the series I collected because they could recognize a valuable condition rarity that would be a good fit for my collection. I also found that some dealers that lacked expertise in a specific series would call me to let me know they had new coin in inventory and would give me an early look.
The eBay marketplace
has exploded in the past ten years. Experienced collectors watch constantly for their targeted coins. There are great bargains to be found but also many vastly over-priced, market unacceptable and counterfeit coins. Again, knowledge is power. I buy and sell constantly on eBay and have a 100% positive feedback rating which I have worked hard to maintain. Pay attention to the dealer feedback and don’t buy unless they offer a money-back, “no questions asked” return policy.
Today, many coin dealers have very active dealership websites which can be an excellent source for new coins. Most sites allow you to sign up to receive emails with the latest site additions.
Whether buying at shows, shops or online, be careful and only work with reputable sellers. It is too easy for a collector to unknowingly acquire a counterfeit coin or a coin altered in an attempt to dupe the buyer. A reputable dealer will stand behind the coins he/she sells.
We are in the information age: take advantage of it! You have almost unlimited access to important numismatic information that can provide the knowledge necessary to be an expert in the series you collect. Join the online coin forums. These forums are frequented by true experts and loaded with commentary about posted coins. There are coin forums for almost any series one collects. Good message boards to check out are (and there are many more):
www.pcgs.com/messageboards for posts, swaps/giveways, and buying/selling.
www.NGC.com for posts, Ask NGC, grade guesstimating, and marketplace.
www.coincommunity.com, CCF and eBay coin sales, Moderns, Classics, Canadians, and Coin Roll Hunting boards. An especially interesting thread on the Roll Hunting board was “Bad News for Coin Roll Hunters.” No spoiler alerts—check it out.
www.vamworld.com. Peace and Morgan dollar collectors really need to register on this site. VAMS are Morgan and Peace die varieties. In addition to the message boards and buy/sell/trade forums, VAM World is loaded with facts, and detailed photos of the many varieties.
www.http://www.ikegroup.info. Almost everything you would want to know about Eisenhower Dollars.
www.http://conecaonline.org. Site for the variety and error collectors.
Finally, have fun! Enjoy the hunt and good luck finding the rarities you desire!