Common Coins and How to Collect Them
By | November 17, 2016
1976 Proof Set - 6 Coin Set
1976 Proof Set - 6 Coin Set

You don’t have to be a high-roller to collect coins. Sure, there are million-dollar pennies out there, but there are plenty of other collectible coins you can get for barely over their face value. In fact, that’s how most collectors get started. Let’s look at some ways you can get in on the rewards of coin collection without dropping a bunch to do it.

Coins in Circulation

There are still collectible coins in circulation, so check your pocket change for keepers.

  • Pennies: Lincoln cents with a wheat design on the reverse have been out of production since 1958, but there are still some out there, and rare dates can be worth hundreds of dollars…if you can find one. Steel cents from 1943 can be worth several dollars in good condition, too.
  • Jefferson Nickels: Pre-1960 Jefferson nickels are becoming collectible, especially low-mintage samples like the 1939 and 1950 Denver versions and any produced during the war years of 1942-1945.
  • State Quarters: While only worth face value, circulated state quarters can be a good start on collecting just for the various designs. Limited numbers were produced, so in the long rim, better samples could also increase nicely in value.
  • Kennedy Half Dollars: Although still in limited production, these are rarely found in circulation, but some banks still have them. The 1964 coin is 90% silver and is almost exclusively in collectors’ hands. The silver content was reduced to 40% from 1965 until 1970, when all silver was removed. Kennedy halves minted in 1975-76 have a reverse design commemorating the US bicentennial, and are somewhat more collectible. Worn silver coins are worth their bullion value.
  • Eisenhower Dollars:“Ikes” are very rare in circulation. Produced from 1971-1978, the coins intended for circulation had no silver content, but proof sets and uncirculated coins for collectors were made from 1971-1974 and for the bicentennial in 1976with some silver. All 1976 coins carried the date 1776-1976 with a Liberty Bell superimposed over a full moon. All other coins had a reverse design based on the Apollo 11 moon mission insignia—an American eagle landing on the moon with the earth in the distance. Ikes have an interesting and controversial history, and many collectors believe their value will increase over time. They have been replaced with smaller $1 coins including the Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea dollars and coins commemorating former presidents.

Proof Sets

In the strictest sense, proof coins are first-run tests of coin designs. But since these are made with new, highly-polished dies and can be the finest examples of a coin, mints now produce limited-run sets of each year’s coin samples. The US mint sells proof sets of the most recent years, most for relatively low prices. Some collectors specialize in proof sets, and older ones can command very high prices. Proof sets are also produced by a number of other countries, adding to the range of collectibles.

Birth Dates and Special Occasions

Many collectors start by acquiring individual coins or full sets for years of personal significance. The US Mint even has current proof sets in special birthday packaging. Circulated coins in worn condition can be quite affordable, even going back many decades.

Commemorative Sets

Coins marking special events or famous people have been made for centuries. The US Mint has many different commemorative coins for sale on its website. Hundreds of different designs have been made over the years celebrating everything from sporting events to famous people, places, and events. Note, though, that unless the item is stamped with a currency value, it isn’t considered a coin—it’s a medal.

Most of these items are available from coin dealers or on the internet. A word of caution about internet purchases, though. Be careful that you’re buying from a reputable dealer—scammers are everywhere.

The Great American Coin Company® has a wide selection of both circulated coins and proof sets. Regardless of whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned expert, the best advice is to buy the highest grade of any coin you can afford, consistent with your collecting goals. Then, as your collection fills out, look for opportunities to upgrade as you keep your eye on the current market.

And whether you’re a seasoned collector or just getting started, be sure to browse the selection of U.S. and foreign coins and banknotes available online from The Great American Coin Company. We keep adding items as they become available, so be sure to visit us frequently. And while you’re there, be sure to visit our blog for interesting and timely articles about coins, currency and precious metals.

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