Coin collecting is an extremely popular hobby with people of all ages. Children tend to gravitate towards pretty or unusual looking coins, while adults are generally concerned with the financial value of their collections.
Some people build strictly a grassroots coin collection, acquiring those coins that they happen to stumble across, while others buy in bulk and eagerly anticipate new limited edition minting. However you choose to build your collection, you may have many questions about the hobby.
This article will address some popular questions and concerns that first time coin collectors may have.
What is numismatics?
Strictly speaking, numismatics is the study and collection of money and related financial objects or documentation. Examples include not only coins but also paper money, checks and stock certificates.
In practice, however, the word numismatics is commonly used to mean simply coin collecting. Those who practice numismatics are numismatists.
How should I handle my coins?
The short answer is as little as possible. Even the smallest fingerprints on an un-circulated coin can cut the value dramatically. If you must handle a collectible coin, do so only from the edge.
If you need to lay the coin down, use a velvet pad if available. Minimally, use a soft, clean cloth. Handle extremely high value coins only with surgical gloves and a protective facemask.
How should I clean my coins?
You really should have no need to clean the coins. Collectors look for authenticity, not shiny newness. Even damp wiping with a clean, lint-free rag can leave hairline scratches on the coin, lowering its value dramatically.
If it is strictly necessary to remove dirt and debris, ask other coin collectors to recommend a commercial coin cleaner that removes the dirt without scratching the coin or losing the luster. Ask to see coins that they have cleaned before using their advice.
How should I store my coins?
The goal for coin storage is protection from temperature extremes and humidity. You also want to protect your coins from fingerprints, dust, dirt, and chemicals. Some form of dehumidifying equipment is recommended, even if it is just silicone gel packets.
Low value coins can be kept in almost any container. However, higher value coins require special protection. Your goal for high value coin preservation is a container that is as airtight as possible, which also displays the coin so that there no need to remove it from the container.
Many commercial storage options are available. Ask for recommendations from your coin dealer or others in the hobby.
How are coins graded?
Grading coins is an extremely complicated process. Only trained professionals can do specific grading. However, it is a good idea for any coin collector to have a basic understanding of how grading works.
There are 13 standard grades for circulated coins, ranging from the AG-3 "About Good" to AU-58, or "Very Choice about Un-circulated). Uncirculated coins are graded from MS-60 to MS-70, depending on quality and flawlessness.
In practicality, MS-70 is more of an ideal than a realistic grade. A good book on grading will teach you the basics on recognizing the differences.
Some experts utilize different or additional systems, so it is always vital to make sure that you are speaking the same language as the expert with whom you are dealing.