Modern rare coin enthusiasts have the luxury of a huge online numismatic community that has blossomed over the last decade. In this new century armed with little more than a laptop and a loupe, collectors will have what they need to dive headlong into the deep waters of coin collecting. A collector needs a few simple tools to effectively make purchases and fully enjoy their new treasures. At U.S. Coins and Jewelry, we provide a safe haven, helping to guide collectors and assist in building a well-managed and profitable coin collection. In this article, we discuss the basics you should consider as your collector bug goes from accumulating to serious collector.
No matter where you spend your money, information is the most important factor in choosing the correct item. With rare coins, this is even more important than with most items. The old saying in our business is, “Buy the book before the coin.” The spirit of this still holds true, but today a lot of the data is available online. Find a trustworthy source. The information on the internet is fraught with misinformation and much of the insight is ill-informed, sales-oriented or just plain false. Much of the material has been rehashed and posted to various websites. But to learn all you need about a particular series you may need to still buy a few books. We carry some in our store but check out our blog on BOOK BASICS to see the suggested of the best literature for some of the most popular rare coin topics. To find trustworthy online portals or view our LINKS page to view websites we recommend.
To enjoy your coins at home, you want a good pin-point source. This will allow you to closely examine the surfaces of your coins. Traditionally collectors have used incandescent bulbs mounted in a swivel or swing arm desk lamp. In some places, incandescent bulbs are tougher to find, but they’re still available online. Don’t settle for LED or worse fluorescent. LED lighting is a diffused light and may hide hairlines or wash out colored toning. Fluorescent bulbs are inconsistent, and many have a color cast. Halogen is a bit too bright and may be overkill, especially on silver proof coinage. Our advice is to use a 75 – 100 watt incandescent bulb holding the coin by the edges perpendicular to the lighting rotating the coin at angles to see any imperfections.
We suggest two loupes – one for maximum magnification for examining small imperfections or checking for variety designations, another for the overall view to just get a closer look at the coin’s surfaces. The first should be around 3x to 5x magnification. The close-up loupe or jeweler’s loupe should be 10x, it will enable you to get a close look at individual device elements or surface flaws. It’s important to buy a good loupe and you’ll never need new ones. More importantly, quality loupes have crisp definition edge to edge. Cheap ones break and lose definition at the periphery. They make combination loupes with flip lenses that you can add magnifications together. However, good high-quality loupes will likely come independent of each other. Hold the loupe close to the eye moving the coin to focus.
Properly sized boxes help with coin storage and keeping collection organized. Using off sizes allow coins to be jostled and can damage third party slabs or shake coins loose from their flips. Using cigar boxes, or old shipping boxes can cause coins to tarnish from the glues or gases trapped in the wood or paper. Consider where you’ll store your coin boxes, we suggest investing in a safe or rental of a safe deposit box for more expensive collections. In the beginning, a lockbox may suffice, but if found, these are easily carried away. If you plan to be serious about collecting invest in a quality safe and for maximum security, bolt it down if small and never discuss it. Keep in mind that many of the digital keyboard safes and lockboxes readily available can be opened with an earth magnet. Remember an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and with security, nothing rings more true.
After you obtain the basics there are some extra items that may serve some collectors well, especially if you plan to collect raw coins. First, a pair of white cotton gloves to keep oils from your skin from being imparted to the surfaces of the coins. Regardless of their use, always only hold your coins by the edges. Secondly, a soft desk pad such as a large mouse pad or watchmaker's pad will avoid rim damage if a coin slips from your grasp. A caliper can come in handy for identification, allowing the advanced collector to measure thickness and diameter. And finally, a digital scale that measures small weights in grams, grains, and troy ounces.
Connecting with other collectors through conventions, clubs, and organizations is key to expanding your knowledge and obtaining advice. This fellowship offers invaluable enrichment to your collector's interest. Most importantly is building a relationship with a trustworthy dealer. Since you’re reading this you’ve succeeded in this. U.S. Coins and Jewelry not only inventory a vast array of rare coins but also offers advice about coins and watches, jewelry, gemstones, and other collectibles. With over three decades of experience, we have built a staff with expertise from all parts of the collector world. One of our professionals will help you with all your collector needs and offer sound advice for anyone from novice to the most advanced enthusiast.