Coin Roll Hunting for Beginners
I had not been a coin collector long before I heard of coin roll hunting, and it sounded so exciting! I imagined trekking out into a forest in search of old forgotten coins.
Coin roll hunting is not that exciting, but it is a great activity!
Coin roll hunting, abbreviated CRH, is when you get wrapped rolls of coins from the bank and open them in search of certain coins. Some people coin roll hunt to fill Whitman albums while others look for valuable and rare coins.
How to get started
First, you will want to head to the bank and ask for a few rolls of coins. I would recommend starting out with pennies as there are many varieties and a greater chance of finding something old.
Pennies come from the bank in rolls of 50 cents. 10 rolls is a good starting number, so you will ask the banker for 5 dollars in pennies. Bring something to carry them like a plastic bag or a small box! And ask the banker for some coin roll wrappers so that you can re-roll your coins after.
Set yourself up at a desk or table. You will want to have with you: a trash can, a box for discarded pennies, a magnifying glass, a bright light, and a box for pennies you want to keep.
To open the rolls will depend on the type of coin roll wrapper the banker gave you. If the tops are crimped, with a thinner paper, then those are bank wrapped rolls. You can open bank wrapped rolls by tearing them in the middle. The paper is not reusable.
If you can take the coins out simply by unfolding the top of the paper, then those are hand wrapped rolls. Hand wrapped rolls are great because you can reuse the paper. (Plus, coin wrapped rolls are more likely to be part of someones old collection.)
Make sure to look at each coin carefully. When you start coin roll hunting, you will know very little about what makes a coin valuable, but your knowledge will grow. The goal of your first round of coin roll hunting is to get comfortable with what each coin looks like so you can spot anomalies.
Set aside any coins that are old or look different so that you can research them later.
What to look for when coin roll hunting?
This will not be a comprehensive list, as there are so many different varieties or coins and errors. But in general,
Pennies minted before 1982 are all made of copper. Some collectors keep pre-1982 pennies for their copper value. If you decide to do this, make sure you have a lot of space available.
Look for Wheat back pennies. These pennies were minted from 1909 to 1956. The obverse (fancy word for the front of the coin) is the same Abraham Lincoln image used today. The reverse has the words “ONE CENT” surrounded by two leaves of wheat.
As of 2020, I usually find about 1 wheat back penny for every 300 pennies.
Indian Head Pennies are more rare, but can sometimes be found. Indian Head Pennies have an image of Lady Liberty in a Native American headdress on the front, and “ONE CENT” surrounded by either a laurel or oak wreath depending on the year.
Nickels are my second favorite coin to coin roll hunt for. Since only two years of nickels have been made of silver in the last century, very few people look through nickels.
Hunt for wartime nickels. These were minted from 1942-1943. Since nickel was in high demand for artillery in World War II, the US Mint used silver instead of nickel. With a composition of about 35% silver, silver Wartime nickels are worth more than 5 cents.
Buffalo nickels were produced from 1913-1938. There are no silver in these nickels, but are regarded for their design. The buffalo nickel is one of the most iconic designs in US history. Due to poor design on the date, however, some dates are difficult to find in good condition. Look for buffalo nickels with clear dates.
Dimes are very quick to search through, but very hard to find anything rare in.
Any dime minted before 1965 is made of 90% silver. So, any dime 1964 and older is worth more than 10 cents. Unfortuntely, many of these have already been taken out of circulation. You will likely have to go through thousands of dimes before finding a silver one.
From 1916 to 1945, the US Mint printed Mercury dimes. These are gorgeous silver dimes depicting lady liberty in a phrygian cap. These are worth their value in silver, and probably slightly more since they are highly regarded by coin collectors.
Quarters are great for kids, as there are so many varieties in the State and National Parks designs. You can spend hours trying to fill a coin folder. Quarters are a great way to get children interested in coins.
Searching through quarters for silver is a very difficult endeavor. As with dimes, any quarter before 1965 is 90% silver. Because they are worth much more in silver, most older quarters have already been taken out of circulation.
In all coins:
Check for the ‘S’ mint mark. The ‘S’ mint mark means a coin was minted in San Fransisco. This mint produced very few coins for circulation, so the ‘S’ mint mark adds to the rarity of the coin.
Proofs! Proof coins are a special strike of coin meant to be sold in proof sets. Although originally sold in hard, plastic containers, many were broken out of these containers and can be found in circulation. It can be hard to differentiate a proof coin from an uncirculated coin. Check for the ‘S’ mint mark, as all proofs are minted in San Fransisco.
Remember all proofs are minted in San Fransisco, but not every coin minted in San Fransisco is a proof.
What to do with coins you don’t want?
You will probably end your search with many more coins you want to get rid of than to keep. Coin roll hunting is a numbers game, you find more valuable coins by searching through as many as you can.
Getting rid of coins is the biggest hassle of coin roll hunting. There are two ways most coin roll hunters get rid of their coins.
Most common, is to re-roll all the coins and bring them back to the bank. This is easy for smaller amounts, but is tedious in large quantities. Plus, not all bank tellers appreciate having to give out coins that are being brought back the next day.
Another option is to take all the coins to a coin counting machine. The most common coin counting machine is a CoinStar. CoinStars are super easy to use, but if you want the money back in cash, you have to pay an 11% fee. You can get the money put on a gift-card in most locations. Check if your local CoinStar offers Amazon gift cards, as they are the most versatile.
If you are super lucky your bank will have it’s own coin counting machine. This is much better than a CoinStar because they are usually free to use. In fact, if a local bank has a coin counting machine it may be worth opening an account with them just to use the machine.
Are you a Coin Roll Hunter? Share your best finds in the comments below!
If you are looking for help getting started, check out: