If you are a beginner to coin collecting, the sheer amount of information available can be intimidating. Who knew there was so much to know about coins?
If you are looking to start a coin collecting, it’s best to pick one denomination, and then branch out as you grow more confidence. You could begin with ancient Roman coins, but the learning curve is much steeper.
What makes a denomination better for beginners?
Denomination refers to the face value of the coin. When I ask what denomination is best for beginners I am asking whether a beginner should start with pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, etc.
Ideally, a beginner wants a denomination that is exciting and easy to obtain. Some denominations don’t have much variety, this could lead a beginner to think the entire hobby is boring. Some coins, like ancient coins, are harder to get a hold of, this could lead a beginner to spend a lot of money before they become interested.
I recommend pennies or quarters.
Pennies definitely fit the requirement of being easy to obtain. A dollar at the bank gets you 100 pennies to look through! You could even check your couch cushions and probably find a few pennies.
A Whitman Coin Folder from 1941-1974 has 90 penny slots. Which means if you find all the coins by coin roll hunting the whole album would only have cost you 90 cents to fill! (Click Here to Learn More About Coin Roll Hunting.)
The other great thing about pennies is that there are many varieties and errors. Since the year 1900, there have been 4 different penny design. Every time the mint changes design, there is a greater likelihood for errors.
There are many different varieties of quarters because of the State Series and National Park Series. From 1999-2008 the US Mint designed and minted a coin for 5 different states, releasing new coins each year. The State Series program was so successful that they created another program for National Parks called the “America the Beautiful Series” which ran from 2010 till 2021.
Quarters are the first coins I ever collected. My grandfather gave me a map of state quarters to fill when I was 9 years old and I still have it in my room.
If you are starting with quarters, get a folder for the State Quarters and a folder for National Park Quarters. Whitman is a great, well known brand. H&E Harris and Co. is also a good brand. I would stay away from Littleton Coin Company until you know more about coin prices. (Read why here.)
Like quarters, dollar coins have many different designs. The most recent run of dollar coins features Presidents of the United States.
The US government has printed more dollar coins than they know what to do with. Unfortunately, no is using them. So, although you could go to a bank and get dollar coins, they are rarely seen in circulation.
Part of the fun of other coins is the speculation of what the coins may be worth 100 years from now. At the current rate, modern dollar coins will likely be easy to find in uncirculated condition, making their price unlikely to rise.
Of course, you could collect older dollar coins like the Morgan and Peace dollars. These are great coins, every beginner should get one eventually just to feel the satisfying weight of it in your hand. But, the cheapest of these coins range from $16-$23. I think it’s best to have some more coin knowledge before jumping into such expensive coins.
Nickels and Dimes
Nickels and dimes all suffer the same flaw for me in terms of recommending them to beginners. Both in modern years are pretty boring. There are several key dates and rare errors, but not as many as pennies and quarters.
The redeeming factor for nickels is the Buffalo Nickel and the Wartime Nickels. These are fun coins to find! If a coin collector wants to begin with nickels, then I would suggest starting with Buffalo Nickels.
Dimes have had the same design since 1946. Don’t get me wrong, the Roosevelt design is great! But I am getting a little tired of it. The only big change in the Roosevelt dime happened in 1965 when the switched from a mainly silver composition to a copper and nickel composition.
A new collector interested in dimes should look into Mercury dimes. Mercury dimes, due to their small size, are the cheapest silver coin to collect. Plus, they are gorgeous.
What coins did you first collect? Vote in the poll below and add a comment!