credit union sign

Banks or Credit Unions: Which is Better For Coin Roll Hunting?

A coin roll hunter is someone who goes to a bank to get rolls- or even boxes -of coins to search through in hopes of finding rare and valuable coins. Is a coin roll hunter more likely to find valuable coins at a bank or a credit union?

First, let’s look into the differences between the two types of banking systems. A bank is a business like Wells Fargo or Chase which has customers and is owned by its shareholders. A credit union on the other hand, is owned by the “customers” who are referred to as members.

Credit unions are usually smaller than banks, but are also insured (by the NCUA instead of the FDIC). Credit unions, as smaller institutions, can have more flexibility in their rates and promotional offerings, although large banks may be more willing to take steep losses.

Whether or not you bank with a bank or a credit union, which is better for coin roll hunting?

The benefit of a regular bank is that they likely get a lot more traffic. A bank probably has more members coming in each day to deposit and take out coins. This can be good for a coin collector because they can be reasonably sure they are going through different coins.

The negative of more traffic is that it increases the likelihood another customer also collects coins. Plus, a larger and busier bank will have more employees (and bank tellers are notorious for buying the good coins out of the till.)

Bank Imagery

A smaller credit union will have less coins coming in and out each day. This would make a credit union a bad place to check regularly, as many coins would be the same. A smaller bank will also have less coins on hand if you want to search through boxes

The benefit of a small bank or credit union is that it can be easier to develop a relationship with the tellers and managers. It’s great to build up a relationship so the employees can let you know if any interesting coins or old bills come in.

The Winner?

If you can pick only one, I would say a bigger and busier bank is the way to go. This way you can get a wider variety of coins each time you go in. Of course, there is no reason you can’t have more than one bank account.

One thing to consider is that credit unions often offer free savings or checking accounts. You could always open an account and keep a few dollars in there to buy coins every couple of weeks. Coming in regularly for coins is a good way to build rapport with the employees and hopefully they can let you know if any interesting coins come in.

Share your comments below and vote in our poll!

How to Use A CoinStar to Find Rare Coins

Most people know Coinstar machines as places to exchange coins for cash, but did you also know that Coinstars are a great way to find valuable coins?

Coinstar machines work by weighing coins and checking their magnetism. If a coin is outside the parameters of most US coins, the Coinstar will reject it. Since silver coins (mostly dimes quarters and half dollars minted before 1965) are heavier than modern coins, the Coinstar will not accept them.

A Coinstar Kiosk

Most people who exchange coins at a Coinstar do not realize that their coins that are rejected may not be accepted because they are silver! Some people take the rejected coins back, but many people leave the coins in the reject tray or on the countertop of the Coinstar.

Getting into the habit of checking the Coinstar reject tray every-time you go to the store can be very profitable. It takes seconds to do and you can find silver, tokens, and foreign coins.

Where do I check a Coinstar for silver?

Here is the handy Coinstar coin-finders guide for all the coin hunters out there:

Coinstar Labeled Coin hunting finding silver guide reject tray
Coinstar Guide Labeled

I recommended looking first in the reject tray. Check with your eyes quickly, then reach your hand along the bottom of the reject tray to feel around for any coins. It doesn’t take more than a second to do.

How often do you find rejected coins at a Coinstar?

This will really depend on the area you live in. I have some Coinstars where I will find rejected coins about 1 in 5 times I check, and others that are closer to 1 in 10.

The best Coinstar’s to use will be ones at busy places, the more often the Coinstar is used, the more likely you will find something good!

Buy Gold and Silver

Are all Coinstar rejects valuable?

Not all Coinstar rejects are valuable. Coins can be rejected for being dirty, damaged, or just due to a machine error.

Along with coins, I have also found lint, plastic, and nails in the Coinstar reject tray.

Does this only work for Coinstar brand coin counting machines?

No! You can find rejected coins in any brand of coin counter.

I simply refer only to Coinstar machines as it is the most popular coin counter. You can also find counter counters at some banks and credit unions. (And some coin counters at banks don’t charge a fee!)

What is the most valuable thing ever found in a Coinstar?

One of my friends told me that his brother once found a gold sovereign in a Coinstar! His brother sold the gold to a pawn shop, then went to buy an Xbox.

There is always a small chance you can find something amazing in a Coinstar, so it is always worth it to check.

What are the most common coins or tokens to find in a Coinstar reject tray?

Without a doubt the most common coin to find in a Coinstar is this prayer token pictured below!

Prayer Token Angel Golden
Prayer Token

I have probably found about 5 of these prayer tokens while searching the Coinstar reject tray over the last couple of years!

Is it legal to take coins from the Coinstar?

I’m not sure if a store could make a case that they own the coins once they have gone through the machine, but I have never been asked to not check the machine. Plus, it would be hard to prove they are not your coins.

It only takes a few seconds to look for rejected coins, so I doubt most employees even know what I am doing when I go over to the Coinstar.

Where can I show off my finds?

There is a great Reddit community on the sub r/CoinstarFinds where you can post images of coins, tokens, and random objects found at the Coinstar.

You can also share your photos on my Contact Page or on the American Coin Stash Facebook page!

Share a comment below on your best finds and vote in our poll!

CRH Coin Roll Hunting Mats Collecting

What is a Coin Mat and How Do They Work For Coin Roll Hunting?

Laminated coin mats are a great way to keep yourself organized and informed while Coin Roll Hunting!

If you don’t know what coin roll hunting is, I recommend checking out my more in-depth article “What is Coin Roll Hunting”. In brief, coin roll hunting is when a coin collector gets rolls of wrapped coins from the bank in search of treasures.

But how do you know what coins to be looking for? This is the problem which hunting and collecting coin roll sorting maps help you answer!

Note that the blurriness in the image was done intentionally by the seller. The distortion is to prevent copycats. The actual product you receive will be clear and legible.

The laminated mats are 11″x17″ inches, making them the perfect size to work on and they should fit on standard desk sizes. They are also dry-erase friendly, which means you can make notes or mark off denominations that you find.

In one review, a user was disappointed by the thickness of these mats. It’s important to note that these are not as thick as traditional dinner place-setting mats. These were designed to lay flat across a table.

In the center of the map is a 1909 penny, the first year of the wheat cent and one of the most sought after. This space is mostly blank, because this is where you keep the coins you are looking through. I recommend having a magnifying glass with you as well.

To the left and right of the cent you are given information about mintage numbers, double die varieties, valuable pennies, mint mark errors, and miscellaneous errors. These are great stats to have on hand and take you from a beginner coin roll hunter to an advanced one instantly!

Having this information on hand means you don’t need to flip through a big red book of coins to find information on each coin you find. Being faster, means you can go through more coins, which increases your odds of finding a valuable coin!

At the top, there are 32 outlines of circles, these spaces help you keep your coins organized. You can keep the coins you plan on saving in those spots, or stack coins by year.

For a beginner coin roll hunter, I always recommend starting with pennies as there is more to be found, but you can purchase mats for any denomination.

Here’s a list of available mats with links to each one:





Half Dollars:

Dollar Coins:

Do you use a CRH mat and if so, have you found it useful? Vote in our poll and add a comment below!

As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn ad revenue from purchases made through Amazon links on my site. This does not increase the price of items linked through my site. My purpose is to inform.

Lincoln Smoking Counterstamp

Counterstamped Coins and How to Find Them

One of the first interesting coins I ever found coin roll hunting was a counterstamped coin! I had no idea what the weird mark on my coin meant, or what it was. The mystery of it gave me a love of counterstamped coins.

My first counterstamped coin was stamped with a cannon. It took me a few hours and a magnifying glass to realize it was a cannon. At first, I thought it was a microscope. Check out the photos below:

My first counterstamped coin!

Here is a closer image of the cannon:

So cool!

My theory is that it was given out at some historical site for the American Revolution. Perhaps it was even given to actors in a Civil War Re-enactment? (If anyonw knows, please contact me!)

This coin will always be one of my favorite coins I have ever found in circulation.

What is a counterstamped coin?

A counterstamped coin is a coin that has had an image or initials pressed into it while in circulation. (Compare this to a privy-marked coin which had a small marking placed while at the mint.)

This was a common promotional item in the early to mid-1900’s. Companies would have a machine at the counter, and would press coins for those who asked.

Most counterstamps are seen on pennies, although they can be found on any denomination.

Other Names

I most often refer to them as counterstamped coins or counterstamps, however they go by several other names. Most commonly: countermarks, punchmarks, or chopmarks.

Are counterstamped coins valuable?

In general, not really.

A counterstamp is technically damaging the coin. Any damage that a coin encounters outside of the mint is called Post-Mint Damage and hurts the collector value.

Plenty of people like counterstamped coins and try to collect them. However, since a counterstamp is easy to replicate and difficult to determine when the engraving was actually placed, most collectors don’t buy counterstamped coins.

If you have a lot of counterstamped coins, you may be able to list them on Ebay for a slight premium, but don’t expect to get rich off of one coin.

Why do people want counterstamped coins?

A counterstamp simply gives a coin more history.

Although I wouldn’t want a valuable coin to have a counterstamp, finding common dated with a counterstamp makes it more fun. Just a small engraving can take a boring 1973 penny into a key part of a collection.

Since counterstamped coins aren’t valuable there are very few people selling them. You could check Etsy for counterstamped coins. Most common counterstamped coins are sold for 3-5 dollars on Etsy. Etsy historically has pretty overpriced coins so it’s not a surprise. Click here to read more about expensive coins on Etsy.

How do you find counterstamped coins?

The best, easiest way to find counterstamped coins is by coin roll hunting. Coin roll hunting is when you get a lot of coins from the bank and look through each one. If you are interested in learning more about coin roll hunting, check out “What is Coin Roll Hunting?”.

If you are looking for counterstamped coins check pennies first, as they were more likely to be stamped.

What are common counterstamps?

Here are the counterstamps I have seen most often:

1.) Freemason symbol
2.) John F. Kennedy
3.) Lincoln Smoking a Pipe
4.) Someone’s Initials

Here are some of my favorites:

How to make your own counterstamps?

Making your own counterstamp is easy and there are several methods.

The simplest method, is to use a hammer and metal stamping tools. With this method you could press your own initials into coins.

If you are going to start chopmarking your own coins, I would recommend using common dates. It would suck to damage a bunch of coins to find out you don’t like how they look a few months later.

Nickel with Soap, Lemon, Baking Soda

Cleaning Coins is Actually Bad For Them (with pictures!)

Post on any coin forum asking how to clean your coins and you will be accosted with angry coin collectors tell you to absolutely not try to clean them. There is good reason for this.

Although a cleaned coin may look better to the human eye, it actually damages the coin.

After being exposed to oxygen, water, and other elements in circulation, coins develop a patina. The patina is a thin layer of green or brown film caused by oxidation on the surface of the metal.

Cleaning a coin involves removing the thin layer of patina on the top of the coin to expose the shiny metal below. From afar, the coin would be shinier and look newer.

In reality, the cleaned coin now has very small scratched called micro-abrasions. These small scratches hurt the coins value for most collectors. Plus, by giving the coin a more scratched surface, the coin is now more prone to oxidation.

Here are the coins I will be using to show the different cleaning methods sometimes prescribed.

1.) 196(?)D Nickel – Dish Soap, Sponge, Lemon, and Baking Soda

This coin was the worst of the bunch. I could only barely make out the first part of the year (maybe 1968 or 1969?).

Since this coin was the worst of the bunch, I decided to use the most abrasive cleaning methods on it.

First I used a sponge with Dawn Dish soap aggressively on the surface of the coin. As I ran hot water over the coin I continued to rub in circular motions.

After this, it looked a bit cleaner, but I decided to get some chemistry involved and let the coin sit in lemon and baking soda before I rubbed it with a Q-tip.

The obverse of the coin after cleaning.

The coins look ever so slightly better after being cleaned. However, the amount of long term-damage done is not worth the small increase in eye-appeal. The date was still illegible after cleaning.

2.) 1986D Penny – Lemon and Baking Soda

For the 1986D, I put the penny in a small glass ramequin with fresh lemon juice and added about half a tablespoon of baking soda. I could tell something was happening as the concoction began to fizz!

Penny soaked in lemon juice and baking soda.

After letting the coin sit in the mixture a minute, I flipped it over so it could effect the coin evenly. Once that side was done I took the coin out to rub it with a Q-tip.

The coin certainly came out much shinier! If I had been more aggressive with the Q-tip, I could have gotten it much cleaner.

The obverse before (left) and after (right).
The reverse before (left) and after (right).

Much shinier of course, but you can still see small sections where the q-tip scratched the surface of the coin.

3.) 2000D New Hampshire Quarter – Acetone and a Q-tip

This coin was pretty clean already. Just a few blemishes keeping it from looking like new. For this quarter, I decided to go for a gentler cleaning method.

I took a Q-tip, dipped it in acetone, and used gentle circular motions on the surface of the coin.


This worked effectively and quickly, removing dark spots in the corners of the coin. Here is the before and after comparison:

(Sorry! The before image is not very clear.)
Again, not very clear image. Sorry!

4.) 1995D Penny – Acetone ONLY

If I had to recommend a way to “clean” a coin, this would be it. Acetone, also known as propanone, only dissolves organic materials. It can help dissolve glue, wax, and plastic.

This penny looks to be experiencing copper rot, more formally known as bronze disease. This occurs when copper comes into contact with chloride. You can tell by the green and white spots on the surface of the coin.

(Coins can also be affected by verdigris which is very similar, but I suspect this is bronze disease because of the white spots along with the green.)

To use acetone and minimize damage to the coin, you need to use 100% pure acetone. Don’t use nail polish remover as it includes coloring and fragrances that could affect your coin.

Keep pour the acetone into a glass jar or bowl. Put the coin into the acetone and try to move the coin as little as possible. You do not want the coin to scratch across the glass.

Penny in acetone in a glass bowl.

I would lightly swish the acetone around, but not enough to move the coin. After about 5 minutes I flipped the coin over and let it soak for another 5 minutes.

When taking the coin out of the acetone make sure to let it AIR DRY. Do not pat the coin dry with any material as this can also cause small abrasions. Acetone dries very quickly.

Obverse before (left) and after (right).
Reverse before (left) and after (right).

The obverse of our 1995D penny actually looks slightly worse after the acetone bath. The acetone ate away organic material on the top layer of the coin to help reveal the zinc below.

Even acetone cannot save a damaged coin, but it doesn’t hurt the metal when done properly. (Some people claim that leaving copper in acetone for too long can damage the coin, I don’t recommend leaving a penny in acetone for longer than a half hour.)


I know that by showing coins going from dirty to clean it may look like I am promoting for people to clean their coins. On the contrary, I think it is important for collectors to know that a cleaner coin is not necessarily better.

If a coin looks suspiciously clean for its age, then look carefully! Check for small scratches on the surface that could indicate cleaning. Get a magnifying glass of some kind to check for tiny abrasions that follow similar circular patterns.

Look at all the small scratches on this quarter!

If you have a coin that is both dirty and valuable, you can submit it to a professional coin service like PCGS or NGC to have it professionally cleaned (also referred to as restoration or conservation).

Have you ever cleaned a coin? Vote in our poll or comment below!

(Interested in more polls? Check out our poll page!)

Silver Round Toned With Eggs

How to Artificially Tone Silver Coins?

Alternative title, “How to Upset Coin Collectors.”

I’m going to get so much hate for this one so I will clarify now.

*I am aware that artificially toning a coin lessens its value. I am aware that lots of artificial toning is done to convince novice buyers to pay more for a coin. This article is a study on the processes of how to create artificial toning on a coin.*

All that being said, if they are your coins and you like pretty colors, go ahead and tone them! A lot of coin collectors are pretentious snobs anyway. (I’m mostly kidding.)

For the purpose of this experiment, I will be using 99.9% silver bullion also called silver rounds. I do not want to damage the value of my silver coins by toning them. Since the “coins” I am using are very generic silver buffalo rounds, toning them should not affect the price as they have almost no premium.

The silver rounds I will be ruining today.

I have never toned coins before, so I will be testing several methods I have seen on various forums.

(If you want to see a similar post where I used Liver of Sulfur Gel, Click Here!)

What I am trying to achieve

Ideally, I want these rounds to come out with a rainbow toning. Mainly, I want to have purple and blue hues on the rounds.

The consensus seems to be that the best way to artificially tone coins is to use heat and sulfur, so most of my experiments will revolve around those elements.

Since I am also very impatient, I will focus on experiments that promise to tone coins within a few hours.

1.) Using a Boiled Egg

Silver Round with an Egg

I boiled an egg for about 8 minutes until it was hard-boiled. I put the egg in a bowl, mashed it with a fork, then threw in my silver round. Easy-peasy.

Silver round IN the hardboiled egg.

I covered the bowl in saran wrap to keep the sulfur in and left the bowl on the windowsill.

After about 30 minutes, I could tell the silver was beginning to tone!

The sulfur in the egg starting to react with the silver.

So far, it was not a very attractive toning. This coin looks more like it was burnt in a house fire rather than touched by a rainbow.

After another hour in the sun…

Slide the arrows to see the toned obverse and reverse!

This one didn’t come out too bad! With some more time and a few more eggs I could have gotten a much more even color. I was hoping for more blue tones instead of the spotted burnt look.

2.) The Baked Potato Method

I had high hopes for this one! After the egg, this was the most highly recommended way to tone a coin easily. Plus, it was supposed to work in less than an hour!

I took a potato and cut a hole for my silver round to fit in.

Who knew potatoes made such great coin holders?

I put the potato in the oven for 350 degrees, expecting to let it cook for about an hour.

No changes after 10 minutes, not surprising as the potato was barely hot.

After 10 minutes in the oven.

After 30 minutes I was getting slightly worried. I saw absolutely no changes!

Finally, after an hour I took the potato out of the oven. I covered the potato in aluminum foil, hoping this would keep whatever catalyst was supposed to tone the round in. Potatoes apparently contain very little sulfur.

The fully cooked potato. I added salt and olive oil since I was going to eat the potato. (It was delicious!)

After an hour sitting in the baked potato here is what the silver round looked like…

Not a spot on it!

Nothing. Not a spot on it.

Either this method is a hoax or I did something wrong. If I was going to repeat this experiment, I would try covering the potato in aluminum foil while baking it.

3.) Baked With Cauliflower

Silver Round in Cauliflower

I almost decided not to try this one. I started it halfway through the potato experiment that seemed to be going nowhere, so my expectations were low.

I put some cauliflower in a Pyrex baking pan with olive oil and salt. (In case I wanted to eat it later.) I covered the Pyrex in aluminum foil. Then, threw it in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Wow! This one was working so much better than the potato, probably due to the higher sulfur content of cauliflower.

I flipped the Buffalo Round over and let it sit as the cauliflower cooled for another hour.

After another hour out of the oven…

Wow! Cauliflower really does tone coins!

This one worked great! The cauliflower gave the silver the blue color I was looking for. This was by far the best toning method I had tried all day.

4.) Onion and Kale (11:45)

Silver Buffalo with Onion and Kale

Since the baked potato method did not work, I decided to try onion and kale. Both foods came up on a list of high-sulfur foods and I happened to have both on hand.

Instead of baking, I sautéed the onion and kale for about 8-10 minutes since that is how I normally eat them. As soon as the kale and onions were cooked, I put them in a tupperware container with the silver and shook it up.

Silver in cooked kale and onion.

My hope was the heat and sulfur trapped in a small container would be the secret to an even toning.

After 30 minutes in the kale and onions…

A lite but even toning.

Hmm… I thought this combination would work much better and faster. After an hour in the sun, there were only some light brown spots. I do have to give this method credit for creating a much more even effect on both sides.

5.) Shampoo and Heat

Silver Ounce with Head and Shoulders 2 in 1 Lavender.

Some shampoos are made with sulfate, a sulfur compound. I used Head and Shoulders for this.

I hoped that by heating the shampoo on the silver I would speed up the chemical process. This didn’t seem to be working so I inhaled lots of burnt shampoo for nothing.

My initial attempt heating it with a lighter.

If you were curious, Head and Shoulders shampoo is not flammable! Who knew? I swapped the lighter for a Butane Torch to speed up the process.

MMM… burning shampoo smell.

Eventually, I gave up on heating the silver round and resigned to leave it in the sun. I will update this post in a few day if I get any results.

Speaking of waiting…

5.) Manilla Envelope

Buffalo Silver Round sitting on a manilla envelope.

This is the one I am least excited for, since it is supposed to take several weeks to process. Thankfully-although it is the middle of Winter- I live in California so I still get a decent amount of sun most days.

The egg, shampoo, and manilla envelope sitting in the sun.

I am still waiting on the results of this one. I may try to speed to process up with a humidifier. But for now, I will wait. 😦


I had lots of fun running around my kitchen looking for new ways to tone my silver rounds. It did feel very wrong to be intentionally damaging them, since until now I have tried to handle my silver as little as possible to prevent spots.

I am hoping that now that I have artificially toned my own coins I will be able to better spot coins that have been artificially toned in order to avoid them.

Yes, although I was excited to see the colors change I do think they look VERY ugly now. Nothing about the toning looks natural; it is too uneven.

Check out my follow-up article where I do the professional method:

Toning a Silver Round with Liver of Sulphur Gel

Share your thoughts in the comments or the poll below.