What To Do If You Inherit A Coin Collection?

Your loving nana passed away, and in the back of an old sock drawer you find… coins? Coin collecting is a very popular hobby, especially for older people and many store coins for years, not telling anyone they have coins until it’s too late. Because of this, many people inherit coins having never known if they existed, what to do with inherited coins, or what value they may have.


For the love of God, I cannot stress this enough. DO NOT CLEAN THE COINS.

Cleaning coins is very bad for them. Although they make look better to the human eye shortly after cleaning, this causes small scrapes on the surface of the coin that can damage the value. Even damaged coins can have more value than a cleaned coin.

Acetone is the only way of “cleaning” a coin I have ever seen moderately accepted by coin collectors, but even that only removes things like adhesives or oils. If your coins have tape or glue, check out this article where I remove tape from a Peace Dollar.


Some collectors organize and label their coins very neatly, others…not so much. If you are inheriting a collection from a not so organized collector, you are going to have your work cut out for you, especially if you are new to the hobby. See if you can get a friend or family member who has some knowledge on coins to help you out. You can pay them, or even offer them a few coins from the collection. (Just make sure you know what you are offering and trust the person.)

Hand in hand with organizing is proper storage, check out this article on storing coins properly. When handling coins, you want to hold them by the rims, and avoid touching the face. Our hands have oils which are damaging to the metal of the coin.

Not every coin is valuable enough to need careful handling. I don’t worry about change in my pocket jangling around, but if you are not sure what you have, it is best to err with caution.

Learn a Little

If you have stumbled upon this article, I assume you aren’t too keen on selling the coins to the first buyer or even worse… dumping them in a Coinstar. This could be good motivation for you to learn a bit about a century’s old hobby.

I think teaching you how to identify a coin is a little beyond the scope of this article. Here are some things to look for:

I won’t get too involved in identifying coins for this article, but a good resource is this article on Coin Roll Hunting.

Consult a Professional

Find a local coin store, coin fair, or a local collector who can help you determine what your coins are worth. I would recommend doing an initial sorting phase beforehand though, so that you have a sense of what may be valuable. This will save your time as well as the consultant. Plus, although I think most coin collector are very credible and honest people, there are some who are willing to profit off of another’s ignorance.

Should I sell coins I have inherited?

This is really going to be up to the individual. Do you need the funds and find very little joy in owning them? Then it’s probably best to sell the coins so they can pass onto someone who appreciates the numismatic and artistic value.

If you don’t need the money, but still find the coins interesting or intriguing, keep them around for a while and see how you feel in a few years. Perhaps another friend or family member will come along and take a greater interest. Maybe you will find yourself pulling out the box of coins and finding delight in them someday.

If you need the money, but love the coins, see if you can find other things to sell to prevent having to get rid of the coins. You may be able to even sell a few coins but keep the most valuable or your sentimental favorites for yourself. You don’t need to have a lot of coins to be a coin collector.

This leads to my next point:

Should I keep the coins I have inherited?

Do not feel pressured to keep coins that you have inherited. There are many reasons a coin could be special to a collector. Maybe it was the first coin they picked off the sidewalk, a gift from a friend, or a coin they spent lots of money on when times were tight. Just because a coin was special to someone else doesn’t mean it will be special to you.

I have dozens of coins in my collection with no value, but the way I acquired them was special to me. I am sure someday my kids will inherit my collection and be baffled trying to figure out why a damaged 1963 penny was in my collection. There is more value to some coins emotionally than there is monetarily, and no two people will have the same emotional connection to a coin.

Don’t get too caught up in the monetary value

Coin collecting is one big treasure hunt, and the thrill of finding a coin worth a lot of money does add to the excitement, but don’t let that idea distract you. Most coins are worth only a small to modest amount. The likelihood you will find a white whale coin and know how to identify it is slim.

Try to take pleasure in the smaller joys of coin collecting. The age of the coin, the weight in your hand, and the art on the coin are all non-value parts of the hobby collectors love. If you set your expectations too high on the value the coins could be worth, you may find yourself disappointed when the collection is only worth a few hundred dollars and cash it out before you get a chance to appreciate them.

Header American Innovation Dollar Coins Gears

All About the American Innovation $1 Coin Series

The Innovation Series was enacted on January 3rd 2018 the Act reads:

“To require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint coins in recognition of American
innovation and significant innovation and pioneering efforts of individuals or
groups from each of the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and the United
States territories, to promote the importance of innovation in the United States,
the District of Columbia, and the United States territories, and for other purposes.”

If you want to read the full Act that brought this coinage to fruition you can read it here.

A Great Idea On an Underutilized Coin

Once again, the US Mint attempts to make the dollar coin popular. While I love the idea of applauding American Innovation, I am disappointed to see these designs being pushed onto the dollar coins. I doubt these coins will see much use in general circulation.

Even the now-popular Peace and Morgan dollars were not popular from 1878-1935. Where the large dollar coins saw the most use was casinos. Similarly, smaller dollar coins today are usually received as change from parking meters or vending machines. The US population is accustomed to $1 bills and has so far been unwilling to change to dollar coins.

While we are still very new to this series of coins, so far the two most popular have been the Maryland (2020) Hubble Space Telescope Dollar Coin and the Massachusetts (2020) Telephone Dollar Coin.

Notice that none of these coins have people on them, that was intentional! Congress wanted the coins to honor the innovation more than the innovator. The act explicitly states:

head and shoulders portrait or bust of any person and
no portrait of a living person may be included in the
design of any coin issued under this subsection.

Will the American Innovation Series Coins Increase in Value?

I could definitely see the American Innovation Series increasing in value in the long term. Currently, these coins have not gained much popularity with collectors or the general population. Even the Reverse Proof Sets (which collectors usually go wild over) have been slow to sell out even with mintage numbers at 50,000.

My prediction that the Innovation Dollar coins will appreciate in value may be optimistic, however. Consider how many dollar coins the US Mint produces and how little they are circulated. In a few decades we may still have innovation dollar coins that have barely been touched.

If you are looking to make a profit off US minted coins, the Innovation Series is probably not the one to bet on, instead focusing on coins with silver value could be a more profitable long-term endeavor.

The Learning Element

I love when a mint decides to incorporate elements on coins to teach people about the country they live in. It’s interesting to travelers and young kids who often spend more time looking at coins.

The benefit of the Innovation Series being on the dollar coins is that most people are not familiar with dollar coins. Since these coins are scarce in everyday transactions people are compelleed to take a better look at dollar coins when they do get them. (It also causes coin forums to be flooded with photos of dollar coins with the caption “What is this worth?!?”)

Release Schedule:


Introductory Coin


Delaware – Classifying the stars
Pennsylvania – Polio vaccine
New Jersey – Light bulb
Georgia – Trustees’ Garden


Connecticut – Gerber variable scale
Massachusetts – Telephone
Maryland – Hubble Space Telescope
South Carolina – Septima Clark


New Hampshire – Home video game system
Virginia – Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel
New York – Erie Canal
North Carolina – First public university


Rhode Island










West Virginia


North Dakota
South Dakota




New Mexico


District of Columbia
Puerto Rico


American Samoa
U.S. Virgin Islands
Northern Mariana Islands

What do you think of the American Innovation Series? Share your comments below and vote in our poll!

Toned Coins together Head toning vs tarnish

Tarnishing Vs. Toning: What is the Difference?

A quick google search for tarnish defines “lose or cause to lose luster, especially as a result of exposure to air or moisture”. CoinNews describes toning as “the discoloration or light patina that forms on the surface of coins due to oxygen and chemicals in the air acting on the metal”.

Toning and tarnishing both happen from the same process of metal reacting with water, oxygen, and/or chemicals in the air to change the surface of the metal. But for a coin and precious metal collector, when is a coin tarnished and when is it toned?

The Eye of the Beholder

Much of the decision for whether a coin is tarnished lies in the viewer. Some collectors hate any changes in color to pure silver and will refer to any chemical changes as tarnished. Other collectors love toned coins and seek them out.

In general, toned coins will have an even and attractive coloring. Many collectors will refer to the “eye appeal” of a coin. This means that a coin, although tarnished, looks arguably better because of the change in color.

Benjamin Franklin HAlf dollar PCGS 1
A 1958 Benjamin Franklin Half Dollar From PCGS: Toned or Tarnished?

You can artificially tone coins; an experiment I have catalogued several times on American Coin Stash. If you are interested in artificially toning coins you should look at this article, where I toned coins with liver of sulfur gel, or this one where I toned coins with food from my kitchen.

If you hear a collector refer to a coin as ‘tarnished’ they are probably not impressed with the look of the coin. The coin may have uneven coloring, blemishes, fingerprints, or milk spots.

Quick Reference:

  • Tarnishing
    • Unattractive
    • Uneven
    • Fingerprints
    • Blemishes
    • “Milk Spots”
  • Toning
    • Attractive, “Eye Appeal”
    • Nice Colors (blue, purple, rainbow)
    • Can Be Faked

Coin Denomination Matters

Certain coins are more likely to have attractive toning than others. Any coin with a high silver content which was circulated very little is more likely to have an attractive an even toning. Morgan and Peace silver dollars are coins which can often be found with toning. Since they have a high silver content, the silver reacts with oxygen and water often resulting in blue and purple hues. And, since the coins were rarely circulated, the toning comes out even across the coin since there were less hands to interrupt the process.

Toned Morgan Silver Dollar PCGS toning
A Toned 1892 Morgan Silver Dollar From PCGS

Coins that will develop less attractive toning or tarnishing are pennies and nickels. Pennies, composed of copper and zinc, are circulated too much to often have an attractive level of tarnishing on them. Nickels, composed of nickel and copper, usually only darken in color, rarely changing to the blues, purples, and reds people seek out in toned coins.

Not that it is impossible for any coin to develop an attractive tone. I have seen pennies turn really fantastic shades of blue and purple.

Final Thoughts

In the end, whether a coin is toned or tarnished, there is no clear line. Toning has become more popular in recent years which has driven the price of toned coins much higher.

With the increase in popularity, fakes have become more common. It can be hard to spot the different between natural toning, and toning that has been induced in a lab or kitchen. In fact, this is a great debate for collectors, “When does a coin become artificially toned?”

A coin collector could induce toning by leaving a coin in a hot attic for months or years, if done intentionally, does that count as artificial toning?

What do you think about toning? Share a comment below and vote in our poll!

2021 morgan peace silver dollar CC S O Privy Mark

US Mint Begins Release of 2021 Morgan And Peace Silver Dollars

Today was the first day of pre-ordering for the 2021 Morgan and Peace Silver Dollars. At 12PM Eastern Time, the US Mint opened two of the 2021 Morgan Dollars.

The first one to sell out was the 2021 Morgan with a “CC” Privy Mark honoring the Carson City Mint. This Morgan Dollar was not minted in Carson City, but in Philadelphia.

The other coin released today was another Morgan Silver Dollar with an “O” Privy Mark to honor the New Orleans Mint.

Why did the Carson City Mint Dollar Coin sell out first?

Carson City coins are especially rare since the mint was only sporadically open for operation. The mint produced coins from 1870-1885 and from 1889-1893. The Carson City Morgan silver dollar is the first coin minted with a “CC” mark in 128 years.

Keep in mind though, this coin was not minted in Carson City, but minted in Philadelphia and has a privy mark for Carson City. (Also remember that most coins made in Philadelphia have no mint mark.)

Can I still get 2021 Morgan Silver Dollars?

Yes! Here is the release schedule for 2021 Morgan Dollars: Here was the intended release of the 2021 Dollar coins:

2021 Morgan Dollar “O” Privy MarkMay 24, 2021
2021 Morgan Dollar “CC” Privy MarkMay 24, 2021
2021 Morgan Dollar “S” MintJune 1, 2021
2021 Morgan Dollar “D” MintJune 1, 2021
2021 Morgan Dollar (No Mint Mark, Philadelphia P)June 7, 2021
2021 Peace Dollar (No Mint Mark, Philadelphia P)June 7, 2021
Release Schedule for 2021 Morgan and Peace Dollar Coins

*UPDATE*: Read the update below! The US Mint has delayed the pre-orders for the upcoming Morgan and Peace silver dollars!

If you missed the release, don’t worry because you can always try on eBay or another third party seller. Check in with your local coin store to see if they managed to get some to sell.

I expect the two most popular of the series will be the “CC” mint mark and the “S” mint. If you want to order either of those, make sure to be on the website as soon as pre-ordering becomes available to ensure you can grab one.

What is the difference between a mint mark and a privy mark?

A mint mark indicates where a coin was minted, meaning where the coin was produced. A privy mark is meant to honor a certain time or place in history. We call these different names because mint marks help keep track of where coins were from and potential errors.

Privy marks, on the other hand, hold sentimental value and can increase the value of the coin. They do not tell you where a coin was produced or when.

US Mint website keep crashing when trying to buy or pre-order?

If you have tried to buy coins from the US Mint the day they are released you have probably felt the frustration of trying to checkout and having the session timeout due to problems connecting or a “bad gateway” error. These are due to the US Mint website servers not being able to handle the number of people ordering all at once.

Here are my tips to ensure a successful pre-order from USMint.gov:

  • Be ready on time.
    • Coins sell out fast so make sure to be ready as soon as they become available.
  • Have your payment information saved.
    • By creating an account and saving your payment information, you can save time by not having to input your full address and credit card whenever the server times out.
  • Ask friends to help.
    • More people trying increases your odds of getting a coin from pre-ordering. Of course, you may end up with more than one, so make sure you can afford to buy more than one if both you and your friend make it to checkout.
  • Keep trying!
    • It took me 23 minutes before I could get my order into the United States Mint to order the 2021 “O” Morgan Silver Dollar. Thankfully I kept trying, because I was very worried after 15 minutes. Keep refreshing until it says they are sold out!

Other than that, it is mostly luck! Keep your lucky penny or pocket piece handy!

Buy Gold and Silver

Will 2021 Silver Dollars Increase in Value?

Who knows!?

Unfortunately, this will depend not only on the price of silver, but investor interest and scarcity. The mint made 175,000 of each Morgan Silver Dollar and 200,000 of the 2021 Peace Dollars. Although a fairly low mintage, it is nowhere near the scarcest the mint has produced.

Many numismatists I have seen have predicted a short term price increase ranging from $100-$400, and then a stabilizing over the next 3 years as the collector frenzy wanes.

Overall, I wouldn’t purchase a 2021 Silver Dollar if your goal is to profit in a time frame greater than one year. Buy one because you enjoy them and want to be part of the first people to get one!

Those who buy directly from the mint and resell on eBay immediately will probably make a decent profit as collectors experience FOMO due to the perceived scarcity.

Why is there a charge of $4.95 from the US Mint on my card?

You may be surprised to see a charge on your bank statement for $4.95 from the US Mint. Don’t be alarmed!

It will say “Purchase US Min Coin Washington DC Card####” Merchant Name: US Mint Sales-DR.

The US Mint is not charging you extra nor did they charge you the wrong price for the Silver dollars. $4.95 is simply the cost of the US Mint’s budget shipping option. You may see a larger charge from the US Mint depending on what type of shipping you selected at checkout.

Remember, the coins are currently being listed for pre-order, meaning they are not being purchased when you complete your payment. You have simply ordered one from the mint to be shipped to your address once the coins become available.

Update May 27th:

The US mint released an email today announcing that they would delay future pre-orders in order to improve their website. Read the full email here:

Dear Valued Customer, 

The United States Mint is committed to providing the best possible online experience to its customers. The global silver shortage has driven demand for many of our bullion and numismatic products to record heights. This level of demand is felt most acutely by the Mint during the initial product release of numismatic items. Most recently in the pre-order window for 2021 Morgan Dollar with Carson City privy mark (21XC) and New Orleans privy mark (21XD), the extraordinary volume of web traffic caused significant numbers of Mint customers to experience website anomalies that resulted in their inability to complete transactions. 

In the interest of properly rectifying the situation, the Mint is postponing the pre-order windows for the remaining 2021 Morgan and Peace silver dollars that were originally scheduled for June 1 (Morgan Dollars struck at Denver (21XG) and San Francisco (21XF)) and June 7 (Morgan Dollar struck at Philadelphia (21XE) and the Peace Dollar (21XH)). While inconvenient to many, this deliberate delay will give the Mint the time necessary to obtain web traffic management tools to enhance the user experience. As the demand for silver remains greater than the supply, the reality is such that not everyone will be able to purchase a coin. However, we are confident that during the postponement, we will be able to greatly improve on our ability to deliver the utmost positive U.S. Mint experience that our customers deserve. We will announce revised pre-order launch dates as soon as possible. 

Thank you for a being a United States Mint customer.

Did you manage to get one? Share your story of the US Mint website crashing in the comments below!

Bicentennial Coin Header 2 Little Drummer Boy Coins

What Are Little Drummer Boy Quarters?

If you have seen these quarters floating around, it’s pretty obvious why they are called little drummer boy quarters. The little drummer boy quarter is the 1776 bicentennial quarter pictured below:

It is called the “Little Drummer Boy” Quarter because it has a soldier drumming on the back. The name is a joke about the Christmas song about the little drummer boy. The bicentennial quarter does not actually depict the little boy in the 1941 Christmas song.

When was the little drummer boy quarter released?

The quarter was minted from 1975 to 1976, but every coin has the 1976 date on it, even if it was minted in 1975. (That means there are no 1975 quarters!!)

Why does the quarter have 1776 on it?

Anyone asking this should have paid a little more attention in history class. 1776 was the year the US declared independence from England!

The bicentennial anniversary of independence day was celebrated with the 1976 quarter.

Was the little drummer boy quarter the only bicentennial coin?

Nope! In fact, the US mint released a bicentennial half dollar and dollar coin as well. (Unfortunately, dimes, pennies, and nickels remained the same for the year.)

Above is the half dollar coin. It depicts Independence Hall in Philadelphia where the Declaration of Independence was signed!

Are Little Drummer Boy Quarters valuable?

No, not really. Since the bicentennial quarters were the only big change to the quarter design from 1932 to 1999, even non-collectors would pick the coins from circulation.

Some collectors still hoard them in hopes the value will rise in the future, personally I see so many in circulation that it is hard to imagine the prices rising much in my lifetime. If you see one in near mint condition it may be worth it to save.

Do bicentennial coins come in proof sets?

Yes! All 3 bicentennial coins come in the proof sets. The interesting thing about these proof sets is that the dollar, half dollar, and quarter were the same for 1975 and 1976!

Do people actually call them “Little Drummer Boy Quarters”?

I almost always call these bicentennial quarters, but I do occasionally see them referred to jokingly as Little Drummer Boy quarters. It’s a cute name.


Do you keep bicentennial quarters you find? Vote in our poll and leave a comment below!

Reddit Coin Sub r/Coins Raided By Spammers

(Written March 11, 2021)

A few hours ago, r/Coins was “raided” by spammers. These spammers posted dozens of coin memes each, flooding the sub with memes.

Although some of the posts were funny, being shown in quick succession they were altogether annoying. What made them particularly annoying was that they flooded genuine posts to r/coins.

What was the purpose of the spam?

Who knows!

Definitely one goal was to get people riled up. And I guess it worked because I’m here writing about it.

One user u/coincollector9199 even made a subreddit r/coins_refugees. Although intended to be a safe haven while the mess at r/Coins ensued, it was quickly found and flooded with memes.

One of the popular memes being posted was the phrase “do you know who quidward is?”

A spammer posting on Reddit.

Thankfully, mods at r/Coins were quickly able to stop posts and delete all the offending spam. Thanks mods!

Post describing the cleanup. Plus this comment.

Some of the spammers tried to blame stamp collectors over at r/stamps for the raid, but I think they are unlikely to be the culprit. I saw r/stamps was also invaded with similar memes by the same accounts. Likely this is just an attempt to stir up drama between the subs.

(Coin collectors and stamp collectors can live in peace! Check out my article on other hobbies for coin collectors!)

A meme on r/stamps.

One of the most confusing parts of this “raid” was the fact that some of the memes were funny and seemed to be thoughtful. I think a lot of them would be genuinely like by members of r/coins.

It just goes to show, you never know how people on the internet get their kicks.

Share a comment below with your thoughts or any screenshots!