Coin Collector Tools: The Essential Guide
People have been collecting coins for centuries. The first coin collection was started in 63 BC. People have used different tools to collect coins, but the basics are the same. Each tool is important for starting and managing a coin collection.
Any coin collection can benefit from using any one of these various tools. If you are shopping on a limited budget, you should begin with the products that are less expensive and work your way up to the more expensive ones. As the size and quality of your coin collection increase, you’ll have the ability to invest in more advanced numismatic tools. In the following section, we will explore the applications of these tools.
What Do You Need To Start Coin Collecting?
People who like coins usually collect them and look at them. They keep them in good condition and show other people. People who trade or sell coins do more than that. They keep the coins in good condition and also show other people. But they also use the coins to make money.
Each of these methods takes different things. They also happen in a natural order. A dealer who collects coins probably started when they were a child. Their interest grew until it became a hobby. Then they started buying and selling coins as a profession. They became skilled in coin assessment and pricing through experience.
A child’s interest in coins may have started with their wanting to collect them. This can be done with very little equipment or tools needed.
If you are just starting out coin collecting, the same concept applies. You don’t need a lot of equipment at first, but as your interest in coin collecting grows, you will need more tools.
At its most basic level, coin collecting requires the following:
- The ability to get coins for your collection
- Being able to understand what coins you are collecting
- Strategies and tools for handling and preserving coins
- A method to safely store or present the coins
If you want to be a serious collector, it is important to have the right tools. This includes understanding what you have, preserving it, and presenting it to showcase your collection.
The following list includes some essential tools for coin collectors and optional tools that may be useful if your collection grows beyond the hobby stage.
7 Essential Coin Collecting Tools
The first tool is essential for getting coins. The way to get coins depends on the value of the coin. There are several ways to get access to collectible coins:
- Inspect all the coins you have in your possession for rare variants
- Ask family members for collectible coins they may have
- Ask family to be on the lookout for collectible coins when they receive change
- Attend coin shows and visit dealer shops
- Purchase coins online
Once you have your coins, you need to identify them and give them value. If they are in circulation, the chances are that they aren’t worth much more than face value. However, if you have special coins, it is important to document them and give them an accurate value. This is why every coin collection needs the following lists, ideally kept in a digital file:
- List of reputable vendors
- List of coins on loan to help get your collection started
- List of coins in your collection
- Schedule of any coin shows you want to attend
- Reference materials for pricing and authentication
The best way to keep track of all the information on each list is to set up a spreadsheet. You can use tabs for each list, so it will be easy to find the information you need. As your information collection becomes more sophisticated, you can add more categories to your spreadsheet.
You need good lighting to see your coins clearly. Unless all you buy are brand-new, uncirculated coins in perfect condition, you will have to check what you have.
Depending on the coin, it can be hard to identify it because of:
- Dirt and grime obscuring dates and other features
- Damage to coins from wear and tear (e.g., the dates are faint because they have been worn off)
- Damage to coins from trauma (the coins are scratched, dented, gouged, etc.)
- Tiny features that are hard to discern with the naked eye
- Shadows caused by poor lighting
The only way to tell what you have in each situation is with enough lighting.
Specifications For The Light Source
Fluorescent light is usually too soft to see the details on a coin correctly. “Natural” light can also be too soft. The best lighting for looking at coins is halogen, specifically 75-watt incandescent bulbs. This will help you see any blemishes, ridges, mint characteristics, and damage on the coin.
3. Magnifying Glass
A magnifying glass is very important when looking at coins. It can help you see the condition and grade of the coin and identify features that are not easily seen with the naked eye.
You should have three types of magnifiers. When you are starting out, you don’t need them all, but keep in mind that you will eventually need to purchase more expensive options if your collection grows.
The first type of magnifying glass is a traditional handheld one with the main lens and a secondary, stronger lens. The main lens should have power between 2x and 4x. The secondary lens should have power between 5x and 7x.
If you can, you should also have a magnifying glass with clamps to set up a way to look at your coins without holding the glass. This also lets you use both your hands to inspect the coin.
If you have a lot of jewelry, you might want to invest in a jeweler’s loupe. This tool will help you see the details of your jewelry more closely. It usually has a magnification power of 10x to 15x.
While they are made of metal, coin surfaces are very sensitive to dirt and the oils and acids on your hands. Gloves help protect your coins. You should always wear gloves when handling coins that:
- Are in Mint Condition
- Are uncirculated
- Have any type of commemorative image or insignia
- Have a particularly clean or polished face
There are different types of gloves or finger protection that are recommended. The best type of glove to use is the one that fits you best and is most comfortable.
- Soft cotton gloves (white)
- Powder-free latex gloves
- Nitrile gloves
- Finger cots
Self-explanatory are work gloves made of soft cotton or powder-free latex, a nonreactive covering for your hands that is easily cleanable or disposable.
Nitrile gloves are a form of rubber that is flexible and sensitive to touch. They also resist chemicals. Nitrile gloves are typically blue in color.
Finger cots are a type of glove that covers one or more fingers. They are usually made from latex, nitrile rubber, or vinyl. If you have to use them, make sure the coin does not touch any hand parts that are not covered by the finger cots.
Why This Matters
Many people know that you need to use gloves when handling valuable or uncirculated coins. But did you know that it’s also good to use gloves when handling less valuable coins? This is because it helps protect them from getting dirty or scratched.
The oils and acids on your hands can leave deposits on the surface of anything they touch, regardless of value. These deposits can discolor and even damage coin faces. They also make it easier for dirt and debris to accumulate on coins and build up.
5. Viewing Pad
A coin is tough but not invincible to damage. If it is dropped on a hard surface, it can get scratched or dull. That might not matter so much with coins in circulation, but it matters a lot with no longer produced coins.
Uncirculated and mint edition coins have a polished faceplate. If you drop it on a table, the value might go down. If you slide it across a table, it might get a scar.
It is best to place them flat on a soft surface when looking at coins. This will protect the coin and keep it from rolling or sliding on a hard surface. It is especially important to do this if you show the coins to multiple people outside of any casing.
6. Coin Books
There are two types of books that are very useful for new coin collectors. The first is the US Coins Red Book, a comprehensive guide to all coins minted by the US government. The other is the Official American Numismatic Association Grading Standards, the ANA Grading Guide.
The Red Book has information about all American coins, including their history and physical characteristics. It is the official source of pricing information for US coin mintages.
The ANA Grading Guide tells you how to grade a coin. It has a description of every US coin ever minted. You can use it to grade your collection or a coin you are thinking about selling or buying. This will help you know what the value might be.
7. Coin Holders
Many coin collectors start off by keeping their valuable coins in a box or drawer. As their collection grows, they may want to store their coins to protect them and allow them to be seen and reviewed.
The most important job of a coin holder is to protect coins from being damaged. Another benefit of coin holders is that it makes it easy to find the coins you want. There are many different types of coin holders.
Different types of coin holders include:
- Paper envelopes
- Plastic coin pouches
- 2 x 2 cardboard or vinyl sleeves
- Plastic tubes
- Coin collecting booklets
- Plastic coin capsule
You can store your coins in any of these ways. People usually have a preference for one over the others. You can try each type and see what you like best. Most collectors and dealers use coin tubes to store circulated, ungraded coins. Coin booklets typically display one side of the coin and some information about the coin underneath.
Air Tite coin capsules are round, clear plastic cases that hold a coin. The front of the capsule snaps shut, and the back of the capsule holds it in place. There are several different versions of these types of coin holders.
When your coin collection becomes very valuable or if you have rare coins, you might want to put them in a coin “slab.” A slab is a protective case that is made to hold coins. It is made by a third-party grading service. The slab has information about the coin and its grade. Most collectors or dealers will expect to see them in slabs if you ever sell expensive coins.
These tools will be useful for every collector. You need reference materials, magnification tools, and good lighting. All collectors need these things, but the other tools on this list will make it easier for you to manage, present, safeguard and sell your coins. This will help you get the most out of your collection.
Read more: Rare coin collection set to make a mint
Frequently Asked Questions About Coin Collector Tools
A good range of magnification for coins is 10x-30x. The image at the right shows a penny at 20x magnification.
There are several ways to store coin holders. You can put them in small boxes or transparent album pages in a binder. You can also use pre-printed albums with spaces for each coin in a particular series. Another option is to use hard plastic or other materials.