The Coin Look - Beginner's Guide

So maybe a grandparent gave you an old silver dollar, Indian Head Cent, or some other coins. Or maybe you just decided you want to start collecting coins. Either way, we will try to give some advice on what steps to take

Keep in mind that everybody has their own opinions, and advice. There really is no right or wrong way to begin collecting. Before you get to far along, here are some things we recommend.

Join a coin club

You will meet many people there. There are dealers and collectors (novices and experienced) there. Some host auctions, trade times, and discussions. You will be able to find out the best dealers in your area.

To find your closest coin club, visit our Coin Clubs page.

Decide what you want to collect

Most collectors begin with the newer stuff and work their way back as sets get completed. This is a fine approach and is probably recommended by most. Whitman and Dansco make albums to insert the coins in to.

Pretty much no matter what you collect, you will eventually run in to "Key-Dates". These are the rare coins of the series, and the most valuable. Although seldom done, it is often suggested to buy the keys first, then complete your set from there. The reason for this is rare coins will always be rare, and commons will always be common. Sounds like a Yogi Berra saying, but is very true. Rare coins will appreciate in value much faster than common-date coins.

Something else to consider, which is very popular to collect, is a "Type Set". Dansco makes an album that will hold over 70 types of coins. It includes half cents, large cents, small cents, two-cent pieces, three-cent pieces, nickels, half dimes, dimes, twenty-cent pieces, quarters, halves, and silver dollars and more.

Learn to grade

This will take a long time to master. Coins are assigned grades based on a 70 point scale.
01 - Poor (P)
02 - Fair (Fr)
03 - About Good (AG)
04-07 - Good (G)
(04, 06 are used by grading companies)
08-11 - Very Good (VG) (08, 10 are used by grading companies)
12-19 - Fine (F) (12, 15 are used by grading companies)
20-39 - Very Fine (VF) (20, 25, 30, 35 are used by grading companies)
40-49 Extremely Fine (EF/XF) (40, 45 are used by grading companies)
50-59 Almost Uncirculated (AU) (50, 53, 55, 58 are used by grading companies)
60-70 Mint State (MS)

It may seem like a lot to learn how to grade every coin, but it may be the single most important thing in coin collecting. In the Morgan Dollars for example, the 1884-S is $225 in AU50, $1,000 in AU58, but is $5,250 in the next grade up of MS60.

Most dealers grade their coins, but often times put a higher grade than what it should be to try to get more money out of it. This is why it becomes important to know how to grade for yourself. has a grading section to assist you. A book we also recommend is "The Official ANA Grading Standards for US Coins" which can be found by clicking here

BEWARE of Fakes!

There are many counterfeit and altered coins out there. It becomes very important to know what to look for before buying some key-date coins. Our Counterfeit Detection Section has a Counterfeit Detection pages that shows key dates and what to look for. Some of the most counterfeited coins are the key dates listed on that website, bust-seated-trade dollars, and $3 Gold Pieces.

Realize that price guides are GUIDES

There really is no great price guide, however the CDN Greysheet is probably the best. The pricing is fairly accurate for items found in the Weekly and Monthly sections. Many prices in the Quarterly are way underpriced.
The Redbook is more of a retail guide, or what you can expect to pay in someone's shop.
The Coin Values (Trends) is to be used with caution. Values in this magazine are typically way too high.


We offer free services for Coin Clubs, Coin Shows, Auctioneers, and Coin Dealers.

Click "Services" above to find out more!