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Are you a Coin Collector or a Coin Accumulator?

I enjoy collecting, or accumulating all types of coins. Whether it is pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, half dollars or dollars, I enjoy collecting them all. In fact, throw in a few two-cent pieces and a few three-cent pieces and life is grand. Most collectors probably started out with a certain denomination and series and then expanded from there.

No doubt each coin collector has a story about how s/he started collecting coins. For some people, it was collecting Lincoln Cents when they were young as Lincoln Cents were easier to get, and long ago, they were somewhat affordable. For me, it all started when I was 14 or so and I thought about earning my Coin Collecting Merit Badge in Boy Scouts. My parents suggested I ask my Grandma for some help as my parents thought she had some old coins. That afternoon visit with Grandma introduced me to a whole new world. My Grandma brought out a bunch of blue Whitman coin folders and an old coffee can of change and gave them to me. As I looked in amazement at coins I had never before seen, my curiosity was peaked. There in front of me were Indian Head Cents, Liberty Nickels, Buffalo Nickels, Mercury Dimes, Standing Liberty Quarters, Walking Liberty Half Dollars and of course some Peace and Morgan Dollars. I had never seen coins like this before and I was hooked.

As a 14 year old I did not have the funds to buy more coins, so I took what my Grandma gave me and studied what was there and looked them up in COINS magazine to see what they were worth. While they were all circulated coins, the thrill was there. Was there a 1909 S VDB hidden in that pile of pennies from grandma? From then on, I always made it a habit to look at my change. This was back in 1976. It was still possible to find wheat cents and silver in circulation. After I was old enough to drive, I took different jobs in retail for several years and accumulated many common wheat cents and silver coins from circulation. Over time I accumulated many thousands of wheat cents and quite a bit of common silver. I was an accumulator.

I would be willing to bet that this story is very similar for many of you. If you are a coin accumulator, it may be time to quit accumulating and truly begin collecting. What do I mean by that? In order to be a true collector, you need to have focus. An accumulation of coins of all denominations and series is just that, an accumulation. While collecting coins of all varieties is fun and can be rewarding, focusing on something specific can open your eyes to a whole new world and bring you even more enjoyment in collecting than you thought possible.

While you may get a thrill of accumulating all types of coins, do you truly know the history of each coin, or the many varieties that exist for that coin? Do you know how many metal compositions there were for the Lincoln Cent? Are you in the hobby to make money or for the enjoyment?

Here are 6 steps to begin focusing on your hobby

  1.  How are your coins organized? Are the in Whitman books, 2x2 flips or in old tin coffee cans? Take an inventory of what you have.
  2. Once you have an inventory, take a good look at your accumulation. Is there any type of coin that gives you more collecting satisfaction than others? Do you know much about that series?
  3. Once you have picked out a generic focus, you now need to decide on what grade you might attempt to collect. Depending on the series, some grades may be out of financial reach.
  4. Here will the tough part. SELL what you do not need. NOOOOO, you say? Take the proceeds and use it to buy coins on your new focus.  
  5. Learn all you can about your focus. If you are focusing on Lincoln Cents, there are several good books on Lincoln Cents and you will no doubt learn more about Lincoln Cents than you thought possible. There are more varieties, errors, etc than you would ever imagine.
  6. Focus and keep learning. Talk to local dealers about your focus. See what they know or if they know of any other collectors who share the same focus.

 By focusing your collecting habits, you are well on your way to a new level of enjoyment that you never thought possible.

As always, happy collecting

Keith Scott has been a collector for over 30 years. His website has US coins for sale. He also writes Coin Collecting Articles for fun. Visit his websites for a history of US coins, metal market updates and news about your favorite coins.

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