Coin Collecting FAQ - Miscellaneous Topics
Coin Collecting FAQ written by Chuck D'Ambra, Mike Locke, Michael Caver, Andrew Andison, Mike Marotta, Andrew Tumber, John Muchow, Tony Clayton, Clint Cummins, Lou Coles, Mike Dworetsky and Rita Laws.
This FAQ may be copied for noncommercial use provided that this notice
and all credits to the authors are included unmodified.
Links on the Web to the Coin Collecting FAQ are welcome
21. Numismatic Publications
22. What are proof coins? What's the difference between the various proof sets offered in recent years by the U.S. mint?
23. What are slabs?
24. How can coins be removed from slabs?
25. What's the best way to send coins to someone?
26. Clubs and other collector organizations
A coin book bibliography is available at the Numismatic Bibliomania Society.
Reviews of several numismatic books, including many concerning specific coin series and other specializations, can be found at Mike Locke's web site.
Book list compiled by John Muchow from the suggestions of rec.collecting.coins participants.
- American Numismatic Association. Official A.N.A. Grading Standards for United States Coins, 6th ed., Whitman, 2005.
- Ruddy, James F. Photograde, Bowers and Merena Galleries, 1990.
- The Standard Catalog of World Coins by Chester L. Krause and Clifford Mishler. Four volumes, each covering a different century from 1601 to present. Each identifies and lists prices for coins from around the world.
- "The Red Book" (officially titled A Guide Book of United States Coins), which is published annually, is a commonly used retail price guide with a wealth of other useful information.
- More frequently published retail prices for U.S. coins are available in Coin World, Coin Prices and Coin Age, which may be found at many newsstands, supermarkets, etc.
- The principal price guide in dealer to dealer transactions is the Coin Dealer Newsletter, popularly known as "the Greysheet." CDN also publishes the Bluesheet, which lists sight unseen prices for certified coins, and the Greensheet, which covers paper money. You don't have to be a dealer to get these publications, but they're ordinarily available only by subscription.
- A Handbook of United States Coins, commonly known as "the Blue Book," is another guide dealers sometimes consult when buying U.S. coins from the public
- Numismatic News, which is available at many magazine and coin shops, publishes prices for all 3 levels (dealer buy, bid and retail).
- Official Guide to Coin Grading and Counterfeit Detection, published by Professional Coin Grading Service.
- The Coin Collector's Survival Manual, by Scott A. Travers.
- One-Minute Coin Expert, also by Scott Travers.
- Let's Collect Coins, by Ken Bressett.
- The U.S. Mint and Coinage, by Don Taxay.
- The Art and Craft of Coinmaking, by Denis Cooper.
- Numismatic Art in America, by Cornelius Vermeule.
- Coin Clinic - 1,001 Frequently Asked Questions, by Alan Herbert, Krause Publications, 1995.
- Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins, by Walter Breen.
- The Comprehensive U.S. Silver Dollar Encyclopedia, by John W. Highfill.
- Commemorative Coins of the U.S. by Anthony Swiatek.
- United States Coins by Design Types, An Action Guide for the Collector and Investor, by Q. David Bowers.
- United States Copper Coins, An Action Guide for the Collector and Investor, by Q. David Bowers
- United States Three-Cent and Five Cent Pieces, An Action Guide for the Collector and Investor, by Q. David Bowers.
- United States Dimes, Quarters, and Half Dollars, An Action Guide for the Collector and Investor, by Q. David Bowers.
- United States Type Coins, by Norman Stack.
- The Coin World Encyclopedia
- A History of United States Coinage, as Illustrated by the Garrett Collection, by Bowers.
- The Cherrypicker's Guide to Rare Die Varieties, 4th ed. Vol. 1 by Bill Fivaz and J.T. Stanton, Bowers and Merena Galleries, 2000.
- The Error Coin Encyclopedia, 4th ed., by Arnold Margolis.
- Encyclopedia of U.S. Half Cents, by Walter Breen.
- Early United States Dimes 1796 - 1837, by Davis, Logan, Lovejoy, McCloskey, and Subjack.
- Fractional Money, by Neil Carothers.
- Early Half Dollar Die Varieties, by Al Overton.
- Bust Half Fever, 1807-1836, by Edgar Souders.
- The Early Quarter Dollars of the United States, 1796-1838, by A.W.Browning, completely updated by Walter Breen, c.1992.
- Coins of England and The United Kingdom (Standard Catalogue of British Coins), by H.A. and P.J. Seaby
- The Charlton Standard Catalog of Canadian Coins.
- Standard Catalog of German Coins, compiled by N. Douglas Nicol.
- European Crowns and Thalers (various vols), by Davenport.
- Coins of the World 1750 -1850, by Craig.
- Monnaies Francaises, by Gadoury.
- A Handbook of Ancient Coin Collecting, by Klawans.
- Ancient Coin Collecting, Volumes 1-6, by Wayne Sayles.
- Roman Coins and Their Values, by David Sears.
- Guide to Biblical Coins, by David Hendin.
- The Celator (ancients), P.O. Box 123, Lodi, WI 53555
- Coin World, P.O. Box 4315, Sidney, OH 45365. 1-800-253-4555.
- Numismatic News, Circulation Dept., 700 E. State St., Iola, WI, 54990. 1-800-258-0929.
- World Coin News, published bi-weekly by Krause Publications, 1-800-258-0929.
- Coins Magazine, published monthly by Krause Publications, 1-800-258-0929.
- Coin Prices, published bi-monthly by Krause Publications, 1-800-258-0929.
- Bank Note Reporter, published monthly by Krause Publications, 1-800-258-0929.
- The Numismatist, published monthly by the American Numismatic Association. A subscription is included in most membership categories.
- COINage, 4880 Market St. Ventura, CA 93003. Phone: 805-644-3875
- Canadian Coin News (CCN), 103 Lakeshore Rd. Suite 202, St. Catherines, ON L2N 2T6 Canada
- Coin News, Published monthly by Token Publishing Limited, 105 High Street, Honiton, Devon, UK, EX14 8PE.
Proof coins are specially manufactured for sale at a premium to collectors and sometimes for exhibition or for presentation as a gift or award. Proofs are generally distinguishable from ordinary coins by their mirrorlike fields, frosty devices (especially in recent years) and extra sharp details.
To obtain these qualities, each proof coin die is polished to produce an extremely smooth surface and used for a limited number of coins. Planchets are hand fed to the coin press, where they are struck at a higher than ordinary pressure. Struck coins are removed by hand with gloves or tongs. Modern proof coins are usually packaged in clear plastic to protect them from handling, moisture, etc.
For many years the U.S. Mint has sold annual sets of proof coins. These "regular" proof sets usually contain one proof coin of each denomination minted. In 1983, 1984 and 1986-97, Prestige Sets were also sold. Prestige Sets include all the coins in the regular set, plus one or two commemorative coins issued the same year. Since 1992, the Mint has also offered Silver Proof Sets, which include 90% silver versions of the proof dime, quarter(s) and half dollar. From 1992 through 1998, the Mint also offered a Premier Silver Proof Set. The two types of silver proof sets contain the same coins, with the premier set housing them in fancier packaging.
A certified coin, or slab, is a coin that has been authenticated, graded and encased in a sonically sealed, hard plastic holder by a professional certification service. The holder affords protection from subsequent wear or damage but is not airtight and therefore will not prevent toning. Because any tampering with the holder will be obvious, it also prevents replacing the certified coin with something else.
Counterfeit and altered coins slabbed by major certification services are not unknown but are uncommon. The authenticity of a coin may be guaranteed by the company that slabbed it. Therefore, a coin slabbed by a major certification service offers some protection, especially when fakes are known to exist and the prospective buyer is not able to reliably determine its authenticity.
Some certification services will not slab coins that have been altered, whizzed, cleaned (dipping is often acceptable), artificially toned or otherwise damaged. Others slab the coin and identify the problem on the label.
Grades are opinions. The same coin may receive different grades if submitted to different services or even if "cracked out" and resubmitted to the same service. Furthermore, grading standards for some uncirculated coins have changed since slabs were first produced (1986), so a coin in an early slab may may receive a different grade if resubmitted now. The grade indicated on a slab represents the opinions of no more than a few persons who examined the coin at the time it was submitted, and not the final word on the subject. As a result, slabbed coins given identical grades may have different market values. Whenever possible, buy the coin, not the holder.
Companies that slab coins include include (in alphabetical order)
- ANACS (formerly A.N.A. Certification Service)
P.O. Box 7173
Dublin, OH 43017-7173
- Independent Coin Grading Company (ICG)
7901 E. Belleview Ave. Suite 50
Englewood, CO 80111
877-221-4424 or 303-221-4424
- International Coin Certification Service Inc. (ICCS)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
- Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC)
P.O. Box 4776
Sarasota, FL 34230
800-NGC-COIN or 941-360-3990
- PCI Coin Grading Service
P.O. Box 8609
Chattanooga, TN 37414
800-277-2646 or 423-485-0997
- Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS)
P.O. Box 9458
Newport Beach, CA 92658
800-447-8848 or 949-833-0600
- Sovereign Entitities Grading Service (SEGS)
Williamsburg Professional Center
East Brainerd Rd.
Chattanooga, TN 37421
- The online report, which offers the latest figures for coins graded by NGC - NGC Lookup
- To make sure that PCGS certification is authentic, you can verify any PCGS Certification number using this tool - PCGS Certification Verification
Prices range from $7.50 to $175.00 per coin, depending on the service and turnaround time, plus shipping costs in both directions.
The skills and equipment needed to encapsulate coins in slab-like holders can be acquired more easily than the expertise needed to accurately authenticate and grade coins. Holders from the services listed above are not the only types that appear in the marketplace. However, slabs from some "services" may not be regarded by experienced numismatists as legitimate and may not even be backed by a guarantee of the coin's authenticity. Learning about the service's reputation and soliciting other opinions about a coin's condition may save you from paying considerably more than its true market value.
For more information about coin grading, including photos of coins for each grade refer to Coin Grading section.
- COINS mail list: a general numismatic e-mail list; offers to sell coins are expressly forbidden. To subscribe, e-mail email@example.com with an empty subject header and only SUBSCRIBE COINS in the body of the message.
- NUMISM-L mail list: a mail list for numismatics from its beginnings through the Middle Ages; offers to sell coins are expressly forbidden. To subscribe, e-mail LISTSERV@UNIVSCVM.CSD.SCAROLINA.EDU with an empty subject header and only SUBSCRIBE NUMISM-L your-real-name in the body of the message.
- The American Numismatic Association (ANA) has a Web site and other on-line resources.
- Compuserve collectibles forum
- Delphi Coins & Currency Conference Area (GO CU 426 CON)
Here are some tips for packaging, addressing and shipping coins.
Coins should be packaged securely for shipping. Any stapled holders should have the staples flattened with a pair of pliers before packaging. Safe-T-Mailers, which are sold at many coin shops, are useful for a small number of flips, 2x2s, similar holders or slabs. You can also cut pieces of corrugated cardboard and sandwich coins in these holders between them (make sure they cannot slide out). The Postal Service does not allow "irregularly shaped" objects to be sent in "regular" size envelopes. If your "sandwich" is not much thicker than a greeting card, a letter or legal size paper envelope may work. Otherwise, use a padded envelope (if not shipping by registered mail) or box the coins.
For larger quantities of individual holders, bundle them tightly together with rubber bands. When shipping rolls of coins in plastic tubes, place a small piece of foam, cotton or bubble wrap in the end to prevent the coins from moving and seal the cap in place with a piece of tape. Place bundles of 2x2s, tubes, and multi-coin holders (e.g. proof sets) in a sturdy box. Use bubble wrap, foam, styrofoam peanuts or newspaper to completely fill extra space, ideally with some padding between the contents and every side of the box.
To reduce the chances of the package being stolen, do not use any words in the address or return address suggesting it may contain something valuable. Omit words like Coin and Gold or abbreviate. For example, use XYZ Company rather than XYZ Coin Company and AGE, Inc. rather than Antarctic Gold Emporium, Inc.
Mail, rather than a private courier such as UPS, is generally preferable for shipping coins. Some couriers will not insure packages containing coins. Different types of mail service are available, and the best one depends on the value of the package. For packages delivered by the U.S. Postal Service, options include first class, third class, priority mail and registered mail.
For packages worth $600 or less, first class mail may be sufficient. If the package weighs under 13 ounces, third class may cost a few cents less. Packages weighing up to 2 pounds can be sent by priority mail to a U.S. address (including APO) for $3.00. Insurance is additional. A package can be insured for up to $50 insurance at a cost of 75 cents. This form of insurance does not require a signature by the recipient. "Blue label" insurance, which is available for packages valued at up to $5000, is supposed to require a signature for delivery. The fee starts at $1.60 for up to $100 of insurance, and is more for higher insured values. The USPS will not accept a claim for non-delivery of an insured package until 30 days after it was sent.
Registered mail is the safest way to ship valuables and the only way to insure for more than $5000. A registered package must be signed for by every postal employee who handles it, as well as the recipient. Postal regulations prohibit padded envelopes and all but paper tape (which does not include masking tape) for registered shipments. For packages valued at more than $400, registered mail may be cheaper than first class mail with insurance!
Nothing is gained by using certified mail for coins or other valuables, and return receipts are only useful for proving that the addressee received the package. If the package is sent by registered mail or is insured for more than $50, it must be signed for on receipt anyway.
Here are several specialty, regional and international organizations.
- Active Token Collectors Organization
Sioux Falls, SD 57101
- American Nickel Collectors Association
736-D St. Andrews Road, Suite 163
Columbia, SC 29210
- American Numismatic Association (ANA)
818 North Cascade Avenue
Colorado Springs, CO 80903-3279
telephone 719/632-2646, FAX 719/634-4085
- Ancient Numismatic Collectors
P.O. Box 954
Fowlerville, Michigan 48836
- Barber Coin Collectors Society
P.O. Box 382246
Memphis, TN 38183-2246
- Bust Half Nut Club
P.O. Box 87641
Canton, MI 48187
- Canadian Numismatic Association (CNA)
P.O. Box 226
Barrie, Ontario, Canada L4M 4T2
- Classical & Medieval Numismatic Society
P.O. Box 956, Station B
- Colonial Coin Collectors Club (C4)
Mr. Angel Pietri (Treasurer)
1560 Manchester Blvd.
Fort Myers, FL 33919
- Colorado-Wyoming Numismatic Association
P.O. Box 102136
Denver, CO 80250
- Combined Organizations of Numismatic Error Collectors of America (CONECA)
9017 Topperwind Ct.
Fort Worth, TX 76134-5501
- Early American Coppers, Inc. (EAC)
c/o Rod Burress
P.O. Box 15782
Cincinnati, Ohio 45215
- Fly-In Club (Flying Eagle and Indian Cents)
P.O. Box 257
Seahurst, WA 98062
- Full Step Jefferson Nickel Club
Susan and Rich Sisti
P.O. Box 363
Newfoundland, NJ 07435
- John Reich Collectors Society
P.O. Box 135
Harrison, OH 45030
- Liberty Seated Collectors Club
5718 King Arthur Drive
Kettering, OH 45429
- Love Token Society
P.O. Box 970
Mandeville, La 70470
- National Token Collectors Association
P.O. Box 4221
Oak Ridge, TN 37831
- New England Numismatic Association (NENA)
P.O. Box 3003
Nashua, NH 03061-3003
- The Original Hobo Nickel Society
Gail "Bo-ette" Kraljevich
P.O. Box 43
Malvern, PA 19355
- Society for U.S. Commemorative Coins
P.O. Box 302
Huntington Beach, CA 92648
- Society of Lincoln Cent Collectors
Dr. Sol Taylor
13515 Magnolia Blvd.
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
- Society of Private and Pioneer Numismatics (SPPN)
c/o Dave Showers
P.O. Box 4423
Davis, CA 95617-4423
- Society of Silver Dollar Collectors
P.O. Box 2132
Sepulveda, CA 91313
- Standing Liberty Quarter Collectors Society (SLQCS)
P.O. Box 14762
Albuquerque, NM 87191-4762
- Texas Numismatic Association
P.O. Box 14711
Austin, TX 78761-4711
- Token & Medal Society
David E. Schenkman
P.O. Box 366
Bryantown, MD 20617
- Token Corresponding Society (British tokens)