If you're embarking on a journey of coin collecting, you may feel overwhelmed with where to start. But for numismatists, it isn't about where you start, but rather what you start with. Having the right tools can make shopping easier, and it can keep you from losing money or damaging your collection. Here are six things that will come in handy as you're learning the ropes.
You don't need to invest in something a professional grader would use. Any magnifying glass will work, especially when you're just getting started. Most are simple and small enough to fit in your pocket. And you can purchase magnifiers that come with LED lights to make the details even easier to see, especially if you find yourself in dim lighting.
A magnifying glass will help you see the coin's date and mint marks—two vital pieces of information when pricing and grading coins. You'll also be able to note any scratches or marks that otherwise might be hard to see.
A lot of new collectors don't think about having a soft piece of cloth to lay their coins on. But this is definitely one of those items that can really come in handy as you're shopping. And it doesn't necessarily need to be felt. It can be made of cotton or any other fabric that's non-abrasive to coins and silver.
This will undoubtedly be one of the most treasured tools you'll own. The two most popular guides are the Red Book and the Black Book, and they offer useful information on a number of things coin-related.
The Red Book discusses pricing, grading, and the history of coins, and it contains a variety of color photographs. The Black Book is a little cheaper and discusses coin values, grading, mint marks, and some helpful facts on coin auctions.
Both books contain information on every single coin minted. So you really don't have to worry about not finding what you need.
Once you start collecting, you'll need something to put your coins in to protect them from scratches, dings, and even air.
Coin folders are one option, but most don't actually cover the coin. They're nothing more than a cardboard slot for you to place them in.
Individual square holders can also be used, and they're made of either cardboard or Mylar. The cardboard holders have a plastic window through which to view the coin, and they are folded over and stapled closed. The Mylar holders are much sturdier and offer better protection.
You can also go with coin tubes for storing a large stack of coins. These tend to be popular for wheat pennies or any other coin that you're not too concerned about getting damaged.
Airtight holders are available, and there are definite advantages to investing in them. They protect coins from pollution in the air as well as from water and humidity. Also, silver tends to tarnish much faster when exposed to those elements. So if you want long-term protection, airtight holders are the way to go.
Since sweat and oil from your skin can damage coins, owning a pair of gloves is a must. Be sure they are lintless cotton gloves, as latex or rubber ones can harbor powder and other substance that are known to damage coins.
Tip: whether you're wearing gloves or not, it's always a good idea to get into the habit of holding coins by the edges to avoid scratching the surface.
The general rule-of-thumb when it comes to cleaning your coins is don't clean them. Soaps and other abrasive products can strip away the surface of coins and instantly devalue them. Some professionals know how to clean coins in a way that they won't get damaged, but this is an area you really shouldn't try to DIY.
However, there are some numismatists that can't resist cleaning their coins, so here are two semi low-risk methods.
1. Distilled water method. Place the coin in a shallow plastic bowl and submerge it in distilled water. Gently swirl to remove the dirt. Afterwards, the coin should be air dried on a soft cloth (wiping it dry could leave more scratch marks).
2. Olive oil method. Soak the coin in olive oil for about 4 days then place it in a cup of warm distilled water with a small amount of tri-sodium phosphate (purchased in most paint supply stores). Let that sit for 5-10 minutes before gently wiping it with either a soft brush or a cotton-tipped applicator. Repeat if necessary.
For more tips, contact a company that offers coin appraisals.