Many of us began collecting coins back in the days when an Indian Head penny or a Buffalo nickel might still occasionally be found in pocket change. It was a thrilling time when every monetary transaction might provide an addition to your collection. Although those days are mostly gone, there is still treasure to be found in pocket change!
Long Lost Silver Coinage:
Silver coins are some of the best finds these days in circulation. Many people don’t know that our coinage changed drastically in the 1960s as the value of silver exceeded the face value of many U.S. coins. Any dime, quarter or half dollar dated 1964 or earlier was minted from 90% silver and has value above and beyond the coins denominational worth. You can also watch for other coins containing 40% silver including 1965-1970 Kennedy half dollars and a few others.
Beware that saving these coins for their silver value can then lead to a desire to start new collections of Roosevelt dimes, Washington quarters and the like!
The Value of a Penny:
The Lincoln cent series has been in circulation since 1909, for well over a century. Although these coins don’t garner much respect in terms of spending power these days, they do provide a wonderful plethora of collecting treasures. One of the benefits of penny collecting is that many people don’t see the value of the cent coin and tend to store pennies instead of spending them. This makes finding a stash of coins that has not been in circulation for many years a distinct possibility.
Coins from the first 50 years of the series carry the “wheatie” reverse design and are easy to spot in pocket change. In 1943, During World War II, steel cents replaced the copper variety and those also can occasionally be found in circulation or in penny rolls. There are also some valuable date and mints in the Lincoln cent series as well as some interesting varieties.
Quarters, Quarters and More Quarters:
The most obvious collecting opportunities from pocket change are the U.S. commemorative quarters. Since 1999, the Washington quarter series has featured special one-year-only reverse designs. Originally honoring each U.S. state, the Mint went on to celebrate Washington D.C. and the U.S. Territories. And currently our quarters commemorate America’s National Parks and sites.
All the quarter series feature coins from both the “P” Philadelphia and “D” Denver Mints giving you a huge selection of coins to watch for. Collect each quarter as you find it and then be prepared to replace the coins with better specimens as they cross your path.
Where to Go From Here:
Save your pocket change each time you make a purchase. When you have a big stash get out your magnifying glass and look for treasures. You can also get rolls of coins from banks. Older rolls are especially fruitful and may be more apt to offer up collectible options. Many, many people have jars and boxes and drawers of loose coinage. Offer to cash in your friends’ change for paper money and go through their hoards.
One word of caution here: be wary of “unsearched” coins from online sources. Any collector with a bit of knowledge will have already pulled out anything of value.
The more you learn about numismatics the more coins you’ll want to watch for in circulation. One of the real benefits of this fascinating hobby is that it is a never ending process of learning and collecting.