Handling coins properly is essential to preserve their value and condition. Here are some fundamental steps to ensure you handle your coins correctly:
- Wash Your Hands First: Before touching any coins, thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water. Even seemingly clean hands can have oils, dirt, or food residue that can transfer onto the coins, potentially decreasing their value.
- Prepare Your Station: Find a clean and soft surface, such as a desk or a microfiber towel, to place your coins on. Avoid hard and dirty surfaces that could scratch or damage the coins. This clean area will help protect your coins from harm.
- Hold the Coins Properly: Always handle coins by their edges and avoid touching the face of the coin. Holding coins by the face can transfer oils and increase the risk of damage, especially for Specimen and Proof coins, which are sensitive to oils.
- Limit Handling: Only handle coins when necessary. Excessive handling can lead to wear and damage. If your coins are already protected by holders, it’s often best to leave them in the holders to maintain their condition.
Now, let’s talk about coin grading and determining their value:
Grading Your Coins: Grading is a critical factor in determining the value of your coin collection. To make it easier, consider three general grading categories:
- Circulated Coins (Poor-1 to Extremely Fine-45): These coins have varying levels of wear, but they can still be identified by date and type.
- Almost Uncirculated (AU-50 to AU-58): Coins in this category have minimal wear with complete details, especially on high points.
- Uncirculated (MS-60 to MS-70): These coins are in pristine condition with no post-production imperfections even at 5x magnification.
The Sheldon Scale, ranging from Poor (P-1) to Perfect Mint State (MS-70), helps determine specific grades based on condition, flaws, and eye appeal.
Valuing Your Coins: The condition of your coin is crucial in determining its value. Coins in better condition generally command higher prices. For instance, a 1909 VDB penny in Verify Fine (VF) to Extremely Fine (XF) condition may be worth around $25, while the same coin graded by a reputable grading service like NGC as MS65 could be valued at around $135.
Rare Varieties & Types of Coins: Special dates, rare errors, and unique varieties can significantly impact a coin’s value. Coins with lower mint runs tend to be more valuable. For example, the 1914-D Wheat Penny, with a lower mint run, is generally worth more. Be cautious when dealing with rare coins, as some may have a high counterfeit ratio.
Magnification to See Errors: To spot minor doubling and errors on coins, you’ll need magnification. A simple and cost-effective option is to use a loupe, which can be purchased for $5 to $15 online. Loupes often come with LED lights to assist in examining coins. Holding the loupe correctly with both eyes open is essential for a clear view.
In summary, proper coin handling, understanding grading scales, and recognizing the importance of a coin’s condition are vital steps in determining the value of your coin collection. Additionally, being aware of rare varieties, mint runs, and using magnification to spot errors can help you make informed decisions about your coins. Always remember to consult experts and follow legal regulations when dealing with valuable coins.
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