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How To Find Rare Coins

Coin collecting, or numismatics, is a fun hobby that can help you learn more about history. Spotting rare coins can also be a great way to make some extra money. You can sell some rare coins for hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Here are some tips to help you find interesting, valuable rare coins.

Learn Which Coins Are Most Valuable

Pile of quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies
Image via Flickr by RuggyBearLA

Before you start searching for valuable coins, you should know which ones are rarest and most prized by collectors. That way, you can make sure not to miss anything. Older coins and coins with errors are often worth more than their face value. Some rare coins you should watch for include 2004-D Wisconsin state quarters, coins made during World War II, and 2007 dollar coins.

The 2004-D Wisconsin state quarters have a printing defect that looks like the ear of corn on the coin has an extra leaf. With the “low leaf” variety, the additional leaf is near the bottom, and with the “high leaf,” it’s closer to the top and the main leaf. The D stands for Denver, the mint that made this coin. You can also find P coins for Philadelphia or S for San Francisco, but these varieties are only worth face value.

During World War II, most metals were being used for the war effort. That means the mints didn’t make as many coins as they normally do. Nickels made from 1942 to 1945 contained about 35% silver to replace nickel needed for other items, and they’re worth more because of their high precious metal content. 

The 1943 copper penny is valuable as well. In that year, the U.S. Mint made most pennies from steel coated with zinc, but a few dozen were produced with copper plates left over from the previous year. In 1944, the mint decided to go back to copper pennies because the public didn’t like the steel version, and they often didn’t work in the parking meters and vending machines of the time. They again used the steel plates left in the machine to make a small number of 1944 steel cents.

People call the 2007 dollar coin the “godless dollar” because it was minted without the “In God We Trust” inscription on other U.S. coins. It’s also called a “missing edge lettering dollar.”

Look for Coins

Along with knowing what to look for, you’ll need to know where to look for rare coins. Antique stores, garage sales, and estate sales sometimes have coin collections with rare coins for low prices. You can also speak to friends and relatives. Some people have a coin collection that they’d like to sell. You can ask to go through their old change as well. Many people have an old can, jar, or dish filled with spare change that’s been sitting out of circulation for years. Coins can also end up in attics, basements, old desks, and couches. They can even slip underneath baseboards in older houses.

One of the most inexpensive ways to look for coins is by asking for rolls of change at your bank. You can examine every coin and keep any items that may be rare for a closer look. Then, you can take the coins back to your bank. Most financial institutions have coin counting machines, so you can just pour them in to get paper money or the correct amount credited to your account.

Many people have found rare coins with metal detectors, and searching land where people have gathered for a long time, like parks or old public buildings, is most effective. Look for a metal detector that can show you the shape of an object and its exact location before you dig it up. That way, you can avoid wasting time uncovering nails, screws, and other objects. Make sure you check local regulations before you start. Some parks don’t allow metal detecting, and you’ll need permission from the owner if you want to explore private property. 

Examine What You Find Carefully

Some of the differences between rare coins and their more common counterparts are subtle, so you should look at every coin under a bright light. Many people use a magnifying glass or a jeweler’s loupe as well. The most valuable coins are in good condition with few scratches or other signs of wear. Uncirculated, flawless coins are rarest. Don’t attempt to clean a coin because the natural patina on the metal can add to its value. Also, cleaning can cause tiny scratches that are visible when buyers inspect a coin through a microscope, magnifying glass, or jeweler’s loupe. 

When you’re looking at coins, learn what the design should look like and look for any irregularities. Coins with missing letters, letters that are too close together, misspellings, and blurry or doubled images can all be valuable. Remember to check both sides of every coin. Then, turn the coin over from top to bottom. If the image from one side was right-side-up, the image on the other side should have the same orientation. If you flip it from side to side, one image will be upside down. Coins with one side oriented differently have die rotation errors, and those with 180-degree differences are most valuable. Finally, check the edge of each coin for additional seams or lines, a missing reeded edge, or other errors. A reeded edge has a series of small grooves around it. The metal collar that holds the coin during the striking process creates these grooves. In the U.S., dimes and quarters normally have them. Coins from some countries have lettering around the edges instead, and misspellings, missing lettering, or other mistakes can make some of them more valuable. 

Sell Your Coins in Las Vegas

When you find a coin that could be rare and valuable, take it to Las Vegas Jewelry & Coin Buyers. Our experienced professionals will let you know whether the coin you find is an interesting artifact or a rare find worth lots of cash. We’re open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, and we close at 4 p.m. on Fridays.  Contact us to arrange your appointment today.

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