Coin collecting is a hobby that has grown by leaps and bounds over the last several years, with tens of thousands joining the ranks of coin collectors each year.
By some estimates more than 100 million Americans collect coins, and these millions of collectors all started their journeys in the hobby somewhere.
For many people, their first foray in coin collecting originates with a collection they inherit from a family member, a strange coin found in pocket change, or perhaps even the start of a new coin series like the 50 States Quarters.
In general, new coin collectors normally choose to begin with coin series that have few challenges. Below is a rundown of the most common coin series that are ideal for newer coin collectors on tight budgets.
Originally designed by Victor David Brenner in 1909, the Lincoln cent is the longest-running coin series in the United States and one of the most well-known and popular collector coins in the world. Over the course of more than a century, the reverse (tails side of the coin) has been adorned by several different designs, including the wheat ears reverse (1909-1958), Lincoln Memorial (1959-2008), and Union shield (2010 to the present). There were also four special designs in 2009 that commemorated the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth.
While many of the earlier rare and semi-key dates present expensive obstacles to the coin collector of more modest means, it’s still possible to assemble a mini set of regular-issue Lincoln cents from 1941 to the current date for under $50. If collected from circulation (a possible, though challenging, feat), the 70-plus-year-long run of Lincoln cents can be had for face value.
Often looked over by many, Jefferson nickels pose the coin collector a unique opportunity – the entire set, including silver “Wartime” nickels, can still be plucked out of circulation. Yes, even the silver Jefferson coins of 1942 through 1945 occasionally turn up in pocket change, often neglected by many because relatively few non-collectors even know there is such a thing as a so-called “nickel” that is actually 35 percent silver. Wartime nickels are distinguished by the large mintmark over the dome of Monticello on the reverse of the coin.
The only major key dates in the Jefferson nickel series are the 1939-D and 1950-D, yet even these relatively scarce coins are found in circulation every once in a while.
50 States Quarters
Almost single-handedly responsible for the great coin collecting revival of the late 1990s and early 2000s, the 50 States Quarters series sparked renewed interest in this ages-old hobby and brought tons of young blood to a pastime once largely dominated by an older demographic. This popular coin series, minted from 1999 through 2008, commemorates each of the 50 states in the order they were admitted to the Union. The complete collection of statehood Washington quarters is still easily assembled with the coins picked from circulation and represents an educational endeavor especially for the young and a fun coin collecting venture for all.
There are many other coin series that new coin collectors may eventually grow in an interest in, especially as their appetites grow stronger for more challenging – and perhaps more expensive – coins. No matter what coin series you choose to begin your coin collecting journeys, or what types of coins most interest you, when you become a coin collector, you become part of a hobby that dates back to ancient royalty and step foot into a pastime that can last a lifetime.
My love for coins began when I was 11 years old. I primarily collect and study U.S. coins produced during the 20th century. I'm a member of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) and the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG) and have won multiple awards from the NLG for my work as a coin journalist. I'm also the editor at CDN Publishing (a trusted source for the price of U.S. rare coins), editor at the Florida United Numismatists Club (FUN Topics magazine), and author of Images of America: The United States Mint in Philadelphia (a book that explores the colorful history of the Philadelphia Mint). I've contributed hundreds of articles for various coin publications including COINage, The Numismatist, Numismatic News, Coin Dealer Newsletter, Coin Values, and CoinWeek. I've also authored nearly 1,000 articles here at The Fun Times Guide to Coins — and I welcome your coin questions in the comments below!