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#1 You should get to the coin show early — not toward the end of the day when business may be winding down and dealers may be closing up shop.
#2 Bring along a good coin value guide for reference. You are going to find many coin dealers there; find out who may be giving you the best value by wielding a current pricing chart for the coins you are hoping to acquire.
#3 There will be many coin dealers that you may want to work with again in the future. Don’t forget to get their names, phone numbers, addresses, and websites/email so you can keep in touch and have a contact for buying coins from them in the future.
#4 Bring along a friend or family member to walk with, talk with, and even get a little help from. For instance, you may not be able to take all your purchases into the restroom with you, or you might need a snack but don’t want to wait in long concession lines. A trustworthy buddy just may be the answer to having a more enjoyable time at a coin show and will certainly will come in handy when you need to be in two places at once, so to speak.
#5 Watch your back! There may be one or two undesirables walking the floor who are looking to follow someone (who may or may not have valuable coins on their possession) out to their car. If you suspect someone may be on your heels, ask for a security guard to follow you out to your car.
Now, here’s what my very first coin show was like…
My First Coin Show
I remember with glee my first coin show. It was in 1993, at a hotel convention hall in Florida. I was 12 years old and had been earnestly collecting coins for less than a year.
Yet, I was so heavily into the hobby by this point that I felt attending a coin show would be just the perfect way to spend the afternoon!
The show was among the larger coin shows in Florida, but it was getting late in the afternoon and most the dealers who had set up on the bourse (a coin show, coin convention, or reference to the main floor of a coin show where the coin dealers are) were calling it a day and already packing up.
My mother, who was disappointed for my sister, visiting cousin, and myself (the 3 of us kids had all caught the coin collecting bug at about the same time) that the show was closing up spoke to the head of the show who was in the hall with the few remaining dealers still with coin cases on the floor.
My sister, cousin, father, and I were all hanging out in the nearby hotel lobby when my mother came into the room with a bit of good news: we were going to be allowed in and a couple dealers were going to stay open for us so we could browse and see what they had to offer. Furthermore, the head of the show gave the 3 of us kids each a shiny, new 1993 silver eagle, complimentary as an apology for the bourse closing up a little earlier than the advertised closing time.
My sister, cousin, and I walked into the bourse, rather empty but with a few coin dealers who remained behind; most were packing up. We stopped at a table with a coin dealer who still had his stock out for us to look at. I was in the market for a Morgan silver dollar at the time (I was working on completing my first 20th century type set), and he had plenty of those old dollar coins for sale. He presented several of them dating to the earlier pieces and explained how certain ones were very expensive in uncirculated condition.
I ended up purchasing an 1878 7 tail feathers variety Morgan dollar. It cost something like $10, which at the time was a good price for a nice, lower-grade coin of that date; I had later determined it graded somewhere around “Fine.”
The dealer then let us pick through his small holding of cull nickels, allowing each of us to have one for free. I picked out an 1882 Shield nickel. It was corroded and dark, but to me at the time it was an old treasure that I felt so thankful to have. My father paid the bill for us and, in change, the dealer gave him a rag-quality 1957 silver certificate!
We thanked the coin dealer for his time, courtesy, and altruism, then we walked over to see a couple of the booths that were closing down but still had some coins left in the cases. I recall that most the coins in the other booths were investment-type coins — expensive, slabbed pieces I could not have comprehended paying for at age 12. But it was still fun to glance in the cases and see the coins anyhow.
After spending a very abbreviated 30 minutes or so on the bourse, we left. But not without having met some very kind people who wanted to see young coin collectors enjoy the hobby and take home some new treasures and good memories.
Find Coin Shows In Your Area
One of the easiest ways to get answers to your burning questions about coins is to ask the people at coin shows.
That is, as long as you can wait until there’s a coin show in your area!
You’ve got a lot of coin experts at your disposal there — from the coin dealers behind the booths to the coin collectors attending the show.
Of course, you’ve always got to put on your “cautious hat” whenever you’re dealing with a stranger and money is changing hands.
But, if nothing else, you can certainly learn a lot about coins at a coin show. And if you go armed with your list of questions (and your coins in hand), then you’ll probably be able to get your questions answered on the spot.
Here are some great sources to find coin shows near you:
- Official Coin Shows Website
- ANACS Coin Show Calendar
- Coin Shows & Events
- U.S. Coin Shows
- CoinZip Coin Shows
Coin Show Tips
- If you want to shop wisely at a coin show, use these cherrypicking tips.
- Looking for some general coin show tips? Here’s some excellent coin show advice.
- Here are some tips for finding inexpensive coins at a coin show.
- For your first coin show, you’ll want to follow some basic coin show etiquette.
- Take it from someone else who’s been to a coin show: what it’s really like.
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!