What To Look For When Collecting Coins In Circulation (…A Free And Fun Way To Build A Coin Collection!)

by Joshua

1943 Coins, Budget Coin Collecting, Error Coins, Kennedy Coins, Lincoln Cents, Mintmarks, Pennies, Pocket Change, Presidential Dollars, Sacagawea Dollars, Wheat Pennies

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Collecting coins can be fun — especially when all the coins you need for your collection can be found right in circulation.

Let’s look at some of the exciting coins you can find in your spare change or at your local bank.


Lincoln Wheat Cents

Struck between 1909 and 1958, the Lincoln cent with wheat reverse can still be found in circulation, though it will take quite a bit of searching to locate one.

Rare dates like:

  • 1909-S V.D.B. (V.D.B. are the designer’s initials)
  • 1909-S
  • 1914-D
  • 1922 no-mint mark evident

…are virtually absent from circulation.

Common dates in well-worn condition can be occasionally found in general circulation. They’re usually worth between 2 cents to 10 cents apiece, with the 1943 steel cent coins fetching a little closer to 20 to 50 cents if well-worn.

Jefferson Nickels In Circulation Before 1960

Though of the same design as today’s Jefferson nickels, older 5-cent pieces are becoming scarcer in circulation as time goes on.

The people who do not think there is much excitement to be had collecting Jefferson nickels are mistaken.

In fact, the Jefferson nickel, which was first struck in 1938, includes 2 very scarce dates:

  • 1939-D
  • 1950-D

These 2 coins are worth at least $5 and $15, respectively. A short run of silver 5-cent coins, struck from 1942 to 1945 to ration nickel for the war effort also has similar values.

Silver Jefferson 5-cent coins are worth around $1 or more apiece right now, given current silver bullion values.

Other Jefferson nickels produced during the 1930, 40s and 50s are worth around 20 cents to $1, on average, if well worn.

Most exciting of all? With much dedicated searching, it is still highly possible to collect the entire series of Jefferson nickels from circulation!

State Quarters

Starting in 1999, the U.S. Mint began striking 50 state quarters, which honor the 50 states of our Union.

Even if you have not yet begun collecting these quarters, it is still very easy to find all the coins necessary to complete the entire run of state quarters. Each design is being struck for roughly 10 weeks at a time.

While worn 50 state quarters are worth only face value, they still make for exciting coins to collect, thanks to a wide variety of designs which educate, inform, and enlighten the public about the vast beauty, diversity, and culture of the United States.

Half Dollar Coins

While half dollars do not circulate well anymore, they can still be found at most banks.

Kennedy half dollars have been minted since 1964, and represent the design you will likely find when obtaining half dollars from banks.

Earlier designs like the Franklin half dollar (1948-1963) or Walking Liberty half dollar (1916-1947) are considered collector’s items and have long since been pulled from circulation.

Worn copper-nickel clad Kennedy half-dollar coins are worth face value, but the 90% silver half dollar coins of 1964 and the 40% silver halves of 1965-1970 have values relevant to silver bullion values.

Here’s how to collect a set of Kennedy half dollars from coins found in circulation.

Dollar Coins

Silver dollar coins are no longer found at banks. Even the Eisenhower dollar coins of 1971-1978 are getting very hard to locate at banks. However, small-sized dollar coins are readily available and easily found at banks, in vending machines, and at some stores.

Small-sized dollar coins include:

These coins are being struck in the order which our presidents served, beginning with George Washington.

Error Coins

The United States does a very good job striking high-quality coins. But every now and then, the mints strike coins bearing mistakes — to the collector’s benefit. These mistakes, officially called “errors,” are often quite valuable.

Error coins include:

These are among the most popular types of error coins. Values range widely.

The famous 1955 doubled-die penny has values which begin at around $750 if very worn, up to more than $5,000 if uncirculated.

Foreign Coins

Many parts of the United States experience international tourism and commerce. In these regions especially, it is not difficult to find foreign coins floating around in circulation.

While not necessarily valuable, foreign coins are interesting to collect and certainly make for exciting finds.

Read the current edition of “The Standard Catalog of World Coins,” by Krause Publications, to find out more about foreign coins and their values.

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