6 Best Ways To Find Old Coins In Circulation



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People love to find old coins. I know I do!

Unless you’re visiting a coin dealer, you’ll probably find it pretty difficult to stumble upon very many.

But there are ways you can increases your chances of finding old coins. You just have to know where to look for them!

Here are 6 proven ways to find old coins without having to buy them from coin dealers…

#1 – Search Your Pocket Change

Let’s start with one of the most common sources of finding old coins: spare change!

Obvious? Maybe.

Profitable? Always!

Yes, spare change is where to start if you want to find valuable coins from circulation. You probably carry thousands of coins in your pocket over the course of a year!

  • No doubt you have you have had in your possession at least half of the 50 State Quarters designs during that time.
  • You have likely found a few pre-1960 Jefferson nickels.
  • Also, you may have taxied around at least one or two wheat pennies.
  • Perhaps you have even found a silver dime or silver quarter pass through without even realizing it. (Yes, silver coins still do pop up in change.)
  • Maybe you’ve even pocketed a Canadian coin or two, eh?

Pocket change is where I found the first coin I ever put in my collection — a 1941 Lincoln penny.

I’ve found plenty of old coins in circulation, including other old pennies, Buffalo nickels, and silver coins.

Of course, it’s not always easy to find old valuable coins in your spare change.

Based on my own survey of the coins I’ve found in pocket change:

  • Less than 1% of the Lincoln cents I handle in day-to-day transactions involve wheat pennies.
  • I’ve only found 2 Buffalo nickels (so far) in standard transactions.
  • I’ve found a total of 4 silver coins in regular pocket change.

These findings come from nearly 25 years of actively checking my change. Of course, you may have different results — and maybe more luck than I!

The point is… your loose change may not provide you with a bounty of old coins, but it is one method for finding some old and possibly valuable coins. So don’t overlook the simple act of checking your change! You might be surprised at what coins you will be able to find.

TIP: If the change in your pocket is boring, why not see what coins are in the pocket or purse of a friend? Sure… go ahead and ask! No doubt your friend will let you search through their spare change, if you ask. (Just be sure to have some money ready to exchange for your fun finds!)

#2 – Look Through Rolls Of Coins

A lot of people don’t think to turn to their local bank when they’re trying to find coins to collect. Yet, banks often are one of the best places to turn when looking for circulation coins.

Why? Because unlike most places of business, banks normally have on hand coins like half dollars and dollar coins — in addition to the more common pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters. So, a bank is a great place to get roll quantities of the “less popular” denominations.

These are 50-cent pieces in coin rolls from the bank.
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Searching through coin rolls is one of my favorite ways to find old coins!

I’ve made some of my best finds looking through rolls of coins. I’ve found:

Check out these coin roll search videos I made for a few extra tips:

As any seasoned collector knows… looking through rolls of coins, you can find many exciting coins and designs.

#3 – Check ‘Take-A-Penny-Leave-A-Penny’ Trays

I’ve found some great old pennies in the small change bins you find near cash registers.

You know… those little ashtrays or cans that are filled with loose pennies (and the occasional nickel or dime) at some restaurants, gas stations, and mom & pop stores.

They’re designed to help relieve you of your pennies — or help you pay the tab if you’re a few cents short in a cash transaction.

I’ve found lots of valuable pennies coins in those coin trays over the years. I even found a few 1950s Lincoln wheat pennies that appeared to be uncirculated!

I would suggest that you carry a few pennies along for trading — in case you happen to find some coins you want in one of those penny trays. It’s nice to at least give the store an even exchange for whatever coins you take out of there. Maybe leave a couple extra pennies or nickels for the favor.

#4 – Search Through Old Coin Jars

When I was young, I used to look through my mom’s and dad’s coin jars.

I found some great old coins that way — including plenty of wheat pennies and nickels from the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s.

Chances are you’ve got some old coins in your coin jar, too.

If you don’t have a coin jar, maybe some of your friends will let you look through theirs!

Just don’t forget to bring along some coins to exchange — and maybe offer to do a friendly favor for the opportunity to look through their coin jars for old coins.

#5 – Check Vending Machines (…You Can Trade Coins There!)

Vending machines (snack machines, beverage machines, candy machines) are great places to look for coins!

Well… at least coins that aren’t pennies, right?

Check your change from vending machines for valuable old coins!
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The idea is to simply watch for interesting coins that come out of the change slot. These might be coins that were left behind by others, or coins you receive after inserting a dollar bill into the machine and then purchasing an item that costs less than $1.

Since vending machines are receptacles of a large amount of coins, there is always a shot that a couple of nice finds could be made from the large reserve of coins inside.

And here’s a fun tip…

Do you know how to trade coins in a vending machine?

If you put change into a vending machine coin slot and then hit the “change return” button before selecting an item, you will get all different coins back in change!

I’ve been trading coins in vending machines for years now. It’s a great way to obtain coins without spending anything extra above face value for them.

#6 – Use A Metal Detector

While I don’t own or use a metal detector, I know a few people who do — and they’ve found some neat old coins scanning the ground with a metal detector looking for buried treasure.

You can search in all kinds of places for old coins, including:

  • Beaches
  • Vacant land
  • Parks
  • Old homes and buildings
  • Schoolyards

I don’t recommend walking onto private property that isn’t yours to look for old coins — that’s trespassing. I certainly don’t think breaking the law is the best way to go about looking for buried treasure.

By no means should you go scanning private property under the cloak of night, either. You will eventually get caught, and any bundles of money you may have found will just be used to cover your attorney’s fees or criminal fines!

To look for buried treasure using a metal detector, I suggest doing so on public property or getting written permission from the property owner first.

If you decide to do some metal detecting on private property, it might be nice to offer splitting the value of old coins or other buried treasure that you find with the landowner.

Good luck!

Find The Value Of Your Old Coins

Now, it’s time to see how much your coins are worth.

In these next few articles, we’ve cut to the chase and listed the values for some of the most sought after coins that budget coin collectors are typically looking for:

If you have a specific coin that you’d like to know the value of, search for that coin in the search box above. Or just ask in the comments below!

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Finding coins in circulation is a clever form of low-budget coin collecting. See the 6 best ways to find old coins without spending any money for them!
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Joshua

I'm the Coin Editor here at TheFunTimesGuide. 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 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 authored nearly 1,000 articles here at The Fun Times Guide to Coins (many of them with over 50K shares), and I welcome your coin questions in the comments below!

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