6 Ways To Find Old Coins In Circulation… For Free!

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

Here's how to find old coins in circulation - 6 fun ways to get the coins you need without paying extra money for them!

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!

Collecting coins on a budget? Here are 6 ways to find valuable coins in everyday pocket change!

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.

These are 50-cent pieces in coin rolls from the bank.

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.

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.

One way to find valuable pennies is to look through the 'take a penny, leave a penny' jars that appear near cash registers. (Just ask permission first, and be sure to leave some pennies of your own in return!)

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.

You can find lots of old coins worth money in change jars... yours and those of your friends!

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!

Check your change from vending machines for valuable old coins!

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

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

You can find some really old coins by using a metal detector to search public places where people are likely to have dropped things over the years.

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.

TIP: Check out these metal detecting tips for beginners

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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17 thoughts on “6 Ways To Find Old Coins In Circulation… For Free!”

  1. I actually started looking through rolls from banks a little while back. Found a few wheats and my oldest I’ve seen from a roll so far is a ’35 wheat. I just recently started looking through a dime roll and two penny rolls. Already been through three dime rolls and no silver yet. I just replace wanted coins in rolls with regular change and switch the rolls every time I go back. I really want to metal detect but I can’t afford a metal detector right now. I also never heard of take a penny leave a penny. I don’t have any jars. And I have also been checking my change too.

    • Hi, Harley —

      Good luck with the silver coin roll searching! It’s certainly possible to find silver coins in rolls, but don’t be discouraged after going through three dime rolls. It could take hundreds of rolls to find your first silver coin — though, believe me, there IS silver out there to be found. I’ve found it myself and on more than one occasion, but it does take time and patience.

      It may not be the most efficient way to make a lot of money, but coin roll searching certainly is a lot of fun. I think the best thing about searching through coin rolls is the thrill of the hunt and the “trophy” of finding that old wheat cent, an old silver dime, etc.

      Keep on keeping on with the roll searching and other coin finds, and please feel free to post whenever you find something or simply have a coin question that you want to ask!

      Have a great week,

      • Hey Josh,

        Thank you for the confidence! 🙂 I’m probably going to go to the bank this week to switch out to search some more. I’m feeling lucky! 🙂


          • Hey Josh,

            As a matter of fact, on Monday, I found my first silver dime from a ROLL. (Just want to make it clear that it’s my first from a roll, nit my very first) My 4th roll and I got a 1962 Roosevelt silver. 🙂 Went to the bank again yesterday, but no silver. 🙁

            Still got something. 🙂


          • That’s fantastic, Harley! Congratulations on the silver find!

            Keep on looking — 1 silver dime out of 200 dimes searched is a really good ratio!


  2. I’ve started collecting coins again after finding a 1917 wheat penny in my pocket change. I’ve been enjoying it, I’ve been starting a wheat penny collection using a coin album and some cardboard coin flips. There are lots of wheat pennies down in our basement, and I do mean lots of them. However, I have to have my dad handle them first, since I got them from my grandpa, and when we opened the bags they were in, there were weird black bugs. They turned out to be cloth eating bugs, that were eating the cloth bags they were in. Total disaster. However, we’re going to have the coins washed off with water to make sure there aren’t any more bugs, and then I’ll have lots of wheat pennies to organize and put into my collection. I’m also planning on getting a coin album for my 50 state quarters. I just wanted to say, this site helps me a lot with my coin collection, and I want to thank you for making it and posting on it often.

    • Hello, Dawnrose —

      Thank you so much for your kind words! Wow, it sounds like you’re about to embark on some serious coin searching! I’m hoping you find lots of great coins.

      You might be interested in checking out this link that covers the 43 most valuable pennies: https://coins.thefuntimesguide.com/valuable-pennies/

      Please post if you have any other questions or wish to share some of your finds!

      Good luck,

  3. Hi Josh, I recently came into a bag of wheat pennies dating from 1910 and on. Also a 1935 quarter 1940 nickle 1945 dime. And a 1960 penny in a white cardboard cover. Are any of these of any value?

    • Hi, Candi —

      The wheat cent bag may have several different pieces worth looking for. I suggest checking out this link that covered 43 of the most valuable pennies: https://coins.thefuntimesguide.com/valuable-pennies/

      Perhaps you have one of these?

      As for the other coins you mentioned, here are their approximate values assuming they are well worn and have no die errors or other valuable oddities:

      *1960 Lincoln cent (I need to know if this is a large-date/small-date etc.) please post a photo if you can. Worth from 2 cents up to $2.50 or more
      *1940 Jefferson nickel – 15 cents
      *1945 Mercury dime – $2.50 to $3
      *1935 Washington quarter – $4 to $5


  4. Thanks joshua.. Question did i send a pic with no coins ? Omg lol honest mistake. So I’m curios, do you see any particular date that might have something. Sorry i know not tbest picture .

    • Hi, Cesar —

      Unfortunately I really can’t tell what you have here in this photo. I do suggest you check out this link (43 Most Valuable Pennies You Should Look For): https://coins.thefuntimesguide.com/valuable-pennies/

      If you do’t see any of your coins on this list and there’s nothing unusual about them, they’re likely worth 5 to 25 cents each.

      Good luck,

  5. Hi Joshua,
    My mother has quite a few coins that my father left her. He passed in 1998 and she is now just thinking of trying to sell them. How do I find someone in my area who would treat her fairly when she is set to sell?

  6. Hi Joshua,

    My parents are in their 80’s and gave me a huge penny jar. The oldest I found was a 1930, several wheat pennies (no 1943 though), and coins from other countries. I do have one 1983 penny that looks like the D is smudged or misprinted. Any suggestions of where or who I could get to look at it? If you are interested I can post a picture of it? Thanks!

    • Hi, Holly!

      I’d be glad to take a look at your 1983-D Lincoln penny and give you my opinion! Just please upload a clear photo of the coin here in the comments section.

      Thank you,

  7. Hello I was wondering if you https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/bbed8b844cf111078e734fd79bc664622d9737c6e05c15399085a58f5ac3f10f.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/bb17c31c9aa2203287063350c0d100c1e588cda84c869ba185e9a46bcd5769a2.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/318db40c5903097926e9c89ab0afcaac6f726bc1c16a9d58ea9abaa400ed056d.jpg would give me your opinion or share your knowledge of error coins and there value on a quarter I found just minutes after telling my wife that I was not wasting my time on looking for coin errors, and that someday I would make us rich. Well even if I don’t make us rich hopefully I can make a little money off the change I have been saving for the last 2 years. Anyways I have a 1999 d Georgia state quarter that is missing the letter t in the word trust and what appears to be some lettering stamped into the quarter I’m not sure what words are but maybe it is from staring at the screen of this microscope for so long. I will attempt to add a couple of pictures. Thank you for your time. Sincerely Douglas

    • Hi, Doug —

      It appears the missing T in TRUST may be due to a grease-filled die. There is some interest in errors like these, with coin collectors and dealers paying small premiums — often a few dollars — for coins that are missing letters due to die issues. The coin would have to be evaluated in-hand to ensure it’s truly a die error and not just a post-mint alteration that may have been created by somebody with a chisel and too much time on their hands (ha ha).

      The appearance of doubling on the coin is machine doubling, which is common and usually caused by deterioration of the die. This is as opposed to a doubled die, which is explained here: https://coins.thefuntimesguide.com/doubled-die-coins/

      At any rate, keep looking through your coins! Remember, rare and valuable errors are rare and valuable for a reason — they are hard to find! But the time spent can pay off if you’re lucky, and perhaps even more exciting is the thrill of the search.

      Good luck!


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