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Maybe you haven’t officially started collecting coins yet — or maybe you have. Either way, I’m going to show you how you can add coins to your collection without investing a dime.
Seriously. Imagine if you could collect coins at face value… or even for free!
I know many coin collectors would love to collect coins without having to pay numismatic premiums (the markup in price over a coin’s face value) when adding coins to their collections.
So, how is it possible to build a coin collection without spending more than the face value of a coin? Or even better — without spending a cent?
Well, during my quarter century as a coin collector, I’ve found at least 8 ways to add coins to my collection without spending anything more than the face value of those coins.
Many coins I’ve even picked up for free — legally, of course!
I think you’ll agree, these are 8 pretty clever (and cheap) ways to collect coins:
#1 – Check Your Change!
For most coin collectors, this is where we get started (and where I did) — by checking our pocket change.
Finding collectible coins in circulation means scoring great additions for your collection for the mere face value of the coins.
That’s a remarkable deal, considering all of the valuable coins that are floating around in pocket change.
That’s how I’ve found…
- Lincoln wheat pennies
- Liberty nickels
- Silver Jefferson war nickels
- Silver Roosevelt dimes
- Cool foreign coins
- Off-center and other error coins
- And much more!
All of these coins are worth more than face value, and I’m sure if you keep checking your change you’ll make similar valuable finds, too!
#2 – Look For Coins On Sidewalks, In Vending Machines, Etc.
It’s possible to start collecting coins after spotting them in unusual places — such as on sidewalks, in the change returns of vending machines, even laying around on the floor at the mall.
Generally, it’s OK to pick up and keep small change like pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters that you find laying around.
But, I recommend letting your local police department know about any valuable coins you find sitting unattended — because their owners may be looking for them!
#3 – Trade Coins In Vending Machines.
Ever notice what happens if you put a nickel, dime, or quarter into a vending machine coin slot and hit the change return button before selecting an item?
Usually, you’ll get different coins back in change.
I’ve been trading nickels, dimes, and quarters in vending machines for years. It’s a perfect way to collect coins without spending extra money above face value for them!
Of course, you’ll need to be considerate when using vending machines to find coins for your collection. If there are people waiting to actually buy items from the vending machine, I’d suggest stepping aside and letting them make their purchases first.
Besides, maybe they’ll drop a coin or two in the machine that you need for your collection! Good luck.
#4 – Ask Friends & Family If They Have Loose Change Jars.
I’ll bet you have many non-numismatist family members and friends who have huge jars of coins they’ve been saving for some time.
If they’re interested in cashing in those coins in exchange for dollar bills, then consider offering paper currency for an even exchange of their coins. It’s a win-win for both of you:
- It will save them time from having to roll the coins and take them to the bank.
- You will get the opportunity to go through all of those coins and look for “keepers.”
If they don’t want to get rid of the coins in their jar, then ask if you can look through the coin jar yourself — searching for specific coins you need for your collection. This, too, is a win-win:
- Based on what you find, maybe you’ll be able to encourage them to start collecting coins t00!
- If they’re not at all interested collecting, then chances are pretty good that they’ll let you have the coins you want — either for free, or for the face value of the coins.
This is a fantastic way to collect coins for face value — and you’ll be helping your friends and family in the process!
#5 – Look Through Take A Penny, Leave A Penny Jars
Have you seen those little change bowls near cash registers at diners, gift shops, and other smaller establishments?
They’re usually called Take-A-Penny, Leave-A-Penny jars. They’re designed for anyone who needs a penny to get the exact change for a cash purchase. And those who don’t want to carry around loose pennies can drop them off for other customers to use.
Take-A-Penny, Leave-A-Penny jars are more than just kind conveniences for customers — they can offer mini-jackpots for coin collectors.
I’ve found old wheat cents, copper Lincoln Memorial cents, and other cool finds in Take-A-Penny, Leave-A-Penny jars.
Before taking pennies, be sure to ask the cashier if it’s OK to look through the coins to see what’s in the there. And, of course, be sure to leave an even exchange of pennies in return!
#6 – Search Through Rolls Of Coins From The Bank
I’ve documented my coin roll searching finds in other articles. This is your friendly reminder that looking through bank rolls is, indeed, a great way to find old, valuable coins.
Here’s how collect coins from coin rolls:
- Buy rolls of coins at face value from your bank.
- Pick through the rolls looking for coins that you want for your collection.
- Return the remaining coins to buy more rolls of coins.
I’ve found all kinds of cool coins in coin rolls! This video shows some of the amazing finds I’ve made while looking through rolls of coins:
#7 – Check Around Your House For Loose Change
Do you know how many coins I’ve found under couch cushions, at the bottom of my dressers, and in junk drawers? Enough to fill a whole coin album — that’s how many! (No joke.)
Spend a day looking for coins around your home and you may find exactly what you need for your coin collection.
Here’s a list of the most valuable coins you should be looking for in all denominations.
#8 – Treasure Hunt With A Metal Detector
Have a metal detector? Able to borrow one?
If so, then you can start collecting coins and other valuable treasures by scanning the beach, your property, and other places that you’re permitted to check.
Using a metal detector requires a little bit of skill, and there are also trespassing concerns and other legal issues you’ll encounter if you to choose to look for coins that way.
Here are some links that will help you find out all you need to know about metal detecting coins:
- Tips For Finding Coins In Your Own Neighborhood
- Using A Metal Detector To Find Old Coins
- Metal Detecting Guide To Rare Coins
- 7 Basic Rules For Metal Detecting Coins
Once you familiarize yourself with the basics of metal detecting, you’ll be all set to rock on. And you’ll be amazed at some of the old, rare, and valuable coins people have found with their metal detectors.
Check out these cool stories about the incredible coins people are finding with metal detectors:
- Amazing Metal Detecting Coin Finds
- Bounty Hunter Metal Detector Coin Finds
- $1.5 Million+ Coin Discovery By Metal Detecting
Good luck, and happy coin collecting!
More Tips For Collecting Coins
In addition to the links I’ve included above, here are some other resources to help you collect coins on a budget:
- Getting Started Collecting U.S. Coins: The Basics
- How To Start Collecting Coins
- Coin Collecting Guide For Beginners
- Benefits Of Coin Collecting Really Add Up
- 10 Best Coins To Collect
- 5 Old Coins Worth Money That You Can Find In Pocket Change
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!