Facts About Coin Collecting

Wondering what the name is for an individual that collects coins? That would be a Numismatist. (Pronounced new-miss-ma-tist.) It means “someone who studies and collects things that are used as money, including coins, tokens, paper bills, and medals.”

Interested in the art of coin collecting? This type of collection was once called “The Hobby of Kings”. Today, numismatics is a hobby available to anyone. With coins flooding the internet, anyone with access and a desire to hold history their hand is able to join in on this passion. Believe it or not, the origins of this captivating hobby are quite unusual. Until the 20th century, coin collecting was exclusively a pastime of royalty and wealthy.

The first recorded person to have a coin collection was Augustus Caesar, the first emperor of Rome. He lived from 63 B.C. to A.D. 14, and the eighth month of our year is named after him.

Not only did Augustus keep adding coins to his collection, but he also gave them as gifts. Starting this trend, many of the Roman emperors who ruled after Augustus also had large coin collections. The hobby became even more popular during the Middle Ages, when wealthy individuals and royal families built awesome collections.

This question may have crossed your mind from time to time, how long do coins last? And what happens to them once worn out? Most coins can circulate for about 25 years before they become too worn to be used anymore. That’s a long time when you consider that the average dollar lasts for only 18 months.

The United States Mint recycles worn-out coins it receives from a Federal Reserve Bank. The Mint then sends any usable metal that’s recovered to a fabricator, then repurposes for new coinage.

At first glance, many coins may look almost identical, but when you see the difference in the price tag you may think twice about how similar they really are. The things that affect the value of the coin most are age, rarity, condition, and precious metal. The value of any one coin can be surprising. For example, you can buy some Roman coins that are more than 1600 years old for less than $10.  But then there are some worn 1909 wheat pennies that sell for hundreds of dollars, or more!

Usually, the harder a coin is to find and the more people who want it, the more it’s worth. This is known as the law of supply and demand. It holds true no matter what the collectible.

The motto IN GOD WE TRUST first appeared on a U.S. coin in 1864, during the Civil War. In particular, the two-cent piece; first minted in that year, was the first coin with the slogan.

Since gaining independence, the U.S. has minted coins in denominations that today may seem odd. For example, the U.S. has minted half cents (1793-1857), two-cent pieces (1864-1873), three-cent pieces (1851-1889), twenty-cent pieces (1875-1878), $2.50 gold pieces (1796-1929), $3.00 gold piece (1854-1889), $4.00 gold pieces (1879-1880), $5.00 gold pieces or half eagles (1795-1929), $10.00 gold pieces or eagles (1795-1933), and $20.00 gold pieces (“double eagles”) (1849-1933). Currently, the only coin denominations for circulation being minted are the penny, nickel, dime, quarter, half dollar, and dollar.

Coin collecting is a pastime that has been around for thousands of years. It can grow with you as you find interest in different time periods in history, art-work of a particular coin and culture. There are as many avenues in coin collecting as you wish to travel, and with coins you can venture virtually anywhere around the world and to any period of time back to early human civilization right from the comfort of your home. Coin collecting can be a journey into history that lasts a lifetime – and the first coin to strike your interest may be sitting in your pocket or local coin shop right now.

Enjoy your journey in this very exciting hobby!

Introducing Kids to Coin Collecting

Whether it’s your kids, grand kids, nieces/nephews, cousins, or the neighbors kids; it is the duty of seasoned collectors to teach and encourage the next generation about coins. Here are some fun ways you can introduce kids to the hobby that isn’t too daunting or confusing for a youngster that is just getting started!  


71+utDU1NeL._SL1200_Get a State Quarter Book
Start kids on a collection that is accessible to them! The state quarters collection is a great place to start since they are likely to find those quarters in their change. This is an amazing way for kids to feel the sense of accomplishment that comes along with collecting as well as teaches them to always be on the lookout for interesting coins. State quarter books or maps are cheap and can be found just about anywhere; Amazon, Littleton, Barnes & Noble, and even Walmart.


gamePlay Games on the U.S. Mint Website
You may not know this, but the U.S. Mint has a website made just for kids: H.I.P. Pocket Change. Play one of their seven games; you can design your own coin, learn about the presidents, and more! The Website also has plenty of other resources such as a coin glossary, videos on how coins are made, and printable coloring sheets. This website provides a fun and engaging way for you to introduce a child to your favorite hobby.


Philly-Mint-2017-e1520521720748-1024x575Take a Trip to the U.S. Mint
If you live near Philadelphia or Denver or if you’re going on a road trip, stop by the Mint! At the Denver Mint, children 7 and up can attend and will get to experience a free guided tour. Expect to learn about the history of the mint and the process of minting the coins. The Philadelphia Mint offers a free self-guided tour that takes approximately 45 minutes. Tour highlights include meeting Peter the Mint Eagle, seeing the first coining press, and viewing the coining operations from 40 feet above the factory floor. A visit to the Mint is sure to be an exciting experience for you and a kid. The trip would be sure to spark curiosity for the hobby.


68332Download the Lookzee App
Lookzee is an app we have developed that is specifically for coin collectors. The app allows for profile creation and digitally storing of your collection. There is also an active forum of over 1,000 users you can connect with! The app aides collectors in taking professional style images of their coins and can grade wheat cents through computer vision software. And we are working every day to add more coins to the database. If you’re not very technologically savvy this is the perfect opportunity for your kid to teach you a thing or two about mobile applications. Download for Android or iOS!


71Mnmf-mzYL._SL1200_Get a Penny Portrait Kit
A Penny Portrait kit is a fun way for kids and grown-ups alike to create a fantastic work of art and maybe learn a thing or two about pennies in the process. Each kit includes a poster of Abe Lincoln made from images of actual pennies. With a little dedication, some glue, and 846 of your own pennies, you can have a truly unique work of art that you will enjoy for years to come. The process of collecting 846 pennies to make the portrait will sure to have the kid asking questions about coins.



800_1q8t8wwpnk3drm8xsdjcInvite Them to A Coin Club Meeting
Do you attend a local coin club? If so, a youngster in your life would likely love to attend a club meeting with you. Check with other club members to make sure the meeting will be an appropriate one to bring along a child and encourage other members to bring someone too. This will provide a place for kids to meet other kids that have the same interests. If you don’t currently attend a coin club check out local coin clubs here!


US0025-Washington-Quarter-1932D-580810923df78cbc28c33c64.jpgSend in Their Report Card to ‘Coins for A’s’
Coins for A’s is a program offered by the American Numismatic Association. If the child earns three or more A’s on their report cards they will receive a free coin and initial 1 year electronic membership to the American Numismatic Association. This is a great way to encourage good grades and spark interest in collecting, because what kid doesn’t love free stuff and getting mail!


1280px-Logo_of_YouTube_(2015-2017).svgWatch YouTube
Most kids already spend hours watching YouTube so why not watch it with them? Check out channels such as Quin’s Coins, Couch Collectibles, or our very own founder: Tim Rathjen. YouTube is a fantastic platform to learn from other collectors and get insights from pros. Plus there is hours of free content at your fingertips.


Share Your Passion!
Perhaps the best and most important way to introduce kids to the hobby is to share your passion. They will like seeing you excited and will be innately curious. Remember to start slow and small because after years of collecting what might seem obvious to you, likely won’t be to them. Teach them things like how to properly handle coins, what coins to look for in their change, and the basic vocabulary. Pay attention to what interests them and foster that interest, be it a coin set, type, verity, etc. And remember to let them look at your coins, it may make you a little anxious to let someone so young and inexperience handle your coins but it is important to bring them into all parts of the hobby and let them know that you trust them too. Creating a relationship with a child and your time together spent with the coins is what will make them cherish coin collecting for years to come.  


These are just a couple ideas to get started! What are some ways you have enjoyed the hobby with the children in your life?

Celebrity Coin Collectors

Recently we wrote a post on some of the famous historical figures that were numismatists and that left us here at The Stamp and Coin Place discussing what contemporary celebrities are coin collectors. Surely, if the elite of the past collected so would the elite of the present. It can be hard to imagine someone like Kim Kardashian being a coin collector but we did a little research and rounded up a list of some celebrity collectors.

Jack Black
Jack is an American actor, comedian, and musician. His acting career has been extensive, starring primarily in comedy films. Black is known for his roles in School of Rock (2003), King Kong (2005),the Kung Fu Panda franchise (2008–2016), Gulliver’s Travels (2010), and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017). On a Conan interview in 2017 he talks about his rare and ‘spicy’ coin collection.


Wayne Gretzky
Wayne is one of the most well-known coin collectors involved in the hobby today.  He is a Canadian former professional ice hockey player and former head coach. He played 20 seasons in the National Hockey League (NHL) for four teams from 1979 to 1999.






Penny Marshall
Penny is an American actress, director and producer. Most notably known for her role in Laverne & Shirley and directing Big, A League of Their Own, and Awakenings. In an article written by People they wrote that “She collects compulsively—she forced friends to surrender change when she went on a recent coin-collecting kick”.


James Earl Jones
James is an American actor. His career has spanned more than 60 years, and he has been described as “one of America’s most distinguished and versatile” actors and “one of the greatest actors in American history”. You would likely recognize him as the voice of Darth Vader in the Star Wars films. Jones has narrated the documentary, Money: History in Your Hands.



Donald_Trump_official_portraitDonald Trump
Trump is the 45th and current President of the United States, in office since January 20, 2017. Before entering politics, he was a businessman and television personality. It is said that “people who have traveled with Trump say he has become enthralled by challenge coins, attributing his interest to his appreciation for military traditions and might… that fascination grew during the presidential campaign, when he would receive coins from law-enforcement and military personnel whom he encountered at stops.”


Buddy Ebsen
Buddy was an American actor and dancer, whose career spanned seven decades, including the role of Jed Clampett in the CBS television sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies (1962–1971) and the title character in the television detective drama Barnaby Jones (1973–1980), also on CBS. In a 2002 issue of Numismatic News they wrote: “An admitted history buff, Ebsen told Green that he was fascinated by the history of coins in his collection. One of his favorites being a Territorial gold $50 octagonal slug that had a lot of nicks on [it]. ‘It’s a long way from being Mint State, but I associate a story with each one of these nicks’ . . . ‘A story about a family shoving off for the West and this is going to put them in business. And they get attacked by Indians and the coin is stolen’ . . . ‘Every one of these nicks I start making up stories about. So I enjoy this coin, even the heft of the coin.’”


Paul McCartney
Paul is an English singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and composer. He gained worldwide fame as the bass guitarist and singer for the rock band the Beatles. It is said that in the early days of the Beatles’ careers the fans would throw coins onstage and the band would scoop them up at the end of shows and this sparked an interest in coin collecting for Paul.



Lauren Jauregui
Lauren is an American singer, best known as a member of the girl group Fifth Harmony. In the ‘See the Real Me’ interview at her Neon Lights Tour she recounts a story of how her Grandpa bought her a coin book when she was little and she still collects to this day, specifically, she always checks her quarters. Fans are known to give her coins during meet and greets as well.


Connor Trinneer
Connor is an American film, stage, and television actor. He is best known for his role as Charles “Trip” Tucker III on Star Trek: Enterprise and as Michael on the series Stargate Atlantis. He has been rumored to have been spotted at a couple coin shows in Long Beach and often includes coin collecting as a hobby in his bios.


Nolan Gould
Nolan is an American actor. He is known for his role as youngest sibling, Luke Dunphy, on the ABC sitcom Modern Family. In several interviews Nolan has talked about his many hobbies, one of them being collecting. He states that “I collect Hot Wheels. I collect glass. I collect coins. And I collect cards.”




Kellan Lutz
Kellan is an American actor and model. He made his film debut in Stick It (2006). He is best known for playing Emmett Cullen in The Twilight Saga film series (2008–2012), and has since played Poseidon in the 2011 film Immortals, Tarzan in the 2013 animated film Tarzan, John Smilee in The Expendables 3 (2014), and Hercules in the 2014 film The Legend of Hercules. He began collecting when his Grandfather passed down some ancient coins to him.


Martin Short
Martin Short is a Canadian-American comedian, actor, singer and writer. He is known for his work on the television programs SCTV and Saturday Night Live. He has starred in comedy films, such as Three Amigos (1986), Innerspace (1987), Three Fugitives (1989), Father of the Bride (1991), Pure Luck (1991), Captain Ron (1992), Father of the Bride Part II (1995), Mars Attacks! (1996), and Jungle 2 Jungle (1997). He is a known collector and in 2013 even partnered with the Royal Canadian Mint to design a coin.


Charlie Bodin
Charlie Bodin is an actor and composer, known for Transformers (2007), Friday Night Lights (2004) and Insurgent (2015). On his Twitter bio he calls himself an “actor and numismatist”.






Nicole Kidman
Nicole Kidman is an Australian actress and producer. She is the recipient of multiple awards, including an Academy Award, two Primetime Emmy Awards, five Golden Globe Awards, the Silver Bear for Best Actress and a Cannes Film Festival special award. She is known for her hobby of collecting and favors coins from ancient Judea.

How to Prevent Coin Loss

Fred Howard, a Virginia collector, left part of his valuable Byzantine coin collection on the viewing table in his bank’s safety deposit area. Fortunately for him, a bank employee noticed, and turned the coins in to the head office. Having no way to know which customer they belonged to, the coins ended up in the Unclaimed Property division of the Virginia Treasury. Usually, items left unclaimed for a certain period of time are auctioned, but this collection of coins seemed special to Alex Baker, an employee of the Treasury. He reached out to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, where curator Peter Schertz made a breakthrough. Many of the coins were labeled with the name of the auction house or dealer they had been purchased from, and Schertz was familiar with several of them. The dealers had also kept records, and when contacted, were able to put Baker in touch with Howard and restore the missing coins. 


This story might not have had such a happy ending if Howard hadn’t scrupulously labeled his collection. Not all losses are due to malicious theft; here are some things you can do to help lost coins make their way back to you.


1: Label your coins. Simply adding the date and purchase location to a coin can massively improve the odds of getting it back should it be lost.


2: Keep a record of your collection. A simple spreadsheet listing the coin, grade, year purchased, price, and place purchased from should be plenty; make sure it’s up to date. If some of your coins are lost or stolen, this will show exactly what is missing.


3: Make a system to ensure you don’t leave coins behind. Howard’s coins were lost when he neglected to put them away after viewing them at his bank. If you use a safety deposit box for your coins, come up with a system to make sure you don’t leave them on the counter. For instance, taking a quick cell phone pic of the empty viewing table after replacing the box: this adds an extra step plus physical motion, not just a sweep of the eyes. The photo can be deleted immediately, since it’s the process that’s important. Whatever method you choose, make sure it’s something you’ll remember to do.


While there’s no way to ensure that your coins will never be lost or stolen, a few simple precautions can significantly improve the odds of getting them back.

Preparing to Pass On a Coin Collection


You see it every day on coin collecting forums and Facebook groups: “I found this coin collection while going through my relative’s estate, but I don’t know what any of it is or how much it’s worth. Help!”


You understand the history and value of your coin collection, but how do you make sure that knowledge gets passed on? If you’re thinking of passing your collection to a family member, it helps to give them all the information they need.


Bermuda_(UK)_image_number_432_coin_collection.jpgFirst, make sure all of your coins are in good quality, long-term holders. You don’t know how soon the new owner of the collection will be able to take a look at it, and you don’t want any of your coins to lose value because they were in a lower-quality storage system.
Next, make sure everything is labeled. Collector Tom O’Brien writes, “jot down the price you paid for an item, compared to the catalog value. Only thing is, most people don’t think of doing this until they are already deep into the hobby.” If you can’t put all of the information on the coin holder, consider keeping a notebook with the information in it. Include all identification of the coin, as well as the year you purchased it and how much you paid. This will be incredibly helpful to the future collector in understanding the value of the collection.


800px-coincollectionbedfordmuseum.jpgSteve Wolfe, another long-time collector, explains: “I have extensive spreadsheets on my collection complete with purchase data and photographs so it can be properly accounted for if I sell or if my heirs do. I’ve been doing this for over 25 years now. I also have a document explaining the basics of the business side of the hobby and contacts of people and organizations I trust my wife or children to do business with.”


The end goal, regardless of method, is to ensure that your knowledge of your collection is passed down with the physical coins. Decades of research, roll-hunting, and other numismatic labor should not be lost.

Spreading the Love of Coin Collecting by TV


Jeffery Smith, long-time coin collector, has found a unique way of sharing his love of coins and fanning the numismatic flame in new collectors.


Past and Present (P&P): First, tell me a little about yourself and how you got started in coin collecting.

16864688_10210173286920085_5240205749664795336_nJeffery Smith (JS): My name is Jeffery Smith, I’m 47, I’m a video Production Manager at my local cable’s community access center, AccessVision. I’ve been working here for about 10 years.

I’ve been a coin collector since I was about 7 or 8 years old, although I didn’t know it at the time. I got started coin collecting with my grandfather. I used to spend the weekends with him when I was little, and every Saturday morning, he would take me to the bank and “buy” $20 or so in coin rolls. We would spend the better part of the day laying on his living room floor searching through them. He would write down a list of what I was supposed to look for, mainly the wheat cents out of penny rolls, although I quickly caught on to what silver coins looked like, as there were still some in circulation back then, in the late 70’s.

After the sorting was done, he would pull out his Whitman Books for the cents and we would add whatever we had found to fill the holes. The extras would go into a coffee can and get put up on a shelf. I still have his Whitman books today. I’ve all but completed his sets for him, but am still missing the “high dollar” key dates from the Vol. One Book, 1909-1940. He was born in 1909, so we were always on the look out for 1909 cents, especially the 1909-S minted coins. We never found any.


P&P: Why are you interested in using community access television to talk about coin collecting?

JS: I started the Coin Show on our access channels about a year ago. As the center’s Production Manager, it’s my job to help all our volunteer producers to shoot, edit and then air their programs. I rarely have time to produce something that interests me, but one day, the topic of hobbies came up. I was talking with one of our volunteers about my coin hobby and he said that it sounded interesting, and maybe I should make a show about it. So, the next time I did a coin roll hunt, I took a camera home and recorded the process. I added some graphics about the coins I was searching, information on what errors I could or did encounter, and put it on our channels.

After the first one, I just kept going. It was about 3 or 4 months after I started airing the program that I started hearing back from people in the community. When I mentioned that I worked at AccessVision, I would hear “Oh, that’s the channel that has that coin show on Sunday afternoons, right?” We’ve since had phones calls, email, and comments on our Facebook page about the show. I’ve had coin collectors come to my office with coins they found in circulation, or coins handed down through the family, or coins from their own collection, that they wanted to show me or ask about more information on its value. I’ve added a YouTube Channel for my Coin Show, but keep airing on the local channel as well. I use it not only to educate the viewers on coin facts, but can also use the show to help promote the fact that anyone can make a show about their hobby, or any other topic that interests them. The channel now has shows on comic books, action figures, and other pop culture hobbies.


P&P: What’s your favorite part of coin collecting to talk about? What seems to spark people’s interest the most?

JS: The personal aspect of it, coins that are passed down through the family, generation to generation.

s-l1600.jpgWhat interests other people generally breaks down into 2 groups. I either get into conversations about the history of coins, who could have held these antique pieces, what was going on in the country when they were released, how much buying power they had back in the day (large cents really freak people out when I show them one!) and thinking how much stuff you could buy with one cent, or even a half cent. That’s probably the one coin that almost nobody understands the reason for it existing.


InGodWeRust.jpgThe other main focus of my conversations are error coins. Every time a new error coin gets “discovered” and hits the news–the “In God We Rust” Kansas State Quarter comes to mind–everyone who knows I’m a coin collector asks about the Facebook post they saw, do I have one, how much is it worth, should they go looking for it? So that topic comes up from time to time, and it’s usually because people think they can get rich quick, turning pocket change into a college fund for their kids.


P&P: Do you have a favorite coin or set? What draws you to that one in particular?

JS: I have many different “favorites,” for many different reasons. I was recently asked this same question on one of my YouTube videos, so I’ve been working on a show that has my favorite coins as the topic. The short answer would be the Lincoln Cent, mainly because it was the focus of my coin roll hunts with my grandfather when I was a kid. It’s also the series that I am the closest to completing, just 3 or 4 of the key dates remain. One day I will fill those holes, though I may not. Maybe because that way, my hunt with my grandfather is still active and a part of my collecting. It may be hard to close the door on that, just for emotional reasons.

s-l500.jpgA couple of my other favorites are the 1916-era coins. The Mercury Dime, Walking Liberty Half Dollar and the Standing Liberty Quarter. These are undeniably 3 of the most beautiful coins that the US has ever minted. The fact that all 3 started at the same time, as ordered by a President that detested the prior Barber (boring) coins is just a highlight of art in the American culture. I wish any other President from then until now shared a similar amount of pride in representing our nation with circulating coin designs. Except for the ongoing Quarter Commemorative designs, our coinage has been a vacuum of art and style for hundred years.


P&P: What advice would you give to a collector about how to talk to non-collectors about coins?

s-l1600 (1).jpgJS: I guess we just have to tailor our conversations to whatever aspect the non-collector finds interesting. There are so many topics that coin collecting can be interjected into: history (World War II cents and nickels had a different composition due to war needs), economics (The half-cent was needed for everyday commerce), art (The 1916 series in particular), foreign interests (The Trade Dollar, or Morgan Dollar compared to the Spanish Reale and other silver crowns). I’m sure there are others. Those are just some of the conversation topics I’ve had recently.

I think more often than not, when someone finds out that you’re a collector, they will generally approach you with their topic of interest. Probably 99% of the time it will be “I have some coins in a jar that my grandad left me, what should I look for that might be rare?” Those are usually the best conversations that I’ve had: they start with a family connection and end with the idea that they might just have a rare or error coin in that jar that could be very, very valuable. They usually don’t, but I can see the spark in their eye and I talk very enthusiastically about the coin hobby, hoping that I can fan that flame and make a new collector out of them.


There are so many fascinating and effective ways to spread the love of coins. Thank you for your work, Jeff!

Urban Legends and the Coins of the United States


Most of us are familiar with the lore of dropping a coin into Trevi Fountain, but there are lots of urban legends about coins. Here are some of our favorites for United States coins!


800px-MHV_Ford_Super_Deluxe_1947_01.jpgIn 1947, a rumor spread like fire across the United States: if you took a copper 1943 cent to your local Ford dealer, you would receive a free car! The company was flooded with inquiries about the “promotion,” and were mystified. Not only did no such promotion exist, Ford insisted, but they doubted the coin itself existed, as the 1943 cents were not minted from copper at all. As it turns out, there are a handful of copper cents from 1943, though each of these is worth considerably more than most Fords. One such coin sold at auction for $46,000 in 2001. These copper cents were first discovered in 1947, which may have sparked the initial rumor, but this is only speculation.



2005-Dime-Obv-Unc-P.pngThe Roosevelt dime was first minted in 1946, and almost immediately sparked a conspiracy theory. If you look very closely at a Roosevelt dime, you can see two tiny letters, “JS,” just to the right of the lowest point of the bust. This was a subversive tribute to Joseph Stalin, the theorists insisted. Of course, the letters were simply the initials of the designer, John Sinnock, the eighth Chief Engraver of the United States Mint. (This rumor popped up again in 1948, when the first Sinnock-designed Franklin half-dollars began to circulate.)




A similar legend surrounded the Kennedy half-dollar upon its release. Some people insisted that the design incorporated the hammer and sickle of the USSR; finally, to stop the rumors, coin designer and ninth Chief Engraver of the US Mint Gilroy Roberts explained that the tiny symbol was his own monogram, a stylized representation of the initials “G.R.”



As long as there are small differences and varieties in coins, there will be an urban legend to explain the “secret” story behind it!


Why You Should Attend a Coin Show



With all of the coins (and information about coins) available online, what’s the big deal about going to a coin show?


There are a lot of reasons to connect with the numismatic community offline. Whether you’re at a show to buy, sell, or just get more familiar with coins, you’ll have more options than any single store or dealer can offer. You’re also able to compare prices and get second opinions quicker and more easily than anywhere else.
Coin shows are also a great way to meet expert numismatists and experienced collectors. Got a coin question? Someone at the show has your answer. You’ll meet dealers and collectors with different specialties and interests. It’s a good way to get information about your current interests, as well as broadening your interests to areas you might not have considered before.
Going to a coin show is one of the best ways to meet other local collectors; many shows involved other collectibles, like stamps and postcards, too. You can compare collections, discuss items you’re both hoping to find, and even connect with local collectors groups.



Many shows also have programming for kids, aimed at encouraging them to consider collecting coins. Besides, you never know what odd coin at a booth is going to spark an interest in a budding numismatist.



Finally, coin shows are just fun. It’s exciting to be with people who share your interests, and who have things you’ve never seen before. Check event calendars, like this one from PCGS, to find coin shows near you. If you’re in Northern Washington, check out the Bellingham Stamp and Coin Show on April 1-2, 2017.

The Future of Coin Grading is Here


Over the last few years, conversations in the numismatics would about the use of ever-improving optical and computer technology have been heated. Is it possible to create a machine that can accurately sort coins in a manner that is useful to collectors? Can machines be taught to spot and analyze aesthetic qualities of a coin, such as toning?
In short: yes.
1.jpgFor a better answer, allow us to introduce the numismatic world to our new achievement, simply called “The Machine.” The Machine was conceptualized by owner Tim Rathjen and built entirely in-house by  a small team at The Stamp and Coin Place. Rathjen, a polymath with an eclectic interest in collectibles, firmly believes in the power of emerging technology to enrich and enhance even the most traditional of hobbies. The Machine is the product of years of study and experiments with ever-improving imaging technology.
You can read about the technical specs and how The Machine works on The Coin Blog, but here are a few of the big numbers. At average speed, The Machine can accurately grade and sort 3 coins per second, which comes out to 10,800 coins per hour, or 86,400 coins in one 8-hour workday. This incarnation of The Machine can accurately grade coins up to XF, and we anticipate that future versions will be able to do even more as we refine the technology.
2We have taken the first step into a field that has been almost entirely theoretical until now: automatic computerized coin grading. The speculative coin grading technology of the future is here. Of course, it’s not perfect yet. No first attempt ever could be. We look forward to the challenges of creating even more accurate and capable Machines.


The big question of computerized grading still remains: will computers replace humans in evaluating coins? We can teach a computer to “see” like a human being, but we still cannot teach a computer to “feel” like a human. As long as a specific coin speaks to something in an individual collector, the human element will always be the most important one in coin collecting.

Lincoln’s Cents


One of the best-known stories about America’s most beloved president is actually about coins. The story goes that, upon closing his general store one evening, Abraham Lincoln discovered that he had inadvertently overcharged a customer. Unwilling to let the error stand even overnight, Lincoln walked miles to the customer’s house to return the change (the amount varies, usually said to be just a few pennies.)
American coins changed relatively little over Lincoln’s lifetime (1809-1865), but the coins were very different from what we have today.

The coins he returned to the customer were probably a mix of half-cents and large cents; when the incident with the customer occurred, likely in 1832, the small coins in circulation were the Classic Head half-cent(1809-1836) and Classic Head (1808-1814) and Coronet large cents (1816-57.) (As American coins are always legal tender, it’s possible that earlier Draped Bust coins were mixed in.)




The Braided Hair half-cent entered circulation later, in 1840. The half-cents of the time were almost as large as modern quarters, and minted in pure copper. Inflation eventually lead to the abandonment of this denomination of coin just before the Civil War.



Large cents were also made of copper, and while useful for transactions, proved to be awkward as pocket change; in addition, copper prices began rising in the 19th century. In 1857, the large cent was replaced in circulation with the Flying Eagle small cent; American pennies have been small in size ever since.

NNC-US-1858-1C-Flying_Eagle_Cent.jpgThe small cents were introduced with the Flying Eagle cent, which was patterned in 1856 and introduced into circulation in 1857. It was produced until 1858; the Indian Head cent was went into production in 1859. (This design was used for the next 50 years.) The Flying Eagle was known as the “white cent” because of its lighter color due to the new copper-nickel composition.




The year before Lincoln’s death, the Mint issued the two-cent coin, the country’s first and only two-cent denomination piece. This was also the first time the motto “In God We Trust” was used on a coin.





From 1851-1873, a three-cent silver coin was also in circulation; due to the silver content, it was hoarded when war broke out, causing a coin shortage. At that time, the Mint began striking the three-cent coins in copper-nickel.



NNC-US-1839-O-5C-Seated_Liberty_(no_drapery).jpgThe half-dime was America’s first five-cent coin, far predating the nickel as we know it today. The half-dimes that Lincoln knew would have been the Capped Bust (produced 1829-1837) and the Seated Liberty (1837-1873), though he likely would have seen some of the Draped Bust half-dimes as a child, since they were produced until just a few years before his birth. Interestingly, Lincoln never saw a nickel; the first American nickels were struck in 1866.
NNC-US-1820-10C-Capped_Bust.jpgBoth Capped Bust (1809-1837) and Liberty Seated (1837-1891) dimes were produced during Lincoln’s lifetime; the dime and half-dime had almost identical designs for most of the 19th century. Until 1964, all dimes in circulation were minted in silver (for more on why silver coinage ceased–and how coin collecting almost became illegal–see this post.)
Seated_Liberty_Quarter_with_Arrows_and_Rays.jpgThe quarter, due to its usefulness and size, has always been one of the most popular of all American coins. The Draped Bust design dropped out of production shortly before Lincoln was born, with the Capped Bust design beginning production in 1815. The Seated Liberty quarter followed it, from 1838-1891.
NNC-US-1849-G$1-Liberty_head_(Ty1).jpgHalf dollars were one of the major silver coins in circulation in Lincoln’s day. Again, the Capped Bust (1807-1839) and Seated Liberty (1839-1891) designs would have been familiar to him. Gobrecht dollars (1836-1839), Seated Liberty (1840-1873) and gold Capped Head (1821-1834), Classic Head (1834-1839), and Liberty Head (1849-1854) dollars would also have been in circulation, though not common in daily transactions. A $5 Liberty Head coin was also produced from 1849-1854, but was certainly not used by most citizens at the time.
It’s also likely that some silver pesos were still being used during Lincoln’s childhood and early career. They were accepted as legal tender in America until 1857, and in Canada until 1854.



We cannot know exactly which coins Honest Abe returned to his customer 180 years ago, but we do know the effect Lincoln’s presidency had on our coins. In 1909, President Theodore Roosevelt commissioned a new design for the penny for the 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth. creating the Lincoln cent. It was the first coin to portray a president, and Lincoln’s portrait on the obverse is the longest-running design in US Mint history.