5 Crucial Things To Do If You Think You’ve Found A Valuable Coin


1. Resist the urge to clean the coin. Cleaning will ruin the condition of the coin, introducing scratches and blemishes, and removing patina. If you’ve dug the coin up and it’s so caked in dirt that you can’t see features or dates, put it in a safe place until you get home. Never try to brush or rub dirt off in the field. Some experts allow for careful soaking of dirt-caked coins in oil or distilled water to remove the dirt, while others opt for professional cleaning. If you do soak, let the dirt slough off naturally after soaking; rubbing it can introduce scratches to the surface of the coin. Allow the coins to air dry, or carefully pat them dry with a soft cloth; do not rub them.


2. Always hold the coin by the edges, never the face. Consider using lintless cotton gloves (never latex) or a soft cloth to handle the coin. Get it into proper storage as soon as possible.



8209-01__99063.1396639834.1200.12003. Store it properly. There are lots of methods for storing coins, but some are better than others. Even if you don’t yet know if the coin is valuable, you can save yourself the headache of worrying by getting decent protection for your coin. The first rule is always to use supplies specifically designed for coins. Many non-coin items have chemical or other properties that can severely affect the value of a coin; items made for coin-collecting will be formulated to avoid this. Do not store your coins in or around anything containing PVC, as PVC has a very negative effect on coins. You can use plastic or paper coin flips for a short time, but they are not airtight, so it’s recommended not to store in plastic for more than a few months. Cardboard holders with Mylar windows are another solution. If you choose this method, make sure to staple the holders very carefully, being sure not to get the staples too close to the coin. It’s best to use stainless steel staples, to avoid the danger of rust.



35844-01__42834.1430949042.1200.1200Hard plastic holders for individual coins, referred to as “slabs,” may be a little pricier, but they often offer the best protection for the cost. The best coin protection is a hard case known as a slab, but this can be an expensive process, so it may be best to wait and get the value of the coin before spending the money to have it slabbed. Never store any coin in aluminum foil: moisture in the air can react with the cheap metal and cause corrosion, damaging a coin beyond repair.




512DgXimyKL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_4. Get a guide. There are many books on identifying coins, such as the Official Red Book; you can also search Google and Wikipedia to find other coins that might look like yours.





5. Consult experts. Go to a local coin shop if you have one. Join coin forums like CoinTalk, Coin People, or NumisSociety, and get the input of fellow collectors. Check to see if a coin show is happening near to you any time soon.

FAQs: “How can I know what my coin is worth?”


It’s difficult to have a single, simple answer to this question, as there are multiple variables for thousands of coins. However, there are some general principles that will help you find the information you’re looking for.


Condition of the coin

scratched half dollar

1833 Silver Capped Bust Dime with fine scratches

One of the biggest variables with any coin is the condition. If the coin is mint or near mint condition, it will bring a much higher value than a damaged coin. To a coin grader or collector, damage can be very minor to the eye and still drastically affect the value of the coin. This is why most collectors do not clean coins that they find; even the most gentle wash is capable of scratching thin lines onto the surface of the coin. Coins are usually damaged from the rigors of circulation, where no special care is taken to protect them.


Rarity and Date

Another major factor is the rarity of a coin. A coin that was only minted in the thousands will often have a higher value than coins with mintages in the millions.

The date of a given coin can also be an indicator of rarity, and therefore of value. More coins may have been minted in one year than another, or the coins in a particular year are made of a different metal (for instance, the 1943 steel pennies).


Mint Mark


San Francisco mint mark on 1908 Indian Head penny


The final major factor is the mint mark. This is a small mark on the coin, usually a single letter, that indicates which mint the coin originated at. United States mint marks are: Charlotte, North Carolina (C, gold coins only, 1838-1861); Carson City, Nevada (CC, 1870-1893); Dahlonega, Georgia (D, Gold coins only, 1838-1861); Denver, Colorado (D, 1906 to date); New Orleans, Louisiana (O, 1838-1909); Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (P, 1793 to date); San Francisco, California (S, 1854 to date); and West Point (W, 1984 to date.)





US disme, the original name of the dime

One thing to note is that denominations of coins have changed over the course of history; be sure you know the face value of the coin, when possible, to get more accurate information about the value of the coin.


Valuation, Grading, and Identification

Your best bet for getting a good valuation on your coin is to have it professionally graded: PCGS is an excellent resource, as is NGC. Once the coin is graded, it will be much easier to find a value for it. If you don’t wish to take your coin to a professional, there are a few forums and Facebook groups that may be able to help you. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. If you have a digital camera, use that to take the picture. If you don’t, a decent smartphone will work, if you are careful.
  2. Light the coin well, making sure to light from several angles to eliminate shadows and glare.
  3. Position the coin on a blank background, preferably either black or white.
  4. Use a tripod, if you have one. The more fine detail you can capture, the better. If you don’t have a tripod, try to brace the camera or phone against something solid while taking the photo.
  5. Get as much information about the coin as you can. If you know the country, denomination, etc, include that information with the photo. If the coin doesn’t come with that information, a Google Image search may be helpful.


Once you have the photo and information, share it with the group. You are likely to get some conflicting answers, and will still need to do your own research, but this can give you a good place to start. Once you know what kind of coin you have, you can look it up in the Red Book or other guide to get a more precise valuation.


The information from a group or forum should never be considered as a professional evaluation, but if you just want more information about a coin you happened across, it can be a great resource.