General Coin & Money Questions
Below you will find answers to many commonly asked numismatic questions that we receive on a regular basis. If you have a question that does not appear below or for more information about the American Numismatic Association, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-367-9723.
Our museum and library staff will be happy to assist you as you discover and explore the world of money. Depending upon the extent of the research necessary to answer individual questions, a research fee may be required. If a fee is required, our staff will provide you with a cost estimate before conducting research on your behalf.
How do I find the value of my coin, notes, tokens or medals?
An approximate retail value of your item can be determined by consulting one of many published sources. The latest editions of A Guide Book of United States Coins by R. S. Yeoman, Paper Money of the United States by Arthur L. and Ira S. Friedberg, as well as the Standard Catalog of World Coins and the Standard Catalog of World Paper Money (both published by Krause Publications) are available at many libraries and bookstores.
How can I tell if my numismatic item is authentic or a copy?
There are many "tribute" copies of rare coins on the market. These coins were not created to deceive but rather to allow people to own a facsimile of an original that is very difficult to own. Most of these coins have the words "Copy" or "Replica" engraved on them in an inconspicuous spot. Coins or notes that were created to deceive can be very hard to detect. It is best to take your item to an ANA affiliated dealer for authentication. Please consult our Dealer Directory to locate a dealer near you
What does the term “numismatist” mean?
A numismatist is one who studies money in any of its forms. Numismatists often specialize in certain areas of numismatics such as paper currency, medals or coins.
I’ve just inherited a large coin collection. How can I obtain an appraisal?
Researching the items yourself is a great way to learn more about your collection. Most likely you will not be able to determine an exact value but by using the sources referenced in Question 1, you should be able to establish a retail value range for the collection. If you need an exact figure, or the collection is overwhelming, it is best to use the services of a professional numismatist. Once a dealer has been located, you should call the dealer and set an appointment so that the dealer can expect you and have time reserved just for you. Please indicate to the dealer the size of the collection to be appraised. Most dealers will charge for the appraisal so it is best to establish the fee beforehand. Plan to stay while the dealer is performing the appraisal. If you believe your collection to be particularly valuable, you may wish to have your collection appraised by more than one dealer. If you have trouble locating a dealer, refer to our Dealer Directory for assistance.
How much is a 1943 steel penny worth?
In 1943, for one year only, the Mint made cents from steel with a zinc coating. The purpose for this change from previously minted copper cents was to save the copper for use in artillery shells during World War II. Because 1943 cents have a different color, many people believe they were made in error or are very rare. In fact, over 1 billion 1943 cents were minted. Values for this coin, as with all coins, depends on condition. Circulated 1943 cents have a very modest value.
I inherited a coin collection. I know nothing about coins but I would like to sell them. How do I find someone I can trust to buy them?
Trying to sell coins with no background knowledge can be a very frustrating experience. It is always best to try and learn the approximate value of your coins before offering them for sale. The published sources listed in Question 1 can help you determine an approximate retail value. There are several venues in which to sell your numismatic items. Those venues include selling to a dealer, selling on the Internet or contracting your coins to be sold at auction. Whichever venue you choose, it is your responsibility to be an informed seller since once you agree to the sale, the transaction is final. If you decide to sell your coins to a dealer, be upfront as to your intentions and do not expect to get the retail value for your collection. Dealers offer a price based on several variables including condition of the item and current demand. They must make a wholesale offer so that they will be able to sell the item at retail to make a profit. If you are not satisfied with an offer, you have the ability to refuse and offer your coins to another dealer.
I would like to collect coins. Where do I begin?
The most important thing to remember is that coin (or paper money, medal, token) collecting is a hobby. As a hobby, it must be enjoyable or you will loose interest. There are many ways in which to assemble a collection. If you are interested in collecting United States coins, the place to start may be the coins you have in your pocket. It is a good practice to always check your change. Once you have decided what you want to collect, you should next consider ways to be a more informed collector. Education is the key to getting the most enjoyment from the hobby. You should consider joining a local club and becoming a member of the ANA. Find out the ways that an ANA Membership will help you get the most out of your collection.
Should I clean my coins?
The short answer is "NO!" Cleaning a coin often presents an enigma. A coin that has circulated and shows signs of wear has an altered appearance if it has been cleaned. In essence, what you would have is a coin that is bright but worn. Generally, a coin will lose some of its value after being cleaned. Most experienced numismatists are able to spot a cleaned coin fairly easily. If a coin is so corroded that it is unrecognizable, you may try a solution of mild dish soap and distilled water. Rinse the coin thoroughly with distilled water and allow the coin to air dry otherwise you should leave coin cleaning to professional services such as NCS.
How should I store my numismatic collection?
It is best to store coins individually in acid-free envelopes or PVC-free mylar "flips" available for purchase through your local ANA member dealer. Paper money should be stored in PVC-free mylar sleeves. A dry environment in a fairly constant temperature is important for long-term storage of your numismatic items. If you store your collection in a safe-deposit box, check on your collection every few months to make sure no problems are developing.
How can I recognize holders that have PVC?
Most holders come in packages which have labels that indicate that they are PVC free. If in doubt, ask a professional. Plastic "flips" that contain PVC have a blue tint and are softer and more pliable than plastic holders that do not contain PVC.
I have paper money from the Confederacy. How can I tell if it is authentic?
There are many copies of Confederate and Colonial currency in existence. Notes that are printed on thick brown parchment are not authentic and were created as souvenirs. One way to check the authenticity of your Confederate or Colonial currency is to check the serial numbers. "Bogus or Facsimile" is a website that can help.
I am learning to grade coins but am worried that people may not agree with my grading system if I decide to sell part of my collection. What do you suggest?
Many collectors share your concern. The American Numismatic Association offers classes on grading at theirSummer Seminar and national conventions to help collectors improve their grading skills. However, many collectors like the added security of having their coins graded by a recognized professional numismatist. Numismatic Guaranty Corporation is the official grading service of the ANA.They will grade and encapsulate your coins for you. Consider contacting NGC for more information.
I have several pieces of paper money I have collected over the years. Coins are graded, what about paper currency?
Yes, paper money can be graded. The field of grading and encapsulating paper money is relatively new. The American Numismatic Association often offers a class on grading paper money at its Summer Seminar. Paper Money Guaranty will grade and encapsulate paper money of the United States as well as many world banknotes. Please contact them for more information.
What is PVC?
PVC stands for Polyvinyl Chloride. PVC is added to plastic coin "flips" to make them softer and less likely to scratch a coin. Unfortunately, when exposed to heat and light, the PVC will break down and release hydrochloric acid which will damage the surface of your coins, so always purchase PVC-free mylar holders for long-term storage.