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The Importance of Collecting US Junk Coins

The Importance of Collecting US Junk Coins

If you are new at collecting coins, or you are even thinking about collecting coins, you should learn about “junk” coins. I’ve been collecting for about forty years. When I started, I had a little money to use for buying coins. Every Friday, I would go to the local coin dealer and browse so much I got a headache. I only bought the oldest coins I could even though they were in “About Good” (AG) or “Good”(G) low-grade condition. The first coin I bought was an 1819 large cent in AG condition for $9. The coin was so worn, you could barely see the details. If you rubbed both surfaces with your hand, you could faintly detect slight bumps.

The beauty about collecting old “junk” or “low ball” coins in grades of AG to G, is you can own old coins that would tell many stories if they could talk. Well-worn coins didn’t just belong to one person, but, perhaps hundreds of people. You wonder who could have owned them. Like with my 1819 large cent, I imagined if Andrew Jackson, our seventh president, or some other well-known person could have owned it and kept it in their pocket. What could that person might have bought with it? Or, perhaps, a child received it for a Christmas present to start a piggy bank in the early 19th century.

What I didn’t consider then was the future value of the coinage market. Many seasoned collectors buy long-term for profit. So they buy the ones that are in better conditions. Most coins in these higher graded conditions generally become better investments. These conditions include Very Good (VG), Fine(F), Very Fine(VF), Extremely Fine(EF), About Uncirculated(AU) and Uncirculated(U). There are even several grades for uncirculated coins. For now, don’t think too much about higher condition.

The United States Mint has been striking coins for the past two-hundred and twenty years. Today, we use pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters, and to a lesser degree, half dollars and metal dollar. But, in the latter half of the 18th century, half cents, cents, half dimes, dimes, quarters, half dollars and dollars were struck and circulated on a regular basis. Generally the older the piece, the more active it has been circulating. Only half cents and pennies are made of copper; the rest contain mostly silver.

Some advantages of buying junk coins are worth noting. First, you can buy these pieces with little money. If you live on a meager income, “low ball” pieces might fit your budget. Second, they hold their melt-down values very well, like the copper in the old cents and silver in dimes, quarters, half dollars and dollars. (Nickels were made of copper-nickel). While well-worn coins have lost investment value, they are still worth their weight in copper and silver. Also, I didn’t mention that gold coins had been struck in the U.S. for a long time until 1933. Pennies kept their copper until 1982. Dimes, quarters, half dollars and dollars were made of 90% silver before 1965. Third, collecting old worn copper and, especially silver coins can be used against inflation. When the value of the dollar bill goes down and the American dollar bill becomes worthless, the price of silver goes up. So, you could trade in your silver junk coins and get some good money. Copper goes up too. I remember when an ounce of silver went from $7 to $50. If this change happened today, that old slick silver quarter you paid $4 for, could potentially make you $10 or more. Last but not least, you can play with those worn coins: rub them all you want, imagine all of the stories that coin could tell and show them to your friends. I met someone who carried a culled large cent piece struck in 1800 with him to show people. Any other coins in better than “good” condition should probably be placed inside a 2 by 2 inch coin holders.

Don’t pay a lot of money for expensive pieces in better than “good” condition, unless you see a better than good one for little money. Buy worn coins with as little money as possible. Go to your local coin store where you can buy junk silver individual pieces, or in bulk. The best way to locate them is to Google “junk coins” and you will find a few other companies that sell these coins individually or in bulk. Good luck collecting!