How to Identify Rare Coins

Written by ehow hobbies, games & toys editor
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If you are relatively new to coin collecting but have still managed to amass a decent number of coins, you may begin to wonder if any of your coins are rare or valuable. It is not always easy to tell. Old does not always equal rare in the coin collecting world. For example, there may be thousands of that wheat penny in circulation. Alternately, you could have a real gem in your collection and not know it. That is why it is a smart move to learn how to identify rare coins.

Skill level:


    Learn How to Correctly Identify Rare Coins

  1. 1

    Consult 'The Official Red Book.' This book is the Bible for collectors of U.S. coins. It lists every kind of coin ever made in the United States, including when they were made, how rare they are now and their current value. Many of the coins are represented in photographs in the book, so you know just what they look like. A new edition of 'The Official Red Book,' by R. S. Yeoman and Kenneth Bressett, comes out every year.

  2. 2

    Educate yourself on the Internet. There are a few coin identification websites out there that may prove useful to the beginning coin collector. The World Coin Gallery (see Resources below) can help you get started.

  3. 3

    Take your coins to a dealer. Professional coin dealers make it their business to know how to identify rare coins. Not only can they identify yours, they can also give you some pointers on identifying rare coins if you ask them. You can find a coin dealer directory at The Coin Gallery Online (see Resources below).

  4. 4

    Use eBay for research. By searching for 'rare coins,' you can see pictures of coins that other people consider to be rare and read descriptions of those coins. You can also see what other people are bidding on the coins, which can help you determine their market value.

  5. 5

    Find coin collecting message boards and chat rooms at a site like Collectors Universe (see Resources below). Then, use these resources to ask any questions you have about your potentially rare coins. By describing features on the coin, others can help you identify it and determine if it really is rare.

Tips and warnings

  • When taking your coins to a dealer for identification, be sure to only use one who is a member of the American Numismatic Association. These dealers have been given the seal of approval by the most trusted coin collecting organization in the United States. Therefore, you can be sure they are both knowledgeable and trustworthy.

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