By Steve Carr
Every numismatist, or coin collector, needs to know about the coins and paper currency they collect. Why you ask? If you do not know the area you collect, you are liable to overpay for your purchases, either because you don’t know the grade or because you do not know the true value. How can you overcome this lack of knowledge?
It’s simple, but requires some time. There are actually a number of ways you can become educated. The easiest is to find a book about the series you collect. For general United States coin collectors, the best basic reference is the Red Book, R.S. Yeoman and Ken Bressett’s A Guide Book of Unites States Coins. This book is published every year and copies are frequently available at your local library or bookstore. The Red Book has all the specifics about the coins content, weight, size, designer and more. The prices are usually higher than true market value, but the book will allow you to learn about changes in the coin design and which dates or mintmarks are scarcer.
Next, you should attend a meeting of your local coin. Some areas do not have coin clubs and other areas may not be to your style. But give it a shot. Some of us old farts really do know about certain series of coins. Milk us for all the information we can give.
If you want to learn more, find a book that covers a specific series. Books have been written about all U.S. coin series, and many foreign. You can often buy these books on-line, but you can also borrow them from the American Numismatic Association, the national coin club. Often called just the ANA, this organization has a library just to die for. Books on everything! Members can borrow books, so joining should be considered.
If you are still hungry for information, join a regional or national club. Most clubs have a monthly or quarterly journal where new research and discoveries can be found. Many clubs hold a convention, usually annually, where presentations are given and a lively bourse floor can be found.
My final suggestion is also an ANA product. Every summer they have two weeks of classes on numismatics. Courses are held in late June/early July and meet from Sunday until Wednesday. They cover specific series. Doug Bird and I teach a course on early American Copper Coins, for example. In the course, we talk about how the coins were made, how to attribute by Sheldon and Newcomb numbers, and how to grade them. It’s quite a week, spent with lots of other numismatists. Who knows, you might find yourself seated next to Ken Bressett at lunch or dinner.
The ANA has a website, money.org.