Coin Collecting Investment Mistakes

Avoid These Common Mistakes to Make Money in Coins

James Bucki

Collecting coins can be an enjoyable way to invest your money if you avoid the mistakes that many people make when they start collecting coins. Remember, nothing can replace the knowledge that you can acquire by reading coin books, joining a coin club, and building a relationship with a trusted coin dealer.

The most profitable coin collections ever sold were assembled by coin collectors, not coin investors. People who try to make a quick buck "flipping" coins usually end up losing more money than what they invested. The rare coin market, although small, is an intricate and complex series of suppliers and consumers.

How to Become a Smart Coin Investor:

  1. Take Your Time. It is not a race to fill every hole in your coin album. Your coin collecting journey should be a lifetime of fun and enjoyment.
  2. Chart a Course. Decide what coins you're going to collect and make sure the collection you are striving to assemble is within your budget.
  3. Become Involved. Coin collecting is more about building relationships at a local coin shop, coin club or amongst old friends.
  4. Keep Learning. Coin collecting is a life long hobby. There are many books and Internet resources that can provide you with a world of information on the coins you are collecting. This also helps you make wise coin investment decisions.

As you progress through your coin collecting journey, here are eight things you want to avoid doing in order to maximize your investment returns in rare coins.

  • 01 of 08

    Buying Coins from Television Coin Dealers

    and artisticc interpretation of buying coins on television
    Bubaone/Getty Images

    Not all coin dealers that you see on television are there to rip you off. But given the high advertising and marketing costs, they must recover, you will not get the lowest price for the coins you are purchasing. Even if the coins that they are selling are certified by one of the top tier grading services (PCGS or NGC), it is only guaranteeing that the coin is authentic and it is accurately graded. Certification from a top tier grading service does not guarantee that you are paying a fair market price for the coin. Learn about the coin series before investing a sizable sum of money in a particular coin.

  • 02 of 08

    Following the Latest "Hot Tip"

    stacks of coins
    tusumaru/Getty Images

    Just like stocks and bonds, there are a lot of people that will tell you what's going to be the next hot coin tomorrow, next month, next year or next decade. If it were that easy to predict the future, these people would already be rich and not have to make money by giving numismatic advice. This is especially true if the advice is coming from a person trying to sell you coins on television or over the telephone.

    If you are receiving advice from a trusted source, for example, a coin dealer or coin collector that you have known for decades, you may want to consider that advice when making a purchase. It is important to develop a relationship with a trusted coin dealer in order to avoid the mistake of overpaying for a particular coin. 

  • 03 of 08

    Certified Coins from Self-Slabbers

    a do-it-yourself slab for coins.
    James Bucki

    Most people consider the top tier coin authentication and certification services to be Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) and Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC). The second tier is considered to be ANACS and Independent Coin Graders (ICG). All of these companies have established themselves over many years and have a loyal and faithful customer base.

    However, anyone can buy a machine to encapsulate coins in special plastic holders and slap a label on them. There is one firm that states that they specialize in MS-70 and Proof-70 coins. In other words, every coin that they receive gets put in a slab with one of these two grades. That does not mean these coins earned that grade and most reputable coin dealers would consider them to be over graded.

  • 04 of 08

    Buying "Below Wholesale" Lots

    coins in a shopping cart
    pookpiik / iStock / Getty Images Plus

    There's nothing wrong with buying "below wholesale" lots and using these coins to start a new coin collection for a particular series or type. Unfortunately, you cannot inspect the individual coins before you purchase them. Most commonly these are the coins that the coin dealer has overbought or they do not meet the dealers quality standards. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that they will yield a good return on your investment. When purchasing coins, take your time, learn about them and purchase from a reputable coin dealer.

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Foreign Coins from Small/Unknown Countries

    A Variety of Foreign Coins
    James Bucki

    It is the political right of any country to issue coinage. Some of these small or little-known countries will produce very low mintage coins with popular subjects. Although they are touted as "rare" because of their low mintage numbers it's, this does not mean that there is a demand for them and their value will increase over time.

    There are many other factors that determine the value of a coin. Some of these small countries that issue popular commemorative coins include Liberia, Isle of Man, Marshall Islands, Niue, and Guinea. Also, avoid colorized coins and coins plated with precious metals (gold, silver or platinum). These type of plated or colored coins are considered damaged by numismatists and are most commonly worth face value.

  • 06 of 08

    Skip the Research

    Example Coin Books.
    Whitman Publishing, Coin World

    There is an adage that says, "Buy the book before the coin." The people that have made the most amount of money in coins were "coin collectors" first and "coin investors" second. Their primary goal was to assemble a quality coin collection and not to make a "quick buck."

    Just like financial investments, they were in it for the long-haul. Researching and learning about the coins you collect will give you the knowledge to make sound financial investments in coins. There are no get-rich-quick formulas in the world of coin collecting. However, wise purchases made over a period of time will yield financial benefits in the future.

  • 07 of 08

    Know the Difference between an Advisor and a Salesman

    Sleazy Salesman
    Joshua Ets-Hokin/Photodisc/Getty Images

    There are a lot of people that will sell you coins over-the-counter, through the mail or over the Internet. They are also ready, willing and able to give you "advice" as to what are the best coins to invest in right now. More often than not, they tell you the best investment coin is the coin they are trying to get rid of so they can make a quick buck.

    For example, if a "coin advisor" is proclaiming that the "financial sky is falling" and you need to invest in some "hard assets" like gold coins, and he can sell them to you, he is not an advisor but a salesman. A wise coin investor will build a relationship with a reliable and established coin dealer. You may not get the lowest price, but you will always get a fair price and an expert evaluation from a professional numismatist.

  • 08 of 08

    Buying Rolls of Coins

    A pile of US coins in coin rolls
    Stella / Getty Images

    Back in the 1950s and 1960s, the hot commodity in coin collecting was investing in rolls of uncirculated coins. This craze appeared again in 1999 with the advent of the 50 State Quarters program from the United States Mint. Coin salesman touted that someday these coins will be valuable and you will have a pile of them to make a quick and tidy profit. People who invested over $1,000 assembling a complete collection of State Quarter rolls are now finding out that they are worth a little more than face value. In fact, most coin dealers will only buy a few rolls if their stock is running low and then recommend that you take them to your local bank and cash them in for paper currency.