how to start collecting coins and stamps

article by ron bowen

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Wednesday, Aug 04

Coins and stamps are two of the most common items that are collected. Collectors spend years gathering stamps or coins, and these collections are often passed down to a younger relative. Whether you’ve been passed down a collection or you want to start one of your own, here are a few tips to aid in your collecting.

The Benefits of Collecting

Maintaining a stamp or coin collection may sound stressful to outsiders, but many collectors find the hobby to be extremely relaxing. Having a hobby to distract you from work and other stressors in life creates a little pocket of time where you can focus your entire attention on something you enjoy.Image by Gerd Altmann

Collecting coins or stamps may also help improve your memory and focus. Paying attention to detail is extremely important when collecting. You not only have to memorize what’s in your collection to prevent purchasing the same item twice, but you also have to know about the history behind your topic of collection.

Being a collector can also help a person develop their self-identity. If you’re struggling to figure out just who you are, collecting can help you do that. Collectors often network amongst one another. It’s an easy way to trade and obtain stamps and coins. It’s also an easy way to make friends. What may start as a business transaction could turn into a lifelong friendship. You and other collectors will automatically have something in common and if you collect the same item, you’ll never run out of things to talk about.


Getting Started: Find a Theme

Any organized collector has an objective with their collection. Perhaps they only collect coins from a certain era, or they only collect stamps that feature their favorite historical figure or celebrity. What’s important to you? Is there a particular period of history that you really enjoy? History buffs often collect stamps or coins from significant years in history.

If you’re a green thumb or someone who loves nature, you could collect stamps that feature your favorite flowers. Maybe you’re someone with a lot of different interests. That’s okay, too! Your theme could simply be things that interest you; just be prepared to have an extensive collection.

When a collection is passed down to you by someone else, you don’t necessarily have to pick a theme. You could continue the trend that was set by the previous collector, or you could go in a totally different direction if you want.

If you’re going in the same direction as the previous collector, congratulations. You’ve saved yourself a step. When the previous collector’s objective doesn’t interest you, find what does. You can incorporate items from the collection and use them in your own collection. If you have coins or stamps that don’t serve your collection’s purchase, you have two options for getting rid of excess items.

Collections and the people who curated them can have great sentimental value. If a collection was passed down to you by a relative but not all of the pieces fit the goal of your new collection, ask other relatives or family friends if they would like any of the coins or stamps.

After that, consider selling or donating the items to other collectors. You could help someone finally complete their collection, or you may have a rare item that would mean a lot to someone else.

Before You Start Collecting: Do Your Research

Before you dive into the incredible world of collecting coins and stamps, you need to do your research. It’s important to know exactly what you are collecting. If you’re looking to collect coins or stamps from a particular era, having an understanding of world history during that period is crucial. Large events, such as the moon landing and Queen Elizabeth II’s ascent to her throne, are often commemorated on coins and stamps.

For coin collectors, the history of money is their Bible. The usage of paper money dates all the way back to 7th century China, and the oldest known use of coins occurred around 600 BCE. Between 600 BCE and today, a lot has changed — especially when it comes to the coin form of currency. In American history, the U.S. Mint was not opened until 1792. There were lots of different coins in circulation before then, and anyone who owns one of them holds a piece of history.

About 70 years after the United States Postal Service was established, Congress authorized postage stamps to be used. The first stamps depicted Benjamin Franklin and George Washington. That was almost 200 years ago. Stamps have evolved greatly over the years. Stamps have featured historical figures, celebrities, cartoon characters, and almost anything else that you can think of since their invention.Image by Thomas B

Start Collecting

Now that you have identified your collection’s objective and you’ve done your research, it’s time to start collecting. Coins can be found in nearly everyone’s pockets, and stamps are resident in nearly every American home. People of a particular age bracket are notorious for not getting rid of things. Do you know someone who qualifies for senior discounts at restaurants? Give them a call and ask if you can come by and look for coins and stamps for your collection.

Be prepared to pay for whatever you find. Do not take advantage of someone’s kindness because of their age and ignorance of the value of an item. Collectors aren’t scammers, and you shouldn’t attempt to swindle anyone who is doing you a favor.

The next places to look out for valuable coins and stamps are yard sales and estate sales. Oftentimes, anyone hosting these types of sales is ready to part with these items and they’ll cut you a great deal.

If you’re lucky, you’ll get to pick through the coins and only take what you want. However, the most common case is that someone will be getting rid of an entire collection, and you’ll have to buy the whole thing. For the right price, it will definitely be worth it to sort through the coins or stamps later. Whatever you don’t want, you can sell to other collectors or use it to trade for an item you do want, such as a vintage stamp.

Secondhand stores are also a fantastic place to purchase collectibles, even stamps and coins. Coins will often be located near the jewelry. It makes sense, considering that they’re both small pieces of metal that could be worth a lot.

Stamps, however, could be found in different sections of the store. In the office supply section or near the stationery makes sense, but if it is a framed collection of stamps, it could be located on the perimeter of the store with other wall hangings. You may also find stamps inside of used books. Many people use small books of stamps as bookmarks.

Other collectors are great resources for buying stamps and coins too. When purchasing from strangers, keep your wits about you. This is another time where doing research is an integral part of being a collector. You need to know the current market value of the item and its potential value in the future before you make a purchase.

When possible, try to make all transactions between yourself and other collectors secure and traceable. If you’re making a purchase online, use a trusted third-party payment application such as PayPal. Never give someone you don’t know your personal financial details, including credit card numbers or bank account information.

For in-person purchases, be sure to meet the person during the day in a public location. To be extra safe, you can bring a friend or family member along with you. This will increase your personal safety during the encounter.

When possible, get a receipt for your exchange. The seller doesn’t necessarily have to have a receipt book on them. You could create your own receipt by writing down the details of the transaction on a piece of paper and having both parties sign. If you brought a friend along, they could sign the paper as well, certifying that they witnessed the transaction.

Be extremely cautious when purchasing collectible coins or stamps from pawn shops. These stores are overly obsessed with making a profit, and they will often list items for far above their market value. Do not be swayed by a salesperson’s claims of the item’s potential value in 100 years. If the item is particularly rare or special to you and your collection, then go for it.

Make good choices, and when something doesn’t feel right, don’t be afraid to pull back from the sale.

Storing Your Collection

Collecting stamps and coins has been a popular hobby for decades. As a result of that, the storage cases for these collections have evolved. Special boxes and cases for coin collecting are a popular option. They’re often lined with velvet to prevent the coins from becoming scratched.

Coin capsules are also a good option. These plastic cases enclose the coins and protect them from the elements. These capsules allow coins to be displayed individually, and they can be easily viewed.

Stamp collections are housed in books. These books resemble scrapbooks as their cover and spine are often made of a thick material. The inner pages are either made of plastic or a thick paper. The plastic pages look a lot like a page protector, but there are pockets in the plastic where you can insert the stamps.

Paper pages are more authentic, but they offer almost no protection from air and moisture. Your stamps could be the victim of water damage from moisture in the air over time. This will degrade and warp the stamps.

For added protection, no matter which case you choose, you should store your coin and stamp collections in a fireproof safe. More than 350,000 house fires occur in the United States every year. They could happen to anyone at any time, and valuables should be kept in fireproof safes to protect them from becoming ashes.

Safes also lock up your collections in the event that your home is burglarized. While most burglars have their eyes on fancy jewelry and flat-screen televisions, your coin collection could also be stolen by them.

Keeping Tabs on Your Collection

Collectors who can remember every single item in their collections without viewing it are incredible, but no one expects you to have this superhuman power. To keep track of what is in your collection, consider creating a spreadsheet or roster of what coins or stamps you own. In your spreadsheet, include a description of the item, the quantity, and the value of the item. This roster will also come in handy in the unfortunate event that your collection is lost or stolen.

If your collection is ever stolen, you can hand over a copy of your spreadsheet to the police. This will help them in their efforts to recover your stolen items. It will also help in the fight to bring the thief to justice, as the monetary value of the stolen goods is what determines a person’s charge.

Knowing the value of your collection and being able to provide an itemized list is essential in the event you do experience a house fire. Insurance companies require documentation of what was lost and how much each item costs. While you won’t get your collection back, you will receive what you paid for it and you can use those funds to start a new collection.

Enjoy Yourself

Collecting is meant to be a fun hobby. You can’t relieve stress if you’re constantly worried about your collection. If you’ve accumulated too many items and the collection has now become overwhelming, consider culling some items that you don’t mind parting with. Obviously, that is easier said than done, but if you’ve got far too many stamps or coins on your hands and now your collecting is only causing strife, it’s time to rearrange.

There are no winners or losers in collecting. Everyone who collects something they love is a winner. Don’t compare your collection to someone else’s.

Image by Merry Christmas



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