When starting any new endeavor, there is a certain learning curve. Here, discover the top mistakes made by beginning collectors, and learn how you can avoid them.
1. Handling coins
To protect a coin's surfaces and designs from the natural oils in fingers or palms that can be corrosive over time, each piece should only be held by its edge, between the thumb and forefinger. To further protect their coins, more experienced collectors prefer to use soft cotton gloves when handling high-quality Uncirculated or Proof pieces.
The best way to handle a collectible coin is by its edges with gloved hands.
2. Handling paper money
As with coins, many collectors use soft cotton gloves when handling their paper money. Also, notes should be placed in clear, inert currency holders or albums. This protects the surface of the note from fingerprints and the natural oils in fingers and palms that can be damaging over time. A variety of paper money holders and albums available from Littleton provide easy viewing and examination of both sides of a note without actual handling.
A large-size note is placed into a clear page of an archival-quality currency album using white cotton gloves.
3. Assuming that age makes a coin worth more
Constans Bronze Reduced Follis from A.D. 337-350
A coin is not necessarily valuable merely because of age. For example, some ancient Roman coins more than 1,600 years old can still be purchased today for $30 or less! The value of a coin, like most items, is determined by supply and demand.
Demand is obviously a major factor. Some coin types, such as Buffalo nickels or Mercury dimes, are more popular than others of the same denomination. Thus, more collectors are seeking the same coins, so their prices will be affected. A coin's value is determined by the interrelated factors of scarcity, condition and demand.
Improper coin cleaning, more than anything else, has harmed valuable pieces. High-quality Uncirculated and Proof coins should never be cleaned, as improper coin cleaning can cause permanent loss of original mint finish and color (and permanent loss of value). Experienced collectors and dealers can easily detect an improperly cleaned coin, and most agree that coins should only be cleaned by experts.
It's also strongly advised that you don't attempt to "clean" or use an eraser on your paper money. Also, don't try to repair any tears with cellophane tape – that will damage the note and reduce its collectible appeal more than the original tear itself.
5. Buying counterfeits
Counterfeit coins have been around almost as long as coins themselves. Many collectors have been duped into purchasing coins with altered dates or mint marks, or pieces that are complete fabrications.
There are two top ways to ensure that you're buying genuine coins. First, you can purchase from a reputable dealer in the industry – like Littleton, who has been serving collectors for over 65 years! Or, you can buy items that have been certified and sonically sealed by a third-party grading service.
Certified coins have been graded and encapsulated in a special holder.
High humidity, air pollution, salt air, and temperature extremes can sometimes affect the surfaces of coins. It is best to store coins in protective holders or albums, and to keep them in an area of relatively uniform temperature. As your collection becomes more valuable, you may choose to store some or all of your coins in a safe-deposit box. If you choose to keep your collection in your home, we recommend that you check with your insurance company to ensure that it is covered for its full replacement cost.
It is best to store notes flat in protective holders or albums, and to keep them in an area of relatively uniform temperature and humidity, out of direct sunlight. Learn more about Littleton's custom albums and folders.