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Finding a treasure hidden in an old dresser drawer or the attic is the stuff of dreams. So is rooting through your jars of coins and coming up with a rare one that’s worth serious money. Striking it rich is a remote possibility for folks who have built up a sizable collection of coins, but you may still be able to find some loose change that’s worth more than you would otherwise expect.
Many of the coins in the list below are not likely to be hiding in your attic, since they are tremendously rare, but not all of them are super expensive either. Some more recent examples (coins from the 20th century) may be relatively affordable and those are more likely to be tucked away someplace quiet or in a safe deposit box at your parents’ bank.
Before you rush out to buy these coins – if you have a spare million sitting around for some of them – you’ll want to hear from an expert coin collector, a numismatist, as they’re called.
Educate yourself – watch out for fakes
“Coins are both a hobby and [an] investment,” says Warren Zivi, head numismatist and president at American Rarities, a coin dealer based in Boulder, Colorado. “You have to make good choices in what you pick.”
For those getting into the field, it’s important to understand what your goal is – to have a good time with your collection as a hobbyist or try to make some money as an investor.
Either way, says Zivi, you want to know what you’re doing. His motto for new entrants to the field is “Buy the book before you buy the coin.” The book he’s referring to is “A Guide Book of United States Coins,” known among experts as the “Red Book.” He also recommends a subscription to Coin World, which includes current information on the state of the industry.
Zivi says that there’s a lot of misinformation on the internet now about coins, with scammers taking a common coin and trying to sell it as a valuable coin on an auction site.
“There are tons and tons of fakes,” he says, so it’s important to get access to expert knowledge, especially as you’re starting out, so that you know what you’re buying is indeed authentic. Still it can be difficult to spot a fake, even for the pros.
“Recently I had two individuals send us coins that were graded by a nationally recognized grader, and they turned out to be fake,” says Zivi.
More valuable coins offer the potential for higher profits for scammers, of course, but such coins are also very rare. Even if you’re not paying millions of dollars for a coin, you want to know that you’re getting what you pay for.
“It’s easier than ever before to get an opinion on authenticity and valuation,” says Zivi. “Buyers or sellers can send in pictures or even whole collections.”