Coin Collecting For Kids: How to Get Started
Want to see your child enjoy a pastime that helps get them off their handheld devices and immerses them in a world of art, history, and social studies? Introduce them to coin collecting!
Even if you're a total beginner and know nothing about numismatics (the fancy word for coin collecting and study), don't worry. This basic guide will walk you through how to help your child pursue an interest in collecting coins.
One of the greatest things about coin collecting is that it's easy to get started. You and your child can begin the hobby with as little as the coins found in a coin jar, piggy bank, couch cushions, or pocket change.
A coin collection and supplies
Coin collecting is one of the world’s oldest hobbies, and it has been popular with children for generations. In fact, many of the most prominent coin collectors who are now in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, launched their forays in the hobby with their first coin before the age of 10. It is one of the most enriching activities that young minds can engage in. All the while, they get to learn about the world around them.
Deciding What Coins to Collect
Unless you have plenty of disposable income, you probably don't want to start with gold coins or other rare coins. You will want to start with coins that are widely available.
Two of the most popular coins for kids to start collecting these days are Lincoln cents and Washington quarters. Both are made by the United States Mint.
Collecting Lincoln Pennies
Lincoln pennies are readily accessible and inexpensive, making it easy to complete a set of coins right from circulation. Lincoln Memorial pennies were struck from 1959 through 2008. Before that, Lincoln Wheat Pennies were made from 1909 to 1958.
With a little bit of searching, it's reasonable to expect that you can complete a collection at the cost of face value. You can find them in pocket change or by looking through rolls of pennies from the bank.
Collecting Washington Quarters
Meanwhile, Washington quarters made since 1999 each feature a special design. They pay homage to a particular state or national landmark.
These America the Beautiful Quarters® and 50 Statehood Quarters are all available in pocket change at 25 cents a pop. They can provide young collectors with the opportunity to discover the people, places, and events that helped build the United States.
Collecting Other Coins That Will Grab Your Child's Interest
The route of collecting Lincoln pennies and Washington quarters may be among the easiest and least expensive. A large quantity of these coins are readily obtainable from everyday circulation. But there are endless other avenues out there!
Some fun alternatives include:
- United States coinage now considered obsolete
- any obsolete currency used in foreign exchange
- commemorative coins, proof coins, proof sets, and mint sets made specially for collectors
- a colorful array of foreign coins and world coins from every country and era, spanning back to ancient dynasties and legendary kingdoms
- silver and gold bullion coinage containing high amounts of pure precious metal
Some examples that might make your child's wish list are Indian Head pennies, Buffalo nickels, and Mercury dimes. Other circulating coins minted more recently that they may be interested in include the new Presidential $1 coins (Presidential dollars) and Westward Journey nickels.
Any of the coins you can't find in circulation you can buy for fair market value at a reputable coin dealer.
How Does Your Child Collect Coins? What Should You Do to Help Them?
Helping your child get involved in coin collecting can really be quite simple. If you yourself are an advanced coin collector, you may already have spare coin folders on hand. You also most likely have a thorough working knowledge of where and how to obtain the coins your child would like to collect.
Collecting coins with your children can be a rewarding lifelong pursuit.
However, if the hobby of coin collecting is totally new to you, it can seem a little unclear where to begin. Never fear! The pathway into numismatics is as close as your nearest coin dealer, hobby shop, or bookstore. (Or, in the case of books, you can even check Amazon.)
Consider buying the following affordable coin collecting supplies for your child:
A Guide Book of United States Coins (often called "The Red Book" by coin collectors) – This annual publication is produced by Whitman Publishing. It can be found at virtually any coin store or bookstore selling new titles. It contains:
- retail prices and other coin values
- coin condition and coin grading tips
- true-to-size color photos
- a rundown on basic hobby terminology
The Official Red Book also has tons of information geared for both beginners and advanced collectors. It covers every United States coin dating back to the nation's pre-federal colonial days of 1616.
Other coin collecting books usually focus on more specific subjects, such as silver dollars or Jefferson nickels.
Coin folders or coin boards – These cardboard holders can be found at local coin stores, hobby shops, and most bookstores. Coin albums provide for the easy organization and display of coins.
Most coin folders and coin board books focus on one type of coin (e.g. Lincoln cents, Jefferson nickels, Roosevelt dimes, Washington quarters, etc.). They're also very inexpensive. They generally cost around $5 to $10 each—or less if you find a great deal during holiday season.
Coin folders and coin boards are perfect for helping a child build and arrange a coin collection. They allow her to see what coins she has and which ones she'll need in order to finish a particular set of coins. In the case of the 50 Statehood Quarters series, you can find an informative 50 State Quarters Map with slots for each different quarter.
A magnifying glass – It's important to see all the little details on coins. These details are not only important for determining what type of coin is in-hand. They can also be fun to look for!
Coin collection and magnifying glass, sometimes known as a loupe
For example, did you know there's a little statue of Abraham Lincoln sitting in the Lincoln Memorial on the back of Lincoln pennies made from 1959 through 2008? Are you aware that an individual or pair of letters (called mint marks) standing off by itself on a coin can tell you which mint struck it?
Even little mistakes on a coin, such as the doubling of a design, may mean it's a rare and valuable error. This type of anomaly is often too minute to be immediately seen with the naked eye. You can read more about valuable error coins by following the link.
There are many other coin supplies you can buy that will help enhance your child's skill and involvement in the hobby. The best advice for parents whose children are just getting started with the hobby may be to keep it simple at first. Don't overwhelm your child with too much coin "stuff" at once.
Before you spend lots of money on buying advanced reference books, see how well your child engages with the coins and basic supplies you provide her. What do they find interesting? What coin books or kid's guides do they gravitate toward?
You should let your child guide the direction in which she takes her hobby. But be sure to gently introduce her to new coins or coin-collecting avenues if she seems so inclined.
For kids who quickly adopt the hobby, you may also want to take them to your nearest coin club or coin shows. You can also enroll them in the Young Numismatists program run by the American Numismatic Association (ANA).
Coin Collecting Is a Great Family Activity
Unlike so many diversions geared for children today, coin collecting is something that can truly be a family affair. Often, the most successful, and frankly most enjoyable, way for a child to embark on coin collecting is to share in the hobby with mom and dad.
Many parents will make it a goal to help their child fill a coin folder. You can embark on a team effort to look for all the coins that are necessary for completing a set. Not only can this encourage her to complete a set of coins, it's terrific parent-child bonding time. That's something you don't get if she's busy playing games on the phone by herself.
Before the 50 State Quarters were released in 1999, many parent-child duos worked on building complete sets of Lincoln Memorial pennies together. In more recent years, a common "family" coin-collecting goal has been to find every state among the various quarter designs. This often involves filling a colorful display board or map designed for holding all 50 quarters. (Or 56, with the District of Columbia and United States territories.)
Of course, you and your child can also choose any bespoke coin-collecting goals you want to enjoy together. Maybe you want every denomination from a particular family member's birth year.
One of the beauties of coin collecting as a hobby is that you—and your children—can use your creativity. Kids learn most readily when they enjoy the activity. Whatever coin collection you assemble can be a reflection of all sorts of personalized meanings and inspiration.
What About the Coin Collecting Merit Badge?
Example of a Coin Collecting Merit Badge. Image via Coin Community Family forum user JESP
A lot of parents reading this article are here because they want to help their child earn their Boy Scouts Coin Collecting Merit Badge or Girl Scouts Fun With Money Patch. These achievements are relatively easy to obtain once you and your child know what the requirements are.
The goals for the Coin Collecting Merit Badge and Fun With Money Patch can and do change from time to time. It would be impractical to list them here. However, we do have resources linked below that can help you and your child find out everything you need to know about earning these time-honored Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts goals.
Boy Scouts Coin Collecting Merit Badge Requirements & Goals:
Girl Scouts Fun With Money Patch Requirements & Goals:
Coin Collecting For Boy Scouts & Girl Scouts:
Collecting Coins Can Be a Rich, Lifelong Pursuit
Many longtime coin collectors (and coin dealers) will try to no end to get their children to follow their footsteps into the hobby. While this can be well-meaning, it’s really not best to force the hobby on a child. What’s the fastest way to turn a kid off to something? By essentially forcing them into it.
Of course, this goes for anything—sports, dance, music, arts, whatever. And surely, we’re not here to teach you how to parent your kid. But we’ve seen these situations happen all too often in the hobby. So, we’re just kindly passing the advice along!
It is absolutely a good idea to enthusiastically introduce your child to coin collecting. And, if she seems curious and engaged, you should continue forward together. It's a great opportunity to get kids started with a rewarding hobby that can also become a lifelong hobby.
Oh, and what happens if your child, once a happy young coin collector, starts drifting away from the hobby? Don’t become too discouraged. It happens all the time. Collecting coins at a young age is an investment in a child's future.
Some of the most passionate, successful “lifetime” coin collectors took a prolonged hiatus from the hobby during their high school or college years. They picked it back up later in life once they had a secure job (i.e. disposable income!) and some spare time to enjoy recreational activities such as antiques and collectibles.
If you’d like more information about the hobby of coin collecting and need some solid advice from trusted professionals, please feel free to contact us at Gainesville Coins. While buying and selling bullion coins are among our core areas of business, we also buy and sell many collectible coins. We love helping provide parents and their children with some of the resources they need to enjoy an exciting journey into the wonderful world of coins!
More about recent posts about coin collecting from the expert authors at Gainesville Coins:
You can find more coin collecting tips on the Gainesville Coins blog.
A published writer, Steven's coverage of precious metals goes beyond the daily news to explain how ancillary factors affect the market.
Steven specializes in market analysis with an emphasis on stocks, corporate bonds, and government debt.
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