Coin Collecting - Coin Pricing Criteria  By Types

Coin Collecting - Coin Pricing Criteria By Types

You would think that it would be easy to assign a value to money, but this is not true in the world of coin collecting. Before a collectible coin can be given a particular price, the dealer or collector will examine it very closely. The first step in assigning a price will always be deciding where it fits in the various, and obvious, categories of denomination or type.

It has happened that from time to time that government mints have "struck" odd coins, medals or tokens aimed primarily at collectors. Common examples of this are the many commemorative coins noting the Olympics or a significant historical event such as the first Apollo moon landing or unusual denominations...the Susan B. Anthony, or "Susie" as some coin collectors call it. This was a U.S. one dollar coin which was only minted from 1979 to 1981, and again in 1999. Most people in the U.S. did not like them, so they wound up circulating around U.S. military posts around the world, as did the two dollar bill.

In addition to such well known coin flops as the "Susie", mints have produced half cent coins, large-sized cents, three cent nickels, seated quarters, bust dollars and many others over the decades. These often fulfill at least part of one goal many collectors have: to collect sets. Often, purchasing complete sets is much too expensive for the average collector, so these folks will aim at getting one of each type.

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Here's a few common, and popular, U.S. coin types.


Penny coins have been minted since 1856 in the U.S. They can be broken down into several common collectible categories. The Flying Eagle Cent, minted from 1856-1858 is one of these. The Indian Head Cent, minted 1859-1909 is another. A more recent well known output from the mints are the Wheat Back Lincoln Cent (1909-1958).


Despite the name, these five-cent coins are often actually made of a nickel-copper alloy, and are worth (at the grocery store checkout) 1/20th of a dollar by definition. Historical examples, usually worth a lot more than five cents, are the Liberty Head 'V' produced from 1883 to 1913. An authentic 1913 nickel of this type is especially rare and valuable, though many counterfeits exist. The Buffalo Nickel, of which I had a large collection in the 1950's, took over from 1913 to 1938. Many nickels minted during WWII were a composite of copper, silver and manganese, showing that a nickel isn't always made of nickel.


Initially minted in a mix of 90% silver and 10% copper, dimes have seen their silver content regularly reduced since first coming out in 1792. In 1965, the value of the dime was debased and the product mix became 75% copper and 25% nickel. These metals were chosen specifically because they were not precious metals. As a result older dimes are generally worth more on the open market. My father had a watch chain with a 1964 dime as a fob. I have been offered more for the dime than for the chain.

Among the more common collectibles of this type, is the Mercury Dime. This was minted from 1916-1945, but the older Barber Dime, which was minted from 1892-1916 can still be found by the diligent amateur coin collector.


Valuable quarters are even harder to find than dimes. Those with the Standing Liberty, minted from 1916-1930 being a popularly sought item. The Barber quarter, minted from 1892-1916 is still more so. However, in the last few years, several newly designed quarters have been coming out, and many coin collectors are taking advantage of the opportunity to buy brand new coins at face value which may be worth much more later. Unfortunately, this rise in value is not likely to occur in their lifetime, but such collections can be passed on in an estate for the heirs.

Half Dollars

Fifty cent coins are becoming increasingly rare. You are most likely to find a Franklin Half Dollar produced from 1948-1963, if you can find one at all. Despite its relative youth in terms of valuable coins, it is always a happy moment when you come across one.

Silver Dollars

Genuine silver one-dollar coins are, surprisingly, fairly easy to find. Because of their silver content, however, they are usually priced much higher than the face denomination. Morgan's, Morgan silver dollars, minted from 1878-1921 are common collectibles, but the "Peace Dollar" produced from 1921-1935 is an excellent addition to the collector's set as well.

Specialty Categories of Coins

For U.S. coin collectors, these could include foreign coins that are of sufficient age to no longer be in general circulation. Also in this category are commemorative editions mentioned above, as well as several gold coins which were minted prior to 1933. Examples of the latter are the Gold Dollars from 1849-1899 and "Double Eagles" or twenty dollar gold pieces, which were produced from 1849-1933.

Tokens and Medals

These categories can only peripherally qualify as "coins" though they often serve the purpose, such as tokens used on subways and buses. However, they will sometimes form part of a collection or, for some specilized collectors, be the collection. When rare or perhaps when commemorating a significant historical event they can be quite valuable.

Once this first, and most obvious, categorization of a coin has been made, a dealer or collector will then be concerned with grading the specific sample of that category.

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Coin Collecting - Coin Pricing Criteria By Types
Page Updated 4:03 PM Sunday 3/23/2014