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Coin collecting is a great hobby. Coin collecting can be a relatively cheap hobby or an expensive hobby or in instances where you don't get to attached to the coins you by, it can even be a profitable hobby. A great way to start your coin collecting hobby is to collect pennies. Most pennies (even wheat pennies) can be purchased for less than a dollar, although some rare pennies or extremely old pennies can be quite expensive, even into the thousands of dollars.

You can always decide that you want to expand your collection into coins of higher value: nickels, dimes, quarters, halves and dollars. Or you can decide to go older or more rare.

In general the value of a coin is based on four factors: the face value of the coin, the condition of the coin, the rarity of the coin and the age of the coin.

In general the four rules can be used to determine the value of a coin.
Condition - The better the condition of the coin, the more expensive it is.
Rarity - The more rare a coin is, the more expensive it is.
Face Value - The higher the face value the coin, the more expensive it is.
Age - The older the coin is the more expensive it is.


If you are new to coin grading, you may see things like MS or EF or AU and wonder, "What does that mean?"
Coins are graded on a 70 point scale with MS-70 being a PERFECT coin. Rarely will one ever come across a coin like this in the real world.
From top to bottom the coins go:
  • MS-70 down to MS-60 - MS stands for Mint State but all Mint States aren't created equally
  • AU-58,AU-55,AU-50 - AU stands for Almost Uncirculated
  • XF-45 - XF stands for Choice Extremely Fine, also sometimes seen as EF-45
  • EF-40 - EF stands for Extremely Fine, also seen as XF-40
  • VF-30,VF-25,VF-20 - VF stands for Very Fine and again there is a broad spectrum of how "very fine" something is
  • F-15,F-12 - F stands for Fine
  • VG-10,VG-8 - VG stands for Very Good
  • G-6, G-4 - G stands for Good, keep in mind that when someone says that they have a "good" coin, by Numismatic standards good is on the low end of the spectrum
  • AG-3 - AG stands for About Good, heavily worn, but you can still tell the type of coin, may still have a readable date
  • FR-2 - FR stands for Fair
  • PO-1 - PO stands for Poor, also seen as BS-1 standing for Basal State, round(ish) metal object resembling something once thought to be a coin

It is also worth nothing that Proof is not a coin grade, but a type of coin. There is a similar scale that corresponds to this scale that goes from PF-70 down to PF-1
Lots of coins have certain places that wear more than others. For example, Buffalo Nickels are notorious for having their dates wear off quickly.


There are several rarity scales that can be implied to tell how rare a coin is.
Sheldon Rarity Scale goes from R1 to R8 with R1 being common to R8 being unique.
The Universal Rarity Scale goes from URS0, None known, to URS 20, 250,001-500,000 known coins.
To confuse things even more there is a Scholten Rarity Scale (not to be confused with the Sheldon Scale).
It has the following values:
  • C - Common - Coins you don't have to buy, they can be found in pocket change
  • N - Normal - Generally inexpensive coins to buy
  • S - Scarce - Somewhat expensive coins to buy
  • R - Rare - Expensive coins to buy
  • RR - Very Rare (I think it means Really Rare) - Ridiculously expensive coins to buy
  • RRR - Extremely Rare (I think it means Really Really Rare) - Ludicrously expensive coins to buy
  • RRRR - Of the utmost rarity (I think it means Really Really Really Rare) - "Plaidly" expensive coins to buy (Spaceballs reference... anyone)

Rarity and the condition of the coin are probably the 2 most important parts of the equation in calculating the value of a coin. I have remember since I was a little kid that I wanted a 1909-S VDB penny in mint condition. Heck I would have settled for one in fair to good condition. Only 484,000 were released into circulation a little over 100 years ago. Compare that to the 72.7 million 1909 plain pennies and the millions if not billions of pennies minted since then, it is no wonder that it is such a hard thing to find.
Here is a list of some of some of the rarest U.S. coins that are out there:

Face Value

In general, collecting coins of a higher face value for years of the same time period means you will spend more money on the higher face valued item. This is a good rule of thumb, but not always the case.


In general the older the coins are that you are collecting the more valuable or expensive they will be. This is not always the case, but it is a good rule of thumb.