American Rare Coins and Collectibles

Posted on February 15, 2021

Coin collecting is one of the world's oldest hobbies, dating back as early as the civilizations of Ancient Greece or Rome  [1]. For generations, collectors have marveled over coins in circulation and special limited-edition releases. People collect coins for their own personal pleasure or to build their portfolio for future investments. Take a look back at the early days of coin collecting in the United States and consider the future of this exciting hobby in our country.

When Did Coin Collecting Start in America?

Determining when people started collecting coins in America is difficult. Early coin collecting was a practical habit rather than a leisure activity. As there were no banks early in America's history, people probably saved coins for their future security. The most interesting and beautiful coins were saved the longest and gifted to future generations [2].

American coin collecting gained mainstream popularity in the mid-19th century. The launch of the American Numismatic Society ushered in this new period for collectors. Founded in 1858, the nonprofit group dedicated its work to the study and appreciation of coins, medals and currency [3]. This New York-based group inspired similar organizations in Boston, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

While collectors in large cities developed communities of like-minded people, small-town collectors still felt disconnected. In response, Dr. George F. Heath of Monroe, Michigan, founded the American Numismatic Association (ANA) in 1891. Designed for the isolated, less advanced collector, the group had 61 charter members on its inception. Like the American Numismatic Society, it is still going strong today [4].

These organizations and others released periodicals about coin collecting, furthering interest in this emerging hobby. In the 20th century, this growing wave of interest led to coin shows and conventions. Professional coin dealers in Bloomington, MN, and other American cities began catering to the growing community of numismatists. Trade associations were also established across America during the 20th century.

What Is Collected as Part of Rare Collectible Coins?

Coin collectors collect a wide range of different coins. Some of the earliest collectible coins were those produced by the Philadelphia Mint. Dating back to the late 18th century, these coins include:

  • Half cents
  • Large cents
  • Silver half dimes
  • Silver half dollars
  • Silver dollars
  • Gold $5 coins
  • Gold $10 coins

Coins in rare denominations are also popular with collectors. These include:

  • 2-cent coins
  • 3-cent coins
  • $1 coins
  • $2.50 coins
  • $3 coins
  • $4 coins
  • $5 coins
  • $10 coins
  • $20 coins
  • $50 coins

In 1986, the United States Mint began producing Silver Eagle Dollars. These were the first coins created specifically for collectors. While they are legal tender, they are not intended for circulation. Since the release of the first Silver Eagle Dollars, the U.S. Mint has released several American rare coins and collectibles. These include:

  • Proof coins
  • Bullion coins
  • Commemorative coins

The U.S. Mint uses a variety of different metals for its collectible coins, including:

Statehood quarters, released between 1999 and 2008, are some of the most widely collected coins in American history [5]. The U.S. Treasury Department estimated that 140 million Americans collected the 50 State Quarters. [6]

How Has This Hobby Changed Over Time?

Different types of coins have been popular at different times in history. New developments and technologies have any changed coin collecting. Take a closer look at some of the most significant developments:

  • The 1960s: The U.S. Mint eliminated silver from its circulating coins [7]. This inspired an interest in silver coins, including silver proof sets. The ANA had nearly 50,000 members, more than at any other time in history.
  • The 1970s: By the latter part of this decade, coin collectors became focused on gold and silver bullion.
  • The 1980s: In the middle of the decade, collectors shifted their interest to common-date gold coins. This period also saw the development of third-party grading ” assigning coins value based on appearance ” from independent organizations such as the Professional Coin Grading Service and Numismatic Guaranty Corporation. This made coins more liquid assets. As people learned they could move coins quickly, the focus for many collectors shifted from collecting for pleasure to collecting for potential investment.
  • The 1990s: Coin prices spiked in the early part of the decade as new investors entered the coin market and increased demand.
  • The 2000s: The rise of the internet helped people connect with other collectors and coin dealers beyond their local area or even their own country. This helped collectors complete coin sets of different series. Auction prices for rare coins soared as bidders participated from around the world. Vintage coins retained their appeal, but many collectors also became fascinated with modern collectible coins.
  • The 2020s: The ANA has approximately 25,000 members [8]. While this represents a serious drop, the ANA is still the largest group of coin collectors in the world.

What Does the Future of American Rare Coin Collecting Look Like?

Increasing reliance on credit cards and the rise of cryptocurrency have prompted some people to speak of the end of coin collecting. However, if coins do become rarer, this is only likely to increase interest in coin collecting. Technology will continue to play a necessary role in helping people expand their collections. As the internet makes everything from chatting with friends to listening to music more digital, the tangible nature of coin collections is sure to become even more prized. It's unclear exactly what the future of American rare coin collecting will look like, but this hobby should endure for generations to come.

Coin collectors love the challenge of hunting down rare coins and the satisfaction of seeing their collections grow. People can admire their coin collections now, then use them for their investment potential or pass them down to future generations. With so many appealing options, it's easy to see why coin collecting endures.

Article Sources:

1. Encyclopedia Britannica. Coin Collecting, https://www.britannica.com/topic/coin-collecting. Accessed September 23, 2020.

2. Coin Collecting Guide for Beginners. History of Coin Collecting, https://www.coin-collecting-guide-for-beginners.com/history-of-coin-collecting.html. Accessed September 23, 2020.

3. American Numismatic Society. About Us, http://numismatics.org/about/. Accessed September 23, 2020.

4. American Numismatic Association. ANA History, https://www.money.org/ana-history. Accessed September 23, 2020.

5. Coin Collecting Guide for Beginners. History of Coin Collecting, https://www.coin-collecting-guide-for-beginners.com/history-of-coin-collecting.html. Accessed September 23, 2020.

6. The Spruce Crafts, What are State Quarters Worth, https://www.thesprucecrafts.com/what-are-state-quarters-worth-3970338. Accessed September 23, 2020.

7. CoinWeek, Coin Collecting: Changing Trends in Numismatics - A Brief History, https://coinweek.com/education/coin-collecting-changing-trends-numismatics-brief-history/. Accessed September 23, 2020.

8. American Numismatic Association. ANA Member Benefits, https://www.money.org/ANA-member-benefits. Accessed September 23, 2020.