People have been pursuing the “hobby of kings” for over 2,000 years. Coin collecting, or numismatics, is a timeworn hobby, often passed down through generations. While collecting coins provides a unique look into history and geography, the real attraction is in their potential hike in value.
But the joy of owning a rare coin collection goes beyond sheer accumulation over time. The thrill of the hunt and unexpectedly finding a valuable piece is the drive behind “coin roll hunting” and some enthusiasts are cashing in up to $100,000, according to CNBC.
As CNBC’s Make It reported, in 2017, newbie hunter Megan Green lucked out after months of coin roll searching, uncovering a 1969-S Doubled Die Obverse penny which could have sold for $75,000 or more if its condition was better (Green’s was graded at $24,000). A version of the same coin that Green found sold for $126,500 in 2008.
Unlike wasting an unreasonable amount of time lurking in basements and garage sales for valuable art, wine or comic books, you won’t have to spend a lot of time grabbing coins from your bank. And unrolling coins can be as exciting as unboxing sports cards, but it won’t cost you anything. When is the last time you heard of a hobby or side hustle that requires no hard work or expense?
What is Coin Roll Hunting?
Coin roll hunting is the process of searching through rolls of coins in order to find valuable coins depending on rarity, condition, metal content and historical significance. Part of the excitement with this activity is the game of chance involved. The real potential to make money comes from discovering extremely valuable coins among the worthless.
The easiest and most convenient way to get coin rolls is from banks. Once you search through the rolls, you simply deposit the non-valuable coins back at the bank.
5 Tips for Making Money From Coin Roll Hunting
1. Hunt Close to Home
Beginning hobbyists will start their journey in earnest by going to banks and buying coins still in circulation. However, get into the practice of carefully examining coins by looking at what you’ve gathered in jars at home, relieved from friends and relatives and found anywhere that sells collectibles and used goods (but try to avoid diving into fountains at malls and wishing wells!).
2. Be on Good Terms With Your Bank
“Funding” your hobby means you’ll be spending a lot more time in your local bank branch. Or branches. Silverrecyclers.com recommends using at least two banks, one for picking up boxes of rolled coins (that doesn’t charge you for it) and a “dump” bank to return coins you aren’t keeping (preferably, one that accepts loose coins).
It’s common courtesy to be on friendly terms with your bank, which is doing you a service for swapping rolled coins without charge. Some may not want to do the extra work and contribute to your hobby by ordering boxes of coins on request. So, you might want to find a bank or credit union that is happy to do so, and remain friends with its employees.
3. Educate Yourself
Internet searches can provide a wealth of free information on coin values and vintage, but joining an online community or reading through the thousands of active threads listed in the Coin Roll Hunting forum on TreasureNet.com will give you the nitty gritty on your new hobby and the best tips on how to make money from it.
Consider grabbing the latest copy of The Official Red Book — A Guide Book of United States Coins too. This publication has been going for 77 years and provides detailed grade-by-grade coin values, historical background and specifications, high-resolution photographs and accurate mintage data on U.S coins.
4. Knowing What to Look For
According to authorities in the coin hunting community, collectors should be looking for U.S. coins that contain significant percentages of silver. Dimes, quarters, and half-dollars minted before 1965 will be 90% silver. Half dollars from 1965-1970 will be 40% silver. Nickels minted from 1942-1945 are 35% silver and are known as war nickels, per Silverrecyclers.com.
While less valuable, some pennies can be extremely rare. The older pennies such as the Indian head cent (1859-1909) and the wheat cent (1909-1958) are valued for their copper content as well as their intrinsic value. Any penny minted before 1982 contains 95% copper. Copper pennies are a relatively common find in a penny roll, so it might take a bunch to make any real money.
Searching coin rolls for die error coins can be time-consuming but worth your while. Certain rare error coins can be worth thousands of dollars, but you really need to know what to look for, be it a double stamp, a missing design element or misalignments. Another option is to build an impeccably preserved set of commemorative coins, like state quarters, or collect newer coins that will increase in value over time.
5. Good Coins Come to Those Who Wait
Talking to CNBC’s Make It, an anonymous hunter who pulls in an average of $15,000 a year, mainly from half dollar searches, said that those taking up the hobby will be more successful if they are patient and should “expect long streaks where they find little to nothing in the way of silver, better dates, or errors.”
As you will be going through many pieces at any given time, it can be overwhelming and tiresome. It is easy for you to overlook the details when you are not paying close enough attention, potentially losing out on finding valuable coins.
Rare coins are, well, rare. You’ll most likely have to go through a mountain of still-in-circulation coins before you find your treasure. But that shouldn’t dissuade you from enjoying the thrill of the chase and having fun making whatever you can from coin roll hunting.
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