Coins have been around for centuries, and so have people that collect them.
Some coins from the past are worth a penny while those other rare ones can be worth a lot more.
Some can be taken at face value, while others can be worth hundreds to thousands of dollars.
So how do you know what’s rare?
I traveled to River City Coins and Jewelry in Cape Girardeau and met up with the owner Mike Sprouse to talk about coin collecting.
“You know people have been collecting coins for thousands of years, I have some old coins here that are 2000 years old that look like there brand new so that means somebody collected that coin 2000 years ago and it passed down from one collector to another to wind up here in my shop.”
Sprouse says like the range of the age of his coins, he sees collectors in a wide range of age as well.
“I have quite a few of what I call junior collectors and some are quite avid and of course I’ve got a steady stream of older collectors that are active still and it's been good.”
What attracts people to this hobby is the ease of getting started.
Besides the coins, all you need is a reference book, a good magnifying glass and a safe way to store your coins.
Some people start by going through their pockets or an old jar of coins that was forgotten about in a drawer.
It can also be passed down through generations. Someone showing their kids or grandkids their old coin collection tends to create new coin collectors by sparking their interest.
“There’s no barriers of entry, I’ve spent a lifetime learning what I know about coins and all, but unlike a lot of collectable items you can’t really find good reference materials on a lot of things, but with coins there’s weekly magazines, monthly magazines there’s books about every series of coins so a person can educate themselves”
Sprouse says that over the past decade there’s been an increase in collectors after people saw their stocks and bonds shrinking as a result of the economy.
“The number of collectors is increasing as a result of the increase interest of silver and gold as a counter investment of stocks and bonds and CD’s and all, they get exposed to large pennies and 2 cent pieces and 20 cent coins and that sort of thing that they never knew existed and so we win some of them over to the coin collecting side.”
Another good thing is coins usually don’t loose their initial value, after all a penny saved is a penny earned.
“That’s just it you know that’s one reason you collect coins is opposed to stamps or comic books or ball cards because the worst you can do is spend them and all you lost is inflation.”
Back in the 60’s the US Mint changed the material they make coins with and people took notice.
“When the government started making coins out of something besides silver that lit a fuse here, you know the reason there not making silver dimes anymore is because the silver in that dime is worth more than a dime.”
This frenzy would come to an end after a while and last many years, mainly because there weren't that many new coins being produced that collectors wanted.
“Asides from error coins nothing produced since the 60’s has really amounted to anything, there none precious metal and a lot of people just quit collecting clad stuff, the silver stuff you almost have to buy it all if you want to collect mercury dimes or Washington quarters your going to have to buy them for the most part because you could go through thousands of dollars worth of coins and not find a single silver coin you know.”
At the end of the 90’s coin collecting got resurgence thanks to a new program from the US Mint.
“Well then in 1999 the government started that statehood quarter program and needless to say that was like a shot of adrenaline to the coin business because it sparked a tremendous increase in the number of people collecting coins and such, all of a sudden coin collecting was hot again and so you had a situation where those that had set the hobby aside for awhile now there children and grand children are interested in these new coins and they remember their old coins they had.”
This 10 year program featured all 50 states in the order they became a state.
They were produced for about 10 weeks each, and will not be reproduced again.
When the government saw how popular this new program was they decided to keep it going.
“Once the statehood quarter program ended they started what they call the America the Beautiful Quarter program and what they’re doing now is starting 2010 is there producing 5 quarters a year featuring national parks and or national monuments in the order they became national parks or national monuments for all 50 states.”
To kick off the 7th year of the program the next quarter from the US mint’s America the Beautiful series will go into circulation on February 1st.
The design that was chosen is from Southern Illinois featuring Camel Rock at Garden of the Gods in the Shawnee National Forrest with a red-tailed hawk flying in the sky.
The rest of the series include the states of Kentucky, West Virginia, North and South Dakota.
“I think the coins are generally more attractive than the earlier ones in the statehood quarters because they have nice scenes on them representing the parks or monument.”
The series will end in 2021, but Sprouse thinks the fascination will continue for many years to come.
“So I don’t think there’s ever going to be no collector’s of coins I think there’s always going to be a base there of people that collect coins.”