Tools of the Trade
No matter what the job, you need tools and other equipment to get the job done. Coin collecting is no different. It’s much easier and more fun if you have the right tools
Every Coin Collector Needs at Least One Magnifier
You should never examine a coin just with the unaided eye, whether buying or selling. The mark of the experienced collector is the magnifier hanging from a lanyard around his neck.
Magnifiers come with glass or plastic lenses. It’s quite worthwhile to spend the extra money on glass, a good lens will last you a lifetime.
As a collector, you need a low power lens for looking at multiple coins, plus a stronger lens to investigate something you spotted. A low power usually lets you see all of the coin, while a high power may only show you something the size of the date.
Obviously, a lens allows you to see more. That extra viewing power comes in handy when you suspect a coin of being a counterfeit. The more coins you look at, the easier it will be to spot the problem coins. Coins that appear bright and shiny to the unaided eye, under magnification, may reveal that they have been buffed, polished or even sand blasted to create that bright finish.
Stapler and Staples
A good, heavy-duty stapler is a must, especially if you use cardboard 2×2 holders for coin storage.
Keep Staples as Far Away as Possible From the Coin
If you do not own a “Flat Clinch Stapler” you will also need a pair of needle nose pliers to flatten the legs of the staples, to avoid damage to other coins. Some dea lers seem to make a game of seeing how close they can come to the coin with the staples, a dangerous game you don’t want to play. The staples are a threat and the overhang of the stapler may damage the coin.
To preserve the value and natural condition of your coins, it is important that you handle them carefully. A coin should be held by its edges between the thumb and forefinger. This protects the coin’s surface and design from fingerprints and the natural oils on your skin that can be corrosive. Never hold a coin so that your fingers touch the obverse or reverse surface. Doing so can leave fingerprints, which are difficult to remove.
Some experienced coin collectors use soft cotton gloves when handling their uncirculated or proof coins. If you choose not to wear gloves, make sure your hands are clean before handling your coins. Also, hold coins over a soft towel or other soft surface in case you drop them. Finally, don’t talk directly over your coins because tiny, almost invisible droplets of saliva can drop onto the coin and show up later as spots. Just like fingerprints, those marks are difficult, if not impossible, to remove.
Digital weighing scales for small objects such as coins have come down in price so drastically that it would be a shame if you did not consider buying one.
- Weighing coins that look underweight (thinner than normal)
- Weighing coins that look overweight (thicker than normal)
- Determining the weight of 1-cent blank planchets to determine which year it was used (there have been a few changes to the weight of 1-cent coins)
- Useful for also weighing precious metals (gold and silver)
- Useful for weighing well-worn silver coins that are not a desirable collectible and have a higher melt value
Digital weighing scales can be purchased from many coin dealers or directly from distributors such as Unitrade Associates (located in Toronto), Lighthouse Publishing (Montreal) or Lee Valley Tools (various locations). I would recommend one that is convertible between the popular weights, such as grams, grains and troy ounces down to a level of hundreds of each.
This great and indispensable tool is also referred to as a sizing gauge, and it is used to accurately measure the diameter of any coin in your collection. It works by placing the coin between the pair of jaws of the caliper, and then those jaws are slowly closed until contact is made on opposing sides of the coin. If a coin happened to have been minted from a collar, or is perhaps a broad type of strike or conceivably minted from an improper planchet, it will not calibrate to the ‘true’ diameter it is supposed to have. The very handy digital display allows you to select the unit of measurement in either inches or millimeters, and the caliper must have an accuracy reading at a minimum setting of 0.01 mm. These digital calipers can range from $7 to $60.
Guide to Coin Collecting – Index