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Poor College Kid Collectors


TreasureGirl
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I'm mostly curious about this one; right now I'm just collecting junk out of circulation (and have only recently decided to spend on some silver dollars mentioned in another topic) because I feel a little guilty feeding my habit when I'm getting married in May and staying in college for at least 3 more years; I even feel bad keeping folders of SQs because it doesn't seem as though they'll ever be worth much more than a quarter apiece and it's at least $25 squirreled away because of that. What do you all do to manage your limited funds but still add to the collection?

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I've stopped adding coins to my collection except for those from circulation. Right now, I'm trying to learn more about the coins I have and those I don't have so in the future, when I can afford it, I will be able to make better decisions in purchasing new coins. I have two more years of college, hopefully after that, my job will give me a chance to add to my collection. Until then, I'll keep hitting the books.

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Well, my undergrad experience was way back in the late 80s and early 90s, and for the first couple of years when things were very tight I was like most of you, collecting from circulation. I saved wheaties, old pre-1960 nickels and any silver I could find.

 

In my second 2 years, money was a little better since I was also a TA making $5.25 an hour in addition to my mailroom job making $4.75 an hour. Plus in my junior year I had an internship at Price Waterhouse in NYC which provided a mini boom of cash. At that point I started buying 1 roll of unc silver eagles per year (of course back then a roll was only about $120) and in 1992 started on silver proof sets since they were new. Not much else really.

 

When I went to grad school from 1997-99, money wasn't as tight since I'd been working for 5 years beforehand, but still I cut back to mainly silver proof sets and my 1 roll of eagles every year. It wasn't until 1999 that I really started collecting again.

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This is coming from a current undergrad with 4+ years left in school and currently NO job:

 

- Learn to love world coins. Dirt cheap prices on awesome coins.

- "Junk" bins are your friend. I've been to shows with bins of XF/AU/Low MS silver for a little over melt. These are considered junk to many people.

- Look through those big binders at shows. You can often find nice coins at discounted prices as dealers just want to get rid of them. Don't be afraid to haggle a bit either. I once bought $15 worth of coins for $8 just because I asked what the best price he could do on the lot was.

- Depending on how much you make, just keep a small amount of each paycheck as a "coin fund". Maybe $3 a week for spending and $5 to keep in savings for a big buy. The amounts all depend on how much you make/need.

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As others have noted, the key is to finding a theme that is affordable, interesting, and keeps you learning. How about a trade token (town and state name on the token) with one from each state of the union. How about Condor tokens (some are expensive, but you can collect quite a few on a limited budget), civil war tokens, a matched type set or date set in a lower grade (a real challenge to match a set), etc. Buy books for things of interest whether you can afford to collect now or not. You keep your hand in learning and you'll be prepared as your budget increases. Save your funds for a high classed purchase from time to time working towards your future interests when you have money (that could be a $50 coin, a $100 coin, a $500 coin, etc. depending on your budget).

 

I still have pieces in my collection from my college days, a few cost me in the dollar range and are $100 items today. The key was looking, thinking, and making good purchases based on what interested me. I still collect the same way today, it just that my month to month buys are $100 to $500 and $1500 for a special piece. My day to day buys are $10 to $50 for some themes and $200 to $300 for special additions. Check out Elverno's Cheap but postings. He has a fantastic collection, much of it legitimately cheap, but rare and hard to find. It requires knowing your stuff to build a collection like he posts here. Any give piece might be rather uninteresting if you saw it in a dealer's case surrounded by spectacular coins. When brought together following a theme as he is doing, you have to stand back and say WOW, what a great collection.

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The forums(Like this one) are great for collecting. Give aways, contests, trades and low cost sales. Also a metal detector comes in handy. Over the years I've added a few keepers and the rest of the finds make a nice little coin fund.

I've been thru several "down" periods as a collector. From being 11 with no job, late 20's with kids and Min. wage to just recently, 3 months on strike without pay, and I have always found a way to keep going.

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Well said everyone!

 

- Junk bins are definately great. Lots of fun stuff!

- World coins are really fun. Lots of interesting pieces from different countries, themes, eras, that can be had for less than $2

- Ancient coins can usually be had for $10 or less for common pieces.

- Themes are great. My collection is focused on several different type sets and themes. One of which is circulating coins depicting turtles, which I found to be fun and inexpensive.

- If you want to buy something, wait for the right deal to come along. Sometimes with some patience, you can get something you want at the price you're willign to pay by waiting for opportunity to present itself. The waiting makes it all the better when you do get it. Sometimes the fun is not in the destination/goal, but in getting there.

 

Myself, I'm in my 3rd year with another 3 to go (pursuring 2 degrees). I work during the summer, so I have a bit to spend. I suppliment that by buying and selling some items in the side. Recently, I've been focusing on certain themes and areas and selling off other stuff.

 

In the past year, my budget's a lot tighter, and I've found myself buying (some) and borrowing (mostly) books. Having the knowledge to appreciate what you have makes them a lot more valuable to you. This is especially true for ancient and medieval coinage of lands far away.

 

I like the 1968 half dollar which I carry as a pocket piece. But it doesn't give me the same satisfaction as some other items which also cost $1-2: a well worn dateless large cent, a slug of a 1797 British penny, a copper coin from the era of the French Revolution. All of those items allowed me to imagine, to think of where they've been, and the stories they could tell. The half dollar on the other hand was a coin that had been sitting around nice and shiny for several decades until I decided to put it in my pocket. By no means am I saying that modern coins aren't worth collecting - I've had lots of fun looking for varieites in pocket change, and it is so exciting to find a wheat penny, however common or low in value. And I still am joyous to receive an old piece.

 

The more I collected, the more I realized that it's not so much about having, but knowing. I think this reflects my collecting self, but also the me as a student in business who realized that an education in the arts makes oneself more rounded, and better able to appreciate the world and things around him.

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While I appreciate the kind things Bill has to say about my collection I think it's important to note the point of his thesis: find a theme. For me there was never a question in my mind that it would be the period covered by the French Revolution and Napoleon the First. But for others it can be the history of a country, region (such as Alsace-Lorraine) or city (such as the Hanseatic League). Or perhaps the art of coins and medals is your draw: this is so broad that you might even need to narrow your scope to a time frame. I know people who collect a particular engraver's work and such varied themes as ships, hummingbirds, Liberty symbols, lions and eagles. As you can see it's wide open to your interests. The beauty of this approach is that you can train yourself to, most of the time, resist purchasing anything outside of your theme.

 

So the junk box then becomes a specific treasure chest. Somewhere in most "junk" boxes is something that fits your theme. For a buck or less you can induge yourself. ;) I use eBay as a giant junk box. In fact I suspect that lots of times the seller is a dealer moving his current junk box along. I will typically bid the minimum (always calculating the postage into the total price) on as many as a couple of hundred coins in a month. This has never come back to haunt me, though I've worked this method for years and wouldn't recommend starting out like that. The net result is that I often win coins for prices that are way below Krause or reality or both. Finally I go to a few coin shows and put together my own personal "lot" (Burks mentioned this) and ask for their best price. If I don't get a price I like I walk away. Remember that a dealer at a coin show is there to make money, but he's also there to cover his overhead. As it gets closer to closing time you might find him more interested in giving you a better price on that lot (or new lot). There are very few total rarities, those coins or medals that simply shouldn't be passed up. Most coins will show up again, and at a price you're prepared to pay. And sometimes, as with my collecting experience, that day will come many years in the future and for much more than today. But at least then you'll have the money. :ninja:

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There is a real cheap way to collect and get some pretty good stuff, that is to go to your local bank and buy up rolls of coins, for me, cents. You can buy a box that has 50 rolls of 50 cents coins for $25.00 and go through them for wheats etc, also S-mints. You can fill cent books this way. Then return the rest of the coins back to a bank that has a coin machine and doesn't charge for taking them. My bank takes them currently but not for long as it was merged with another bank and now I will have to roll them.

 

I have found interesting things in junk boxes too, my most fascinating was a 1788 Connecticut cent, quite beat up and barely identifiable. But at 25¢ and the dealers story about how he had seeded it into the junk box 10-15 yrs before to see if anybody would recognise it was great. I was the one that hit the mark with it.

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"Mining" for silver can be quite fun too. Just get a few rolls of half dollars and pick out all the silver ones, 40% or 90%.

 

You can keep them if you'd like. Or if you are short on money, sell for melt/close to melt.

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Thanks everyone! Just wondering, how do you all research the coins? I never would have recognized a 1788 Connecticut cent.

 

Don't really have a theme yet - I've just been through the foreign bin at the local shop and my theme was "pretty and shiny". Thus, the Dutch East Indies coin.

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Just wondering, how do you all research the coins?

 

Here and the library. Seeing as you are in college it may be worth it to look in your college's library for numismatic related books. My college has a few but they are resource only.

 

Public libraries work too. The one here has...um....6-8 branches so getting a specific book can be tough. The online reserve system never works. Luckily the one that's a few blocks from me carries three Krause's (only 1901-present editions) and a bunch of Redbooks.

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I can afford the reference books that I use, but I helped pay for the ones in our local public library so I use them liberally. Some cheap habits never go away, but that way you have more $$$ to spend on coins. Similarly I could afford to purchase wheat cents, but that would take all the fun out of sifting through hundreds of them at a time and finding a wheat, kind of the same thrill as hitting a small jackpot on a slot machine.

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There is no good and convenient coin shop in the northside of chicago, so when I'm home during break I do what I can to hit up the usual places. In the past few years, the coins and notes I need cannot be found in a smaller dealer's shop, so I go to the Baltimore Coin Show. This year they moved the date of the Spring show to fit my spring break schedule for the first time in my 3 years at college. Therefore, I'm finally able to make a trip to Baltimore for all 3 of the yearly shows!

 

So, in short, I save lots of money and beg the parents for some "early Christmas" or "late birthday" or "best son ever" spending money.

 

I'm not as financially strapped as some people are.

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Back to the original question about how to collect coins on a tight budget. I was impressed by all of the responses and think that they are each on the mark. I would also claim that the principles apply regardless of your college status :ninja: One nice thing about this hobby is that it can support activity within every comfort level.

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Everyone has made some good points on collecting whithin a budget. For me, I don't make much, and I am in college as well, so a tight budget is a topic I think about often. I spend about 20-40 dollars a week on coins from my paycheck. That leaves me about $40 for gas (I drive about 65 miles a day to and from class), $50 for food, $40 dollars for bills, and $30 dollars to save. Now obviously sometimes I spend more on one than the other, but this breakdown is something I've been using for about 3 years now, and it seems to be working well. Over the summer my budget nearly doubles because I can work full time though, but I put the extra into my savings as a buffer for when I am short later in the year.

 

The last few weeks my budget has been tighter than normal, I still managed to get a few cheap things here and there while being able to keep up with my car payment, insurance, phone, food, gas, and jewelry making supplies for class(silver bullion and copper or brass sheet metal). So at times it's hard, but I am always glad to get a little something, even if it's out of the junk bin. A coin is what you make of it, not the price you payed for it! :ninja:

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Coins are a great hobby and can be done on a shoestring.

 

Not only are there the coins in circulation and foreign junk boxes but you

can also get tokens and medals for very little cash outlay. If you have any

time and don't mind a loot of work you can get involved with trading coins

with other collectors. These tend to be an excellent means of amassing a

collection for little more than the cost of postage.

 

There have never been more low priced items out there with more potential

to increase explosively in price than there are now so you don't have to feel

guilty about tying up needed funds in a collection. These items can be found

in circulation and in junk bins but usually they'll cost a dollar or two at least

and be found in dealers' stock. The advent and growing use of the internet

is bringing items to the attention of collectors who didn't even know such things

existed. For example there are a few thousand collectors of telephone items

including phones and related equipment and ephemera. Most of these people

are simply not aware of the fact that there used to be specially made slots to

accept only specially made tokens and exclude plug nickels and various coun-

terfeits. These tokens were used only briefly in several hundred types and were

then mostly melted in the WWII scrap drives. If just the phone collectors just

wanted a single example as a type it would strip every single example from the

market and cause a rise in price. These can be found for a quarter apiece.

They're really worth about a buck and a half now.

 

Across the board there are similar situations. It's hard to believe that a coin

like a nice well made 1971 dime in VF/ XF isn't going to have a substantial val-

ue in a few years. There simply is almost no supply and a growing demand.

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Yeah, I've been searching rolls of quarters (laundry money) and halves lately, but in this town there is only about a roll and a half's worth of halves anyway. I'm going to call ahead tomorrow and see which banks have how many halves.

 

I bought a roll of dollars for my Eisenhower/SBA folder, but all I can get out of those are only, what, 5 different dates/mintmarks out of 25 dollars, if I'm lucky? Doesn't really seem worth it after the first one.

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Mostly all said already. ONe thing to add is get your coins out of any type of folders. If you prize your coins that is the last place you want to place them. One, you have to press them in and your finger prints are now messing up any valuable coins. Two, the massive production of these latest folders or binders are being made by companies that never produced such things previously and may not know what materials will effect coins. Three, the glue used to hold the holed piece to the backing piece may also effect the coins.

Four, do not get sucked into a craze where you collect coins that will never be worth the cost of the folders of binders you keep them in and you could make more in a banks savings account.

Example is way, way back I fell for that stupid Bicentennial Quarter stuff. I hoarded hundreds and hundreds of them. A freind of mine had thousands and thousands of them. But then so did everyone else on Earth I think. After amost 30 years I tried selling some at coin shows and was basically told what I have is what everyone else has and there is just no market for that stuff even in MS conditions. So we took them all to a bank where luckily we received a quarter for each.

The same is true of the State Quarters, new Dollar coins, etc.

Back to your budget. The best thing I ever found was to go to banks and buya $50 bag of pennies (cents for those sensitive to terminology). Go through them looking for not only what you may need but for error coins. Best way to get familiar with them is to go to coppercoins.com web site. Or look for a book on them at flea markets. Next go to Google or Yahoo and type in coin shows and your state. If any go to them to become acquainted with what is available and the true approximate values presently. Flea markets, garage sales, yard sales are a great place to find coins, coin books, etc at a really decent price.

As to thedeadpoint in Chicago. You stated no coin shops in your area. So what. They are usually overpriced anyway. In your area there are at least 3 coin shows a month. Each Sunday one in the area. On the 11th of March there is the one in Countryside, Il. Following Sunday, Itasca, straight up Irving Park, left side of the street. Also, there is one in Lamont, Collinsville and most are easily accessable from Chicago. Countryside is South of about 66th Street, One block west of Manhiem (which becomes Lagrange) Road. Starts at 9AM but I get there at 8:30.

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One, you have to press them in and your finger prints are now messing up any valuable coins.

 

it doesn't have to be that way. clean cotton gloves should do the trick.

 

the point about being sure of the materials used to create the album is important ... there are several brands that are, apparently, good for this purpose.

 

i think the point about budgeting for regular acquisitions makes sense. $5/week (eat a meal at home each week to save this money) adds up, and when you choose the right theme you'll find there's plenty out there. keeping the acquisitions regular helps--you'll feel like you're making the progress you want.

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Cotton gloves are one of the best investments you can make. They come in handy (haha get it?) quite often.

 

Really are only a couple of bucks. I use them whenever removing coins from 2x2's and storing them in albums or photographing them.

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As to thedeadpoint in Chicago. You stated no coin shops in your area. So what. They are usually overpriced anyway. In your area there are at least 3 coin shows a month. Each Sunday one in the area. On the 11th of March there is the one in Countryside, Il. Following Sunday, Itasca, straight up Irving Park, left side of the street. Also, there is one in Lamont, Collinsville and most are easily accessable from Chicago. Countryside is South of about 66th Street, One block west of Manhiem (which becomes Lagrange) Road. Starts at 9AM but I get there at 8:30.

 

Thanks for the tip, carl! I'll try to check them out if I have time during the spring.

 

And there is one coin shop within a convenient distance, doesn't have much of anything at all. They've switched over to eBay sales so there isn't much to look at.

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So, where can I find a pair of quality, cheap, cotton gloves?

 

Wal-Mart? :ninja:

 

EDIT: BTW, found a '67 half in a roll today. WOOooOOoo!

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Congrats on the 40% silver half! Another thing you might consider is trading on-line in places like this. You mentioned you were trying to put together a set of Ikes/SBAs, well if you cannot find the dates you need in your area, put up a trade list. Many of us have rolls and rolls of this stuff laying around, and would gladly trade to help fill holes in your album, all you would be out is the postage, but you'd get the dates and mintmarks you need.

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