Time Required: A few minutes a day
- Sort your coins into groups by denomination - Always examine your coins in batches of like types. For instance, check all of your pennies, and then your nickels, then your dimes, etc. Your eye will get used to seeing each type after the first couple of coins, so you can scan them more quickly once your brain has "mapped the landscape," so to speak. Also, you are more likely to notice differences from one coin to another when you check them in groups of like types.
Don't get caught up in minutiae! If the doubling or other flaw is so insignificant that it is hard to see with a 10x loupe, it's usually not worth much.
- Examine the coin's obverse inscriptions - Look carefully for anything in the lettering that seems odd or unusual. Many doubled die varieties show doubling in only part of a word. Die abrasion, polishing, or greasy dirt collecting on the die face can cause letters to fail to strike up on the coin. Turn the coin around and look at it from different angles. Check carefully for missing letters, doubling, and other oddities in the inscriptions.
Note: If the mintmark or date is on the reverse side of the coin, (or the edge, as on the Presidential Dollars ) don't turn the coin over to check now. Wait until you get to the reverse, but do be sure to check carefully when the time comes.
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- Examine the major devices and the coin as a whole - Take a look at the coin's major device. such as the portrait. Also consider the obverse side of the coin as a whole. Does it look right? Is there any obvious doubling anywhere? You want to look for die cracks. cuds. and missing elements. Pay close attention around the portrait's eyes, ears, mouth, and chin, looking for doubling. Be sure to look at the rim, too, watching for anything abnormal.
handle. You especially don't want to miss the 180 degree rotation errors, as they are the most valuable of all!
- Don't get caught up trying to discern really minor details. If the doubling, or repunched mintmark, or die break cannot be seen easily and clearly under 10x magnification, the variety probably isn't worth much money. People typically pay the good money for varieties and errors they can see easily.
Another excellent book for beginners is Strike It Rich With Pocket Change by Ken Potter and Brian Allen.
Both of the books I recommend are profusely illustrated with close-up images of what to look for on the coins, and both have rarity and pricing information. The first book is more of a reference for anything you might find, whereas the second book explains specific coins to look for.
What You Need:
- Your daily pocket change (or buy rolls of coins to search!)
- A good magnifier or loupe, 7x power minimum, 10x preferred