The 5 Most Common Mistakes Made By Rookie Coin Buyers

Coin Buyers
Various U.S. Silver Coins

Over the years, we’ve identified a few mistakes that we commonly see new coin buyers and collectors make; some of which can be quite costly.  In this article, we’ll identify the 5 most common mistakes that we see coin novices make.  We hope that by identifying and sharing this information with you that you’ll avoid some of the costly pitfalls that have affected many individuals that are new to the industry.

Expensive Numismatic Coins

Many coin buyers that are new to the industry are drawn to numismatic or collectible coins, and coin dealers are more than happy to oblige, as these are the highest margin coins that dealers sell.  Asking prices for these coins can range from reasonable to ridiculous, which is why you need to do your due diligence and identify reputable coin dealers.  It would also behoove you to purchase a Red Book or the latest edition of the Coin Dealer Newsletter to make sure that the asking price of the coin or coins that you’re interested in are reasonable.

Certified Coins

Certified coins are also known as professionally graded coins.  It’s reasonable to assume a fairly high premium for numismatic or collectible coins that have been professionally graded and encapsulated by a third party grading company.  However, you should be careful not to pay a substantial premium for common date gold, silver and platinum bullion coins that have been professionally graded.  Since these coins come directly from the U.S. Mint in uncirculated condition, the assumption is that most of these coins should be available in uncirculated condition.

Pre-1965 Silver Coins

A common term in the industry is pre-1965 silver coins.  This refers to U.S. 90% silver coins minted in 1964 and earlier.  Many individuals that are new to the industry assume that this refers to all coins minted in 1964 and earlier, with the exception of pennies; however, that’s not the case.  Only dimes, quarters, and half dollars produced during this time contain silver content.  The only exception is silver war nickels minted from 1942 – 1945, which contain 35% silver content.  Additionally, the only U.S. coins minted for general circulation after 1964 that contain silver content are 40% Kennedy half dollars minted from 1965 – 1970.

Eisenhower Silver Dollars

While the term might indicate otherwise, most Eisenhower silver dollars don’t contain silver content.  The exception are San Francisco-issued Eisenhower silver dollars minted from 1971 – 1974, which contain 40% silver content.  Since these coins were only available by special order from the San Francisco Mint, very few made their made into circulation.  Be sure to purchase Eisenhower silver dollars in blue envelopes, red envelopes or brown boxes to confirm that the coins you’re acquiring contain silver content.

Proof & Mint Sets

While collecting proof and mint sets can be an exciting and attainable goal, you should be careful that you’re not paying unreasonable prices for the sets.  Most non-bullion proof and mint sets produced from the 1970’s – 1990’s were mass produced, and can be purchased at reasonable prices.  Make sure that the set that you’re purchasing is reasonably priced.  Also, don’t assume that the set you’re purchasing contains silver content unless you check the packaging.  Modern silver proof sets (beginning in the early 1990’s) come in black or red boxes and state on the box that they’re silver proof sets.  Silver proof sets produced in 1964 or earlier come in beige envelopes, if they include original government packaging.


While the field of coin collecting and numismatics can be one of the most fascinating fields for coin buyers and investors alike, it is fraught with potential perils, which is why it’s essential that you educate yourself before making your first purchase.  Being aware of the above referenced common coin mistakes will go a long ways toward being successful in the field of coin collecting.


Tony Davis
Tony Davis