One of the characteristics that differentiate "coin collectors" from "coin accumulators" is that they are compelled to catalog their coin collections. Keeping a written record in the form of a catalog is an important aspect of coin collecting. It not only gives you the ability to see what you currently own, but also the ability to chart your future coin collecting goals so that you acquire the necessary coins for your collection.
A well kept and maintained catalog of your coin collection will benefit not only yourself but your heirs in the future.
Importance of Cataloging
The Importance of cataloging your coin collection cannot be over emphasized. As one veteran coin collector once told me, "We are only stewards of these miniature works of art. We are not going to take them with us when we leave this earth, therefore we must preserve them for future generations." A properly cataloged coin collection will make it easier for your heirs to liquidate your coin collection if they do not want to keep it for themselves.
Your coin collection catalog should detail exactly what is contained in your collection, what you paid for it and perhaps what it's worth today. This will ensure that your heirs will not get ripped off when they go to sell your coin collection because they will have an idea of its approximate value.
Moreover, there are legal implications too.
The IRS requires records that support the purchase and sale information for each of your coins for tax purposes. When you or your heirs go to sell a coin, if the original purchase price or value is not recorded, then the IRS will assume that any amount over face value is profit and liable to be taxed.
It is appropriate to record any coin received as a gift at the current market value for tax purposes. Although I am not a tax accountant or tax consultant, these guidelines have served me well over the years.
Ways to Catalog Coin Collections
There are many different ways to catalog your coin collection. Some people choose to record their coin collection transactions on 3 x 5 cards stored in a cigar box. Others use sophisticated computer software that interfaces with coin collecting databases for valuation purposes. There is no single best way to catalog your collection. You should select whatever method provides you with the information you need and one that you are comfortable using. Listed below are some of the more common methodologies that people use to catalog their coin collections.
A simple spiral or three ring notebook can do the job very effectively for a small coin collection. Armed with a ruler and a pen, you can make columns to enter the information that you need to track. You can be as creative as you want and track as much information as you want, but the following is a list of the basic information that should be recorded for all coins:
- Denomination or type
- Quantity (i.e. "50" for a roll of cents)
- Date of purchase
- Purchase price
- Date sold
- Sale price
Another way to catalog your coin collection while you simultaneously plan what coins you'd like to acquire next is to use a coin collecting checklist. Unlike a notebook, which is freeform and provides no initial information, checklists are organized by type, denomination, year and mint mark for each series of United States coins.
Unfortunately, some of these do not contain the information that you would need to provide your heirs or the IRS when it comes time to sell your coins. This information should be added if your checklist does not provide an area to record this information. Whitman Publishing has the Official Red Book: Check List and Record Book of United States and Canadian Coins.
Click on the "Compare Price" link below to find the lowest price or you can download one of the free versions listed below.
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Downloadable PDF checklists:
If you have access to a computer and a simple spreadsheet program (such as Microsoft's Excel) you can use that to keep track of your coin collection and all your purchase and sales information. This makes it easy to add and delete lines, sort your collection and the ability to instantly calculate the total value of your coin collection. Furthermore, you may decide to track additional information that other people may not be interested in tracking. You can do this by simply adding a column to your spreadsheet.
Downloadable Excel Spreadsheet:
Note: To download a copy to your hard drive, right-click the link above and select "Save target as..."
The fourth option is to purchase software specifically written for coin collectors. There are many different options for coin cataloging software in the market today. Some are free, some are very low-priced ($20-$30) and some are a little bit more expensive.
My experience in software has taught me that you get what you pay for. What you should look for in coin cataloging software: ease-of-use, intuitively laid out screens, the ability to organize your collections the way you want, downloading of current pricing information and automatically re-valuing your coin collection at current market prices. The last and most important feature to look for is a fully functioning trial version or a money-back guarantee if you are not satisfied with your purchase.
From the collectors that I have talked to over the years, there are three main developers of coin collecting software. They are:
- Collector's Assistant by Carlisle Development
- Exact Change by Wild Man Software
- Coin Elite by Trove Software
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