Like many coin collectors, I got my start in the hobby as a child, by finding something strange or unusual among the daily pocket change. As a kid in the '60s, Wheat Cents were plentiful, and my heart always skipped a beat when I saw a 1955 as I scrutinized it to decide whether it might be the 1955 Doubled Die or not. (Little did I know that had I actually found one, the doubling was so severe that it would jump right out at me!)
We found Buffalo Nickels in pocket change, too, although they usually didn't have any dates left on them. My mom even remembers the first time I found a Mercury Dime. It was so different from the "normal" dime that I proudly announced I had found a "foreign coin." Although I don't remember this episode, I don't doubt her memory at all. Stylistically, the Mercury Dime is quite different from what many people consider to be the "boring" presidential portraits our coins bear today.
What Happened to the Good Old Days?
So, what sparked this little blaze of nostalgia? I was at a family gathering recently where I saw some cousins I haven't seen in twenty-five years. They don't remember much about me except that several times I was asked, "do you still collect coins?" This is how the child-me is remembered in family circles: the zealous coin and stamp collector. (Fortunately, I unloaded my 37-album, 100,000+ different world stamps collection in 1981-82, before the stamps market imploded, to pay for college.)
I often read about today's collectors lamenting the good ol' days, when you could still find Wheat pennies and silver dimes and quarters in circulation, and how all that is gone now and there is nothing left for today's kids to find. Are these people crazy?!?!?! There is more to find in circulation today than we ever had as kids in the 60s and 70s, with all these Statehood Quarters floating around, and Jefferson Nickels going back nearly seventy years!
Try buying $4 worth of nickels some time and see what you can find! I know of several people who actually supplement their monthly income by sorting through rolls of half dollars for the 40% silver coins, because most Americans think the silver stopped in 1964. (In fact, it continued in the half dollars until 1970.)
As if these circulation finds aren't enough, you can sort through all kinds of denominations of coins for errors and varieties, such as doubled dies, cuds, and repunched mint marks. If errors aren't your thing, then buy boxes of brand new pennies or nickels or whatever and search them for ultra-high-grade coins such as MS-70 pennies. You can buy these rolls of coins at face value at any local bank, although the tellers might not be too cooperative at first. I have an article that explains how to deal with the banks when they claim they can't get rolls, or they want to charge you extra for them. It's called Insider Secrets to Getting Rolls of Coins From Banks. If you're not sure what to look for, you can start with the resources listed below:
Edited by: James Bucki