Investing in Coins: Is it Worthwhile? Part II

Investing in coins can be worth your effort, but like anything worthwhile, you’ll have to work at it.

Here, we’ll continue with Part II of our tips on investing in coins. If you missed part I, you can find it here. Investing in coins can be more than just a hobby, if you’re willing to put some thought and elbow grease into it.

Investing in coins is simple, as long as you stick to gold and silver; those coins have a value beyond the numismatic. However, the true excitement and expertise of coin investing comes when dealing with rare or scarce coins made of base metals, particularly copper and nickel alloys.

Coins: A Good Investment?

Consider, for example, two U.S. coin types that are all but unknown to non-collectors: the two cent piece, minted from 1864-1873, and the twenty cent piece, minted from 1875-1878. Both are made of copper alloys, so they have little intrinsic worth. However, their collector value is significant.

For example, the two cent piece was minted in decreasing numbers from 1864 on. Due it their scarcity, they tend to be worth a minimum of $8-15 each. The very rare twenty cent coin, which was minted for general circulation only in 1875 and 1876, goes for a minimum of $75-100. Some are worth as much as $80,000.

One cent coins aren’t such a bad deal either, especially large cents, all of which were struck before 1857. Some of these copper coins are as large as a modern half-dollar, and go for hundreds of dollars in any grade. Whatever the size or style, you’re unlikely to see one sell for less than $8-10.

Small cents can also be worth investing in, as long as you’re careful and canny. Flying Eagle cents (1856-1858) are especially valuable, with a base price of $13-15 for the last two years of issue. The 1856 coin was a concept coin; fewer than 2,000 were struck. If you can find one, it’s worth at least $4,200.

Early Indian head cents are fine, too, at least those dating before 1879; past that point, their value drops off precipitously, to about $1 in the basic “G-4” grade. Coins dating from 1865-1878 go for base prices of $9-50 today, with the ultra-rare 1877 starting at $500.

As for Lincoln cents, most are still too new to be worth much (yes, even wheat pennies). The exceptions are a few error coins, like the famous 1955 Double Die (worth at least $500), and super-scarce dates like the 1909-S VDB ($425+), 1914-S ($100+) and 1922 No D (300+).

Don’t invest in most specialty sets, modern commemoratives, mint sets, or proof sets–they’re too common. The same is true of almost every coin struck since 1965, including modern dollars, state quarters, or the recent 2009-2010 Lincoln cents that have been so vividly hyped.

Even the best of those coins are worth little more than the metal they’re made of. So if you’re going to try investing in coins, stick to the precious metals or the scarce, rare, old ones–the ones where the value is obvious.