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Collecting is a hobby, not an investment

Updated: May 3, 2013 12:14PM

Originally published: July 10, 2006

While coin collecting can be profitable, it’s not the same as investing.

Harlan Berk, owner of Harlan J. Berk Ltd. at 31 N. Clark, one of America’s elite numismatists, warned that the better coins are not as liquid as stocks. There’s always a ready market for stocks, but finding a buyer for a particular rare coin can be time-consuming.

Berk had several suggestions for starting grandchildren on coin collecting as a hobby, but he cautioned that the intellectual challenge and history lessons would far outweigh any future financial potential.

It’s hard to miss the fact that the mints in Philadelphia and Denver are churning out millions and millions of new quarters, with a series for each state. So far, 38 state quarters have been issued. Harlan Berk actually created the “quarter board” that accommodates collectors of these coins, and is available free from the mint and coin shops like his. The collection boards have a space for each coin, and give the historic background of other U.S. coins -- a real learning experience for kids.

Berk said the new quarters are beautiful, but have no metallic value, and the mint is creating so many of them that they’re unlikely to have much collectors value long-term.

And he advises that since collectors pay a premium to get a quarter directly from the mint or a coin shop -- “in mint condition” -- they might as well pick them out of pocket change.

“When you’re done, you can use them for a parking meter!” he laughed.

Roman silver coins sound pretty impressive, but not necessarily too expensive for a serious young collector. Berk says collectors can buy a silver Denarius from 200 AD for $120 in mint condition.

Original buffalo nickel coins were minted between 1913 and 1938. A rare one -- the 1918/1917 overdate -- could be worth $1,000 or more in fine condition. But circulated buffalo nickels cost from 50 cents to a few hundred dollars.

Berk said the idea is to collect one nickel from every mint ever year -- a do-able project for a student.

Copyright © Terry Savage Productions

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