"What is coin hounding," you may ask?
Coin hounding is the hobby of going through coins, looking for mint errors and valuable coins. It requires a sharp eye and a good amount of patience.
The basic tools you will need are:
1:- A bendable light stand, with a very bright white light bulb. I use a 100w equivalent florescent bulb.
2:- 3x - 6x magnifying glass
3:- "jeweler's" magnifying glass, 16x preferable. These can be bought in local hobby shops for about $12
4:- Cardboard coin holders
5:- Microscope that allows you to take digital pictures. 64x preferable. This is optional, and is only needed if you wish to sell your mint errors online.
Once you have all your things together ( do not forget eye glasses if you need them ! ), make a list of valuable years & mint marks for the coins you will be going through.
I specialize in pennies, and only consider a penny "valuable" if it has a value of $0.25 or more in "fine" condition.
Note: it is a good idea to specialize in a specific type of coin, as it makes it much easier to spot mint errors.
It is also a good idea to read up on mint errors, and minting variants on the coins you will be digging through - what you will be mostly dealing with as a coin hound, are minor mint errors.
Once your ready, just go down to the local bank, and pick up a few rolls. Since I use pennies, it only cost me $10 for 1,000 of them. ( cheap ! ).
The trick to spotting mint errors, it to examine the obverse ( front ) and reverse ( back ) carefully under bright white light. If you think you spot something, get out the magnifying glass and look again. If it's still there, get your jeweler's magnifier out to verify. If you actually have something, place it into your coin holder, and label it.
- It is very important to know what scratches and gouges look like under magnification ! -
Below I will explain some of the mint errors / non errors you may run into.
Stressed Strike - When the coin is struck, small ripples can form in the cladding, from "stress", around the rim. The more noticeable they are, the more collectable they are. Most common ones I have seen in pennies, are on the 2012 reverse, in between the "c" in America, and the "JFH". As of when I wrote this, about 1 in 30 are like this.
Die Cracks - The newer the coin, the more likely it is to find die cracks. Most of the ones you will run into as a coin hound are microscopic. The more coins of the same year you find with the same crack, the more they are worth as a set. Cracks look like a raised ridge under magnification. Beware of scratches.
Clad Cracks - There are 2 types of cladding cracks. The first type ( and rarest ) is when there is a defect in the cladding, and it splits when it is struck. These splits can be very small, and very hard to tell apart from scratches. The second type of clad crack, happens when the blanks are being punched out, and the cladding does not stretch far enough to meet, creating a seam. When the coin is struck, the seam flattens out creating a small gap on the rim.
Rim Indents - Sometimes there are small indents next to the rim. These are caused by coins being slammed together in sorting & packing machines. These are not worth anything.
Multi Strike - These are some of the most prized "common" minting errors, and it is possible to find them in circulation, however they will be microscopic and hard to spot. The best I ever found was a "triple die obverse" penny. At first the coin looked normal, except for a very small distortion with the date, but under magnification I found it.
Strike Through - This is caused when something gets between the blank and the dies when the coin is struck. Most common are lint and grease. These are hard to spot, can be difficult to tell apart from gouges.
Stripes - These appear as raised ridges going across the surface of the coin, and are caused by dies being improperly polished. Make sure to wipe the coin in question very good with a clean rag ( do not use any cleaners ) before examining it under magnification to determine if they are just scratches and / or built up "gunk ". I only consider this error, if the coin I am holding still has very shiny cladding. The older the coin, the more likely it is just scratches.
Speckles - This is also caused by improper polishing- making the coin in question have raised spots on the surface. Wipe the coin in question with a clean rag ( no cleaners ! ) before examining it under magnification. I only consider this error if the coin has newer shiny cladding. The older the coin, the more likely it is just pitting and / or "gunk".
Missing Letters - This is caused by normal wear and tear on the coin, and can sometimes look like an error. The most common letter to be missing in pennies is the "O" of "Of" on the reverse.
Wedge Shaped Coins - This error is caused when one or both dies are not perfectly level, producing a coin that is thicker on one end than on the other end. It is important to have an accurate measuring device to determine if a coin is "wedge shaped" .
Off Center - I do not consider this error, unless the edge of the coin is touching or overlapping letters.
That is just about it for my little guide to coin hounding. If you would like more information on coin errors and coin hounding in general, Amazon has several good books to choose from HERE . Happy hunting !