Before you start collecting coins on behalf of your kids, you should take a moment to consider a couple of points. First of all, like all investments, collecting coins costs money, so you need to determine how much you can afford to spend each year for this. Secondly, you must decide what the ultimate goal of this collection is. Are these coins meant to help put the child through college, or are they just meant to be a nice gift that hopefully has some greater future value? Is this coin collection meant as a monetary investment to be cashed in someday, or do you mean for the coins to become family heirlooms which will be passed down through the years? Or perhaps your hope is that the child will take up the coin collecting hobby someday. Depending on what your collecting goals are, and what your budget is, you'll want to buy different types of coins.
Starting a Coin Collection on a Tiny BudgetFor the sake of this discussion, we'll consider a tiny budget to be between $50 and $100 a year. This is the type of collection where you buy something at Christmas and for the child's birthday, and usually not at any other time. The typical coin gifts of this type are the national Mint Sets, such as the U.S. Mint's annual Uncirculated Coins set, or the annual Proof set. These sets typically cost less than $25 for the Uncirculated sets and less than $40 for Proof. Fancier Silver Proof Sets run $50 and up.
Another popular U.S. Mint investment coin type for the person on a tight budget is the U.S. Silver Eagle. These are one full ounce silver bullion coins that are typically sold for a couple of dollars over the spot price of silver. They make a great investment if you think the price of silver will be going up. Although the U.S. Mint sells Proof Silver Eagles and specially mint-marked Silver Eagles directly to collectors through the U.S. Mint Web site, you'll have to buy the "generic" Silver Eagles from a coin or bullion dealer. You can also find them online at auction sites like eBay and at dealers' Web sites. I recommend buying the generic Silver Eagles if you are investing, and the Proof types if you are buying heirlooms.
Motivating a Child to Start a Coin CollectionIf your primary goal is hoping that the child will someday take an interest in collecting coins, your best purchases are not the Mint Sets offered by the U.S Mint, but rather unsearched or "bulk mixed" lots of older U.S. coin types. For example, you could buy 20 rolls of mixed circulated Wheat Cents, plus the Whitman Wheat Cent Coin Folders to put the coins into. When the child is old enough, start giving them the accumulated stash, a little at a time, and see if an interest develops. Sit down with him, and show him how to look at each coin and place it in the proper spot.
Good coin types to accumulate for this kind of endeavor include Wheat Cents, Jefferson Nickels, Buffalo Nickels, Indian Head Pennies, Mercury Dimes, and pre-1965 Roosevelt Dimes. Once you start collecting silver quarters, halves and dollars, you're getting into pricey coins that cross the line from "a starter collection for a child" to "investment quality coins." Whatever coin types you buy, be sure to buy coin folders or albums so the youngster has somewhere to display all of his "finds" once he sorts through the rolls.
Start Collecting for a Youngster NowIf you are ready to get started with a child who wants to start a coin collection now, check out my article about How to Start a Coin Collection on $4. This article tells you how to start a coin collection on $4 (2 rolls) of nickels. You can substitute pennies, dimes, or state quarters to start a collection right out of pocket change, but be sure to get the coin folder to collect them in! Finding a new coin to fill an empty hole is most of the fun and satisfaction for coin collectors!
Be Sure Your New Coin Collection is SafeWhether you decide to collect for investment reasons, heirloom reasons, or for the fun of it, remember to use common sense safety practices in accumulating your treasures. Do not keep investment and heirloom coins at home! Get a safety deposit box for them. Coins that the kids are actively collecting can be kept at home, but keep them stored away in drawers out of sight of visitors to your home, especially if strangers come in (such as repairmen, etc.) Once the kids lose interest in a certain folder or coin type, take them to the bank and store them in the safety deposit box until the kids ask for them again. Coins are always one of the first things burglars will grab, because they are easily sold. It never hurts to establish good collecting practices right from the start by always teaching your child to put his coins and folders away out of sight when he is done with them for the day.
You Don't Have to Collect Coins on Your OwnIf you'd like to talk to someone else who can give you some advice about what to buy, develop a realtionship with a local coin dealer. If the kids have taken an interest in a new coin collection, find a local coin club they can join, and go to the meetings with them, not only as a chaperone, but to learn more yourself about what coins make good investments and which ones are just "fun to collect." Many coin clubs have special programs for "young numismatists."
Collecting coins on behalf of, or along with youngsters is a fun and rewarding project for everyone involved.
Be sure to check out my Top 5 Worst Coin Investments, so you can avoid some of these costly mistakes!