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10 Facts Coin Kids Should Know
  1. When did coins replace stones, cattle, and other early forms of money?
  2. What name should you call a coin collector?
  3. Who was the first person to collect coins?
  4. How much new change does the United States Mint make each year?
  5. How long does the average coin last, and what happens to worn-out coins?
  6. What is green slime, and why should I fear it?
  7. What's worth more—a coin or its metal?
  8. When should you not add a bright and shiny coin to your collection?
  9. What makes a coin valuable?
  10. What kind of grades do coins get?
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When did coins replace stones, cattle, and other early forms of money?

Metal in many shapes and sizes was used for money long before coins started making the rounds.  Today we know about two groups of people who, thousands of years ago, started making objects similar to what we call coins.  They stamped pieces of metal with weights (values) and other marks.  This way they didn't need to weigh the metal each time it was used to buy something.

Who were these first coin creators?  We've long known that around 600–700 B.C., people from Lydia (part of what is now Turkey) started stamping the royal emblem of a lion's head onto pieces of electrum.  They got this alloy of gold and silver from the banks of Lydia's rivers.  And recently, we've discovered that even earlier (about 1000 B.C.) people in China made bronze coins.


What name should you call a coin collector?

Numismatist!  (Pronounced new-miss-ma-tist.)  This tongue-twister of a word makes a rich addition to your vocabulary.  It means "someone who studies and collects things that are used as money, including coins, tokens, paper bills, and medals."


Who was the first person to collect coins?

Just think of the month of August, and it's easy to remember this answer.  The earliest recorded coin collection belonged to Augustus Caesar, the first emperor of Rome.  He lived from 63 B.C. to A.D. 14, and the eighth month of our year is named after him.

Not only did Augustus keep adding coins to his collection, but he also gave them as gifts.  Following his lead, many of the Roman emperors who ruled after Augustus also had large coin collections.  The hobby became even more popular during the Middle Ages, when wealthy individuals and royal families built awesome collections.


How much new change does the United States Mint make each year?

Each year, the United States Mint makes between 14 billion and 20 billion circulating coins.  These new pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, half dollars, and dollar coins are all made at the Philadelphia and Denver mints. 


How long does the average coin last, and what happens to worn-out coins?

Most coins can circulate for about 25 years before they become too worn to be used anymore.  That's a long time when you consider that the average dollar lasts for only 18 months.

The United States Mint recycles worn-out coins it receives from a Federal Reserve Bank.  The Mint then sends any usable metal that's recovered to a fabricator, who turns it into coinage strips for new coins.


What is green slime, and why should I fear it?

Green slime is as nasty as it sounds!  As a collector, it's one of your worst enemies.  It will take a valuable coin and turn it into a sticky, worthless mess.  Green slime is a chemical that's used to make plastics softer, and its real name is as horrible as what it does to coins: polyvinylchloride (PVC).

How does PVC attack coins?  By lurking in some of the flips and other holders used to store coins.  Over time, the sticky film spreads from the container to your coin, eating into its surface.  You NEVER want to store your coins in anything made with PVC!


What's worth more—a coin or its metal?

Nearly always, circulating coins are worth more than the metal they are made from.  In fact, coins—especially old-dated ones—can be worth a great deal more if they are in "mint condition."


When should you not add a bright and shiny coin to your collection?

When it's been buffed or whizzed!  A buffed coin is one that's been polished to make it look like an uncirculated or proof coin.  A whizzed coin has been wire brushed or burnished, often on a wheel, for the same reason.  The problem with buffing and whizzing is that they wear down the coin's original surface, reducing its value.


What makes a coin valuable?

Age, rarity, condition, and precious metal all affect how much a collectible coin is worth.  The value of any one coin can be surprising.  For example, you can buy some Roman coins that are more than 1600 years old for less than $10.  But then there are some worn 1909 wheat pennies that sell for hundreds of dollars!

As a general rule, the harder a coin is to find and the more people who want it, the more it's worth.  This is known as the law of supply and demand.  It holds true no matter what the collectible.


What kind of grades do coins get?

Not A's, B's, C's or even F's.  Coins have their own grading system, which describes how much—or how little—wear and tear they have.  U.S. coins are graded with a scale created by the American Numismatic Association (ANA), a non-profit group created in 1891 and chartered by Congress since 1912.  The lowest grade on this scale is About Good-3; the highest is Perfect Uncirculated-70.

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