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Numismatic Coins Vs. Old Currency: Where Value is Determined

The Difference Between Numismatic Coins and Old Currency

A close-up image of two numismatic coins and an old currency note.

Numismatics is the scientific study of coins and currency as a form of money. Numismatists use an extensive set of tools like scales to determine a coin’s actual weight and a magnifying glass to determine a coin’s authenticity. These rare coins are valuable because there is always a market for rare currency, rare gold, rare silver, rare pennies, rare nickels, etc. In addition to the rare coins and currency being valuable on its own merit, many times it also increases in value depending on the historical significance.

The differences in numismatic coins versus currency are a matter of historical, intrinsic, and monetary value. Before deciding which is more valuable, here are some highlights of numismatic coins versus old currency that are important to know.

Numismatic Coins

A coin can be numismatic because of its rarity, like the 1913 Liberty Nickel, or its limited mintage (how many were produced), like the 2008 Ultra High Relief Double Eagle Gold coin. Coins also gain value based on their metal content, but coin collectors look at the coin’s design and condition as well. Numismatic coin values are attached to both. Numismatic coin values going up over time is one reason to look at numismatics as an investment option.

As with other numismatic items, such as old or rare currency, numismatic coins will maintain or increase in value over time if the proper care and handling of storage are assigned to each coin. If mishandled, numismatic coins will lose value over time if not outright lost.

Proper numismatic coin storage includes individual hard plastic tube cases with each coin separated by a soft foam ring. It is important the rim of each numismatic coin never makes contact with another numismatic coin in storage to prevent any damage. There are numismatists, or collectors of these old or rare collectible coins, who use numismatic coin collecting books or coin folders to store coins, as well.

Another popular option with numismatic Precious Metals are rounds. Rounds often have the same designs and features while containing various levels of precious metals as well but are considered ’rounds’ because they are not considered legal tender, like coins. Rounds are struck on coin blanks, which are designed after coinage. Rounds can be produced quickly and at a lower cost than coins, but they still offer the collector value through their limited-edition mintage numbers – just like coin numismatic collectors search for low-mintage coin releases.

Some coin purists will argue that numismatic coins are the only real coin worth collecting, while others consider rounds or medals with coin-quality designs to be ‘coins.’ Rounds can be bought and sold on coin exchanges, and many coin dealers consider coin rounds to be coinage. But not all coin dealers accept rounds. Rounds are also difficult to store in coin albums or coin folders because of their round shape, but there are some numismatic coin storage options for storing these round coin-like products.

The quantity of coins produced is significantly higher than the currency. Even though the currency was easier and cheaper to produce, the abundance of Gold, Silver and other Precious Metals makes it easier to produce larger quantities. Speaking historically and in modern terms, there is more notoriety for someone who owns numismatic Precious Metals.

Rare Currency

Currency has an interesting history. Plenty of examples of paper currency have existed as long as coins have; however, currency was not as widely circulated or collected as coins and rounds. Currency slowly started becoming a vital part of monetary circulation over time. Confederate Currency was produced during the Civil War to help support the war because Precious Metals stores were hoarded.

The Civil War saw the beginning of the regular circulation of paper currency. Federal Reserve Notes and Bank Notes became more common following the war. These notes were used to replace the Gold and Silver certificates that had been issued. It is rare because it was produced during the war when many notes were destroyed.

After World War I, more prominent denominations of paper currency were produced to help finance the war effort. There was a need for money for soldiers and to rebuild Europe when they returned home. During this time, Federal Reserve Notes started having “Red Seals” to differentiate between Silver Certificates.

The Great Depression saw the suspension of the Gold Standard and devaluing of currency so that the government could finance the New Deal. During this time, paper currency was reduced to smaller denominations because it was easier to manage than other larger denominations at the time.

Determining Value

In terms of value, one should consider a few factors regarding finding value in numismatic coins or old currency:

Is it a commemorative, special issue or a general issue?

  • This is important because many coins and currency have special editions or issues. Some are also born out of necessity, which makes them important and valuable nonetheless. Commemoratives and special issues are often called “limited editions,” with many not making it to circulation.

Date of the coin or bill.

  • A person should take a historical eye to the date of the coin or bill. The history of the United States is vast, filled with tremendous stories and events, yet is relatively short compared to many countries around the world. Historical dates are vastly crucial in helping determine value because historical events play an increasingly important role.


  • The condition of the coin or currency is an essential aspect in determining value. Currency is more easily damaged and wrinkled due to its materials – that does not mean currency does not hold any value. The condition of coins or currency is important to keep an eye on. Looking for wear and tear along with signs of aging, which should be done before buying.


  • Some coins and currency are rare, making their intrinsic value higher. Rare coins and rare currency are popular with collectors and investors because they are hard to find or there are few pieces of them remaining. Proportionally, there are more certified rare coins than rare currency.

While it may seem that numismatic coins offer more value, there is valuation in the currency as well. While the currency has changed in various forms over the years, from Confederate Currency to Large Federal Reserve Notes, currency items complement any numismatic collection today just as well as coins. Value can be found in both numismatic coins and rare currency – in the end, it truly depends on your specific purchasing decisions and investment portfolio to decide which is a better fit for you.

Buy Numismatic Products with APMEX

Finding rare and old currency is easy to do by working with a reputable rare coin company, like APMEX, which has previously handled rare and old currency. Buying Numismatic Coin and Currency for sale online with APMEX is a process made easy with our guarantees of safe delivery of high-quality products.

If you happen to experience any issues while placing your order for Numismatic products with APMEX, we are happy to help. Our team of highly trained customer service representatives can answer any questions by email or telephone. Our APMEX team can be reached at (800) 375-9006 or

Expand your collection today and shop our assortment of rare coins and currency here.

Numismatic coins and currency make for a great investment opportunity; for any questions regarding the eligibility of any specific products in your investment portfolios, please consult a financial advisor or professional.

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