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Coin collector turns passion into business
Coin specialist Lee Henderson has collected nearly 2,000 coins in a span of four decades. His most prized possession is a love token with his initials. - photo by Nancy Angel

Coin Collecting for beginners

It’s easy to start a coin collection.  You can begin with coins that you already have on hand.  Check your pockets, wallet, desk drawers and under the sofa cushions.  Most people are surprised to discover the variety of coins hiding in their home’s forgotten nooks.  Then, ask friends and relatives if they have any old or unusual coins to contribute.

To organize and display your collection, you may want to purchase one or more coin albums.  Some are custom-made for specific coins, such as Kennedy Half Dollars; other albums hold all denominations.  Additional storage and display options include paper envelopes, plastic tubes, slabs, flips and Mylar staple holders. 

Learning how to become a coin collector also means learning a new language.  Coin collectors use a common vocabulary to discuss coins.  Special terms are used to describe a coin’s condition, value and what it looks like.  Learn more about the language of coins at

Tools of the Trade

Here are the basic tools you’ll need to get started building and organizing your coin collection:

• A high-quality magnifying glass so you can look at a coin’s tiny details.

• A padded jeweler’s tray, plush towel, or some other soft cloth to set coins on when viewing them.

• A plastic ruler that measures in inches and millimeters.  Avoid hard, metal rulers that may scratch your coins.

• A good general coin reference book.  It should include information on dates, mint marks, major varieties, grading guidelines and prices.

• Good lighting, such as a halogen lamp.

• Soft, cotton gloves.

• Coin envelopes, holders or albums for storing your coins.

Learn more about the history of coins and how to collect them at:

Pick almost any coin of any metal and Lee Henderson can probably tell you its story.  The year, the history, how many there were, or are, in circulation, and why the particular person or animal was picked for the engraving.

His expertise in the field is substantial, and his personal collection is something worth bragging about.

“I’ve been collecting most of my life,” said Henderson. “My dad started me on it at the age of 10 in Germany. He was in the Army at the time, and as a family we traveled with him wherever he went. Coins were a way we bonded.  In total, I’ve been collecting coins for over 40 years.”

Henderson turned his passion into a profession where he buys and sells coins at Main Street Antiques located at 208 E. Main St. in Turlock.

With over 2,000 different coins in stock, Henderson also has hundreds of coins in a private collection.

“I have coins that range from $1 dollar to up $30,000,” said Henderson. “There are customers that are willing to pay that amount and some even more.”

But his most prized possession, a love token he bought several years ago for only $40.

“This coin is special to me because it has my initials engraved on it,” said Henderson. “I keep this coin in a special box hidden inside my store.”

Henderson does not plan to retire from the coin business anytime soon. He continues to search for the most unique items.

“To hold a little piece of history that’s over a thousand years old is remarkable,” said Henderson. “It’s what makes it all worth it.”

209 staff reporter