The Pros and Cons of Collecting Paper Currency and Coins

Coin collecting is an excellent way to explore a love of history, art, geography, and even politics. But what about paper currency? Would you be better off collecting bills rather than coins? Is there really a difference, or is it just a matter of taste? And what could help you decide how to proceed?

Here are a few of the pros and cons of collecting both coins and paper currency so you can make a choice that brings you the best investment for your time and money.  

The Pros of Collecting Coins

Coins provide more for history buffs to explore because they have a longer history. Coins have been circulating for use since at least 600 B.C. It took paper notes another 1,000 years to make their real entry into history. So, if you want to collect ancient forms of currency, you have a lot more choice in coinage than in bills. Even for collectors of modern coins, the increased lifespan of a coin may make it easier to come by. 

Also, don’t underestimate the financial value of the coins — and the material they are made out of — themselves. While all currency is generally a representation of the actual value agreed upon for it, coins beat paper because they actually containing some of that value in their materials. Silver, gold, nickel, and other coin metals are durable and self-contained sources of some value no matter what happens to their value as a collectible.  

The Cons of Collecting Coins

Coin collecting can be a bigger physical investment than paper simply due to its more bulky nature. Coins need more space than flat paper notes, and they often require specialized storage equipment to fit their unusual nature. If your collection is limited in space, you might do better to use the more versatile paper currency. 

Because coins are a more popular area of currency collecting, you may find that the best coins are harder to find. Many people scoop up coins expecting to find their fortune, while dedicated collectors have been seeking out the true rarities and most interesting coins for many years. A new collector may have to settle for less interesting or less exotic coins until they build their collection to a healthy state. 

The Pros of Collecting Paper Currency

Paper bills are a good outlet for those with a more artistic bent or a collector who wants more variety. Paper currency is often as beautiful and enlightening as the history around it. It includes brilliant colors and complex designs that are simply impossible on coin currency. And because it’s easy to change the designs, there is more variety and more possibility with paper as a medium rather than struck coins. 

The added space on paper bills also allows for more of the story to be told. A coin, for instance, might feature the face of the monarch on the front and a national symbol on the reverse. But a note could easily include the monarch, the national flag, a national bird, a famous citizen, a motto, words in various graphics, and traditional decorations. 

The more aesthetically pleasing nature of notes could make it easier to get others interested in your collection. For parents and family members who want to share their collection, the added interest from colorful — and relatable — bills could help draw others in. 

The Cons of Collecting Paper Currency

If you want to get into coin collecting, you can often start with a smaller financial investment than with paper. Why? Coins, by their nature, usually have smaller face values. For most bills, the purchase price must include the actual monetary value of the item — which can be anywhere from a single dollar to hundreds or even thousands of dollars — even if you simply want them for their artistic or historical merit. 

To collect historical items, the collector must also become skilled in preservation, often paying to restore or maintain antiques or paying a higher price for what’s still in good condition. Unfortunately, not only do paper notes suffer naturally, but they are also subjected to higher levels of wear and tear than many other objects. This affects your prospects, your price ranges, your collecting methods, and your time investment. 

The Way to Get Started

No matter which type of currency collecting suits your style and interests, the best place to begin is with a visit to a dedicated dealer of these antiquities. By consulting with experienced dealers, you can learn how to balance the pros and cons of both options in order to find your niche.  

At Rocky Mountain Coin, we can help. Our ever-changing inventory contains outstanding examples of both paper and coin currency from throughout United States history and beyond. Visit us in person or online to learn more about how we can help you build a collection that will fascinate and entertain you for years to come.