Three iPhone/iPad apps for U.S. Coin Collectors
Although I no longer actively collect U.S. coinage (mostly because I just can't see as clearly as I once could), I still retain some minor interest in the hobby. I read some on-line coin collecting sites and scan my pocket change for the still occasionally found wheat penny, silver coin and wartime nickel. That's pretty much the extent of my interest now, but I was curious to see what iPhone/iPad apps might be useful for a U.S. coin collector.
I was surprised to find that there isn't much available. While there is a wealth of information available on-line, apparently few have thought about the tremendous advantage of mobile apps. After all, coins are found everywhere, often under circumstances where a computer is not available. A dedicated app to provide grading, pricing and rarity info would likely be quite popular. I'm thinking particularly of subscription services such as the well known "Grey Sheet" (Coin Dealers Newsletter) - having that resource available in a mobile app would be very useful. If it were combined with a grading guide and links to auction results, and other information such as die varieties and patterns, it could probably command a fairly hefty subscription price.
I'm not aware of anything that comes close to that, but here are three decent apps that are available.
I can remember buying James F. Ruddy's Photograde when it was first published in the 70's. It was a wonderful resource, and was far superior to the text descriptions we had to rely on before then. It had its limitations - the photos were not actual size and were all black and white - but my copy got regular use for many years.
The more modern Photograde book is in color, of course but like its competitors (Anacs etc. ) , print photography will always be limited - fixed size, limited space and the only possible update is to buy next years edition.
The PCGS iPhone and iPad app is free, has color photography and of course you can enlarge the photos to see details with a pinch of your fingers. That said, the coin selection is incomplete, lacking modern issues like Memorial cents most noticeably. That's a very minor gripe, however: I would have been ecstatic to have had something like this when I was regularly attending coin shows in the seventies. There are over 1600 high resolution, zoomable photos in up to 29 grades, covering all the major U.S. coinage.
You will definitely want to install this. I would have been happy to pay for it, but the nice folks at PCGS make it available for free!
This app has both a free sample edition and a $9.99 full edition (iPhone or iPad). I only looked at the free sample, which certainly has the right concept of a grading guide combined with pricing, but the photo quality is sub-standard and the pricing is static until an update is offered. I'd be hesitant to pay for the full app after seeing the quality of the sample.
The paid app does allow you to enter the coins you own and track their total value as well as maintain a "want list" of desired additions. If it had better quality photos, and perhaps some current pricing lookup capability, I think this could be a real winner.
On the other hand, as you can get great photos for free with the Photograde app, perhaps this with Photograde is almost enough?
Pocket Change Prospector
This is a $2.99 iPhone app with no free version. It allows you to identify potentially valuable coins that actually could be found in circulation today. One grain of salt here: some of these coins have never actually been found in circulation and others are obscure mint varieties or errors with little or no value. Most of these are depicted with drawings rather than photographs and you could probably find all of this information available on-line for free with a bit of effort.
I think the convenience is worth the price, and for subtle varieties like this, drawings often are better than photographs. If you need to see a photograph too, you can always search for an example on line and can probably find it easily (for example, this 1969-s double die cent which sold for $43,700.00 in 2004).
As many of these are "double die" varieties, a new collector should be aware of the causes for these effects so that they can distinguish true die doubling from the more common strike doubling.
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