Cherrypicking isn't just about going out and looking at coins, but it's about knowing which coins will turn you a positive upside, whether for resale or trade. Let me tell you a quick story about a recent discovery. One of my forum mates recently cherrypicked a sterling P,D,S set of 1942 Mercury Dimes on eBay. Not knowing what to expect (because there is this famous overdate for the year), the dimes were in tremendous shape based off the decent photos. With the long shot of actually picking a fine overdate specimen, this member purchased the 3-coin set. Upon receipt several days later, the forum member actually found the mother of all overdates, he picked the 1942/41 D black mamba! After sharing his discovery, he turned in the prized possession to NGC where it grade high in the census at a whopping 65+ with full split bands! Today, this beauty will command in the neighborhood of $20k-$25k, not bad for turning $30 into a five figure payday!
So what did we get out of this? First of all, this individual had first hand knowledge of the Mercury Dime series. He has become a professional at the series, knowing much about the history of the date range and the key dates. One of the most important tools to success, was his education. He has spent countless hours reading on Mercury Dimes and has practiced the grading standards that accompany it. Additionally, he used countless internet sources to find the potential coins he's looking for to fulfill a need. It's with these few resources, or tools, that he was able to cherrypick such an amazing coin, with very few dollars to contribute in the end.
So with this story in mind and the resources used to his success, let's talk about a few resources that will come in handy when you consider the hobby of cherry picking.
*Books- Books are important for several reasons. They are quick references when it comes to identifying coins and their respective varieties. The most elementary resource is Whitman Publishing's "The Red Book to U.S. Coins". While the prices highlighted left a lot to be desired, the Red Book is your basic tool to gain a full understanding of each U.S. series at a glance. It's the best beginner's book for the numismatist. Another great reference is the "Cherrypicker's Guide to Rare Die Varieties". This is where you will begin your search for them rare and valuable finds. Don't just read about these varieties, but get to know them by your favorite series. Once you recognize what the marquee varieties are, you will be able to cherrypick them from dealer cases and eBay auctions without the need of the book in front of you.
*Spy Glass-Some varieties are so tough to identify by the naked eye, this makes a great magnifier an important tool to have. If you're able to find a good quality glass like a Hasting's Triplet 10x, it's going to be the most important tool for your show circuit visits. There are 20x and 30x magnifiers in the marketplace as well and are great for finding re-punched mintmarks and over mintmarks, be sure to find one with a good LED light as you have to get in real close to the coin.
*Smart phone- While not a huge necessity, a great smart phone has a lot of advantages. There are a multitude of websites dedicated to series specific cherrypicking, a smart phone will allow you to access these sites on the fly so you can compare diagnostics with the site photo references. You can bookmark these sites and even blow up reference photos with a quick sweep of your fingers to help you examine the finer details. I would highly consider a smart phone if it's in the budget, I have had several cherrypicks that required a photo reference online. It was a make or break deal!
Now go out there and keep hunting! Best of luck!