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How To Sell Coins: The 7 Best Ways To Get Top Dollar

Silver coins.
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You have a coin collection and you would like to sell it. Unfortunately, there are a few “sharks” in the coin collecting hobby that would love to take advantage of you. The good news is that these unscrupulous coin dealers are few and far between. A vast majority of coin dealers are honest businessmen that run their businesses with integrity and fairness.

Many people ask a family member or trusted friend to help them when they purchase their first car. This is because they are unfamiliar with the retail car industry. Having a guide to help when you buy your first car will prevent you from getting ripped off. The same can be said about selling your coins. Unfortunately, if you do have a family member or trusted friend that is familiar with coin collecting, you need to arm yourself with some information and knowledge.

However, you must arm yourself with some knowledge and experience to avoid the pitfalls of selling a coin collection below its market value. Take some time looking over the coins to familiarize yourself with the variety of items in front of you. Take time to learn how to identify individual coins and banknotes. Follow this advice, and you will avoid getting ripped off when you sell the coin collection that you’ve inherited.

Hold coins and a financial graph.


A Few Quick Do’s And Don’ts

If you are not a coin collector, there is a lot to learn. The more information you possess will give you the advantage when it comes time to sell. The education process may take a while, but it is more than worth it to avoid getting ripped off when you sell your coin collection. Here are a few essential tips to get you started.

No matter what you think, cleaning coins reduces their value dramatically. A professional coin dealer will be able to spot a clean coin immediately. When it comes to grading a coin, bright and shiny does not increase the value of a coin.

Unless you are on the verge of bankruptcy and you desperately need the cash from this collection, take your time and gather at least a basic understanding of how coin collecting works. Taking the time to educate yourself will give you the knowledge to ensure that you’re going to get the best deal for the coins you’re going to sell.

If you are going to sell the coins yourself, it is best to purchase a couple of books to help you on this journey. I recommend the following two books that are available for around $10 each. A Guide Book of United States Coins: The Official Red Book by R. S. Yeoman and Kenneth Bressett and Cash In Your Coins: Selling the Rare Coins You’ve Inherited by Beth Deisher.

Do not go to a store or jewelry shop that has a big “We Buy Gold and Silver” sign in the window. The best you will do here is get bullion value for coins that could be worth several times more. Additionally, don’t go to a business that sets up in a hotel or other temporary location. Finally, do not go to a coin show or dealer and ask “How much will you give me for this?” All of these approaches will usually result in you getting ripped off with extremely low offers on the coins that you inherited.

Many people look at an old coin and assume it must be valuable because it is old. 2000-year old coins can be purchased for a few dollars. Take the time to learn how to identify the coins you have and estimate the condition they are in. People hear that a 1943 Lincoln cent sold for $1 million. When in fact, the million-dollar coin was made out of copper and not out of zinc-plated steel.

Gather The Coin Collection Into One Location

To start the process of evaluating the coin collection that you inherited, you need to get your arms around the size of the collection. Also, see if there is an inventory/catalog or checklist that the coin collector kept of his coin collection. This may provide valuable information when trying to get the collection appraised.

Therefore it is best to gather the collection and any supporting documentation into one location where you can start the process of inventorying and valuing the coin collection. Be careful where and when you do this and try to maintain secrecy to avoid theft or robbery of the coin collection.

Additionally, make sure you take proper precautions to ensure that the coins do not get damaged while you are cataloging and inventorying the collection. Depending upon how the coin collection was initially stored, you may need to buy some basic coin collecting supplies to avoid damaging the collection during this process.

If the coin collection was well cataloged and the more valuable coins are easily identified, you may want to separate those coins from the ordinary coins in the collection. Remember, you cannot determine the value of a coin solely by its age or shininess. There have been many dull and dirty coins that have sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Separate The Collection Into Logical Groups

There are “coin collectors” and “coin accumulators.” A coin collector will have his or her coin collection logically organized into sets, folders, albums, or labeled containers. A coin accumulator is a person who buys coins and puts them in a box or safe with assembling them into a coherent collection.

If the coin collection you inherited is truly a “coin collection,” then most of the work has already been done for you. If you inherited a “coin accumulation,” then you need to start organizing the collection into some resemblance of order.

First, start by grouping like items into separate containers or boxes. For example, place loose coins in a plastic container. Put sets (proof sets, mint sets, collector sets, etc.) in a cardboard box. Folders and coin albums can be placed on the side because most of them are already identified. Finally, you may find storage totes of encapsulated or slabbed coins. The label on these coins identify the coin with the information that you will need for cataloging and inventorying.


The next step is to start identifying the items in the collection and group them into five major categories: U.S. coins, U.S. paper money, foreign coins, foreign paper money, and medal and exonumia.

The books that are mentioned above will help you identify the U.S. coins in your collection with pictures and descriptions. Pay close attention to the metal composition (copper, gold, silver, clad, etc.) this will help you organize the collection so you can pay particular attention to the higher value coins.

There are several myths in coin collecting that you should know. First, just because a coin is old does not mean it is worth more. You can purchase ancient coins that are thousands of years old for only a few dollars. Secondly, just because the coin is composed of copper does not mean it is worth less than a coin that is made out of gold. Many American copper coins sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Old coins can be hard to identify and put values and prices on if you don’t even know what the old coin is called. Is your old coin made of silver or gold? What country is the old coin from? Are the inscriptions in English or some other foreign language? Does the coin look brand-new or is it so worn that it is barely identifiable? Is it a real coin or some sort of gaming or trade token?

Questions like these can confuse a person who is unfamiliar with the hobby of numismatics known as coin collecting. However, if you take a logical approach to your task at hand, it can be quite enjoyable, and maybe you might find a rare and valuable coin in your possession.

If your old coins do not say they are from the United States, they will usually name some other country. In most cases, you should be able to make out what the country is, although it will usually be in the language of the country that issued the old coin. You can type the likely country name into a search engine such as Google to see what is available on the Web. There are thousands of coin-related Web sites out there for just about every type of old coin imaginable.

If the old coin doesn’t have a country name you can read you can try visiting Don’s World Coin Gallery to look it up. Don’s Web site has over 25,000 photos of coins from more than 400 countries, past and present, and his Instant Identifiers page has images of dozens of coins that lack English inscriptions. Just match your old coin to the images, and click the image to get to his information and value page.

Not all of your old coins will be identified using the methods above. In this case, you might try a token, round, or pattern, all of which resemble coins. Try typing the inscriptions you can read into a search engine. As a general rule, if the old coin doesn’t have a country name and denomination (saying how much it’s worth) on it, it’s probably not an official government coin. It can be very hard to learn more about these unofficial coins because very few people collect them, so they’re not worth very much (if any) money.

Private mints around the world have also minted tokens and fantasy coins. These are not official coins issued by a government, but they still may have value. During the Civil War, a coin shortage led to the production of many tokens by private mints. This allowed stores to make small changes in business transactions and they are highly collectible.

Inventory And Cataloging

Once you have your coin collection organized into logical groupings, you begin the task of cataloging the collection. If the collection has under 100 pieces, you can do this on a piece of paper with a couple of columns. For more substantial collections, you may want to use a spreadsheet on a computer to help you organize the information. You can sort, calculate, and track every coin in your collection.

There are many free templates online to get you started. Simply google Excel Spreadsheet Coin Inventory Templates and find one that works best for you. If you have an extensive coin collection, then you may decide to purchase computer software to organize and inventory your coin collection. You can purchase a coin inventory software program to get you started for about $30 and up. When deciding which software to choose consider the following: how easy is it to use, how much ability does it allow you to organize your collection the way you want to organize it, does it download current pricing information as well as revalue your coin collection at current market prices.

The second part of valuing your coin collection is to determine the grade of the coin. Any coin collector would much rather have a pristine, unblemished coin in their collection rather than one that has seen better days. Therefore, the demand for coins in better condition is higher than the market for coins that have been circulated. Determining the grade of a coin can be somewhat tricky, but with a little practice and education, you can estimate the grade of the coin to determine its value.

Hold coins and a financial graph.


Determining The Value Of Your Collection

Now that you have identified and graded the coins in your coin collection, you can now determine the approximate value without taking it to a pawn shop. Many values go into determining the value of a coin, but the bottom line is that a coin is only worth what someone will pay you for it. However, we can come up with a ballpark estimate of the value of your coins.

Using a handbook like A Guide Book of United States Coins is a great start to determining a coin’s value at heritage auctions or their mintmark. But keep in mind, this book lists approximate retail prices that you could expect to purchase a coin from a coin dealer. Like any retailer, a coin dealer makes his profit by buying coins below the retail price and selling them to coin collectors at a reasonable profit. Therefore, the prices will be 30% to 50% greater than what a coin dealer or coin experts will pay you when you sell your collection.

Many factors go into determining the price and value of a particular coin. First of all, you must understand the difference between price and value. To most people, these two terms are used interchangeably. To coin collectors, they mean different things. The price or retail price of a coin is what you pay for that coin when you purchase it from a dealer. The value or wholesale price of a coin is what a coin dealer would give to you to buy the coin from you.

The coin market is intricate and complex, and many factors influence coin prices and values. The primary influence on the value or price of a coin is the supply of that particular coin in a particular grade that is available to buy. The total possible supply available to the market is determined by the initial mintage of that coin. For most countries, at the end of a year, the coin dies with that particular year on it is destroyed and never used again.

Hence, once production for a year is completed, the supply of that coin for that date is fixed. In the early years of the United States Mint, coin dies were made by hand and were used until they wore out or broke. This resulted in some coins being produced with the previous year’s date but reported as production in the current year.

After coins are initially minted, they are released into circulation. Over time some coins are removed from circulation because they are damaged or overly worn. These are returned to the United States Treasury and reclaimed for their metal. Other coins are melted by citizens because their intrinsic metal value exceeds the face value of the coin. This happened to many silver coins in the early 1980s and again in 2011 when the price of silver reached almost $50 per troy ounce. This also happened to many gold coins over time. Finally, some coins are just lost, never to be seen again. The coins that have been saved by people and coin collectors are known as the surviving population. This is always lower than the mintage.

Easy Is Not Cheap

The easiest way to value your coin collection is to have someone else do it. After reviewing the work that is required to assess the value of your collection, and you feel overwhelmed or do you not have the time to complete the tasks accurately, you could pay a professional numismatist or local coin dealer to organize, catalog, inventory, and value your collection for you for an auction house. This service can run from $35-$50 per hour, but you will gain the knowledge and wisdom of a professional coin dealer for a fair price. If a dealer identifies just one extremely valuable coin, his fee will be well worth the knowledge that you now possess.

A true numismatic expert will know exactly what to look for when they determine the value of your coins. They should also never pressure you into selling them if you don’t want to. Their job is to simply examine the coins and then give you an official opinion of the value. Make sure you find coin dealers who have testimonials from other customers in their coin shop so you know you’re getting an accurate appraisal from someone you can trust. These testimonials play a huge role in how trustworthy they are, and they’ll give you a much better representation of what you can expect.


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All articles are provided as a third party analysis and do not necessarily reflect the explicit views of GSI Exchange and should not be construed as financial advice.

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