50 Significant Take Aways from the Coin & Bullion Industry
This year I’ll be turning the big 5-0. It’s really amazing how fast time flies, especially when you work in an industry that you truly love. While I’ve owned the business for over 13 years at the time of this writing, I started as a coin collector and investor years earlier.
When I first began the business, it started out as a side hustle. I was working in Corporate America at the time when the Great Recession hit. Fearing that I was going to be let go, I decided to launch the coin business as a “Plan B” working evenings and weekends to try and build it into something sustainable. Fortunately, we’ve been blessed to work with some amazing people over the years that helped to grow my dream into a reality and a thriving business.
We always like to share lessons learned with our readers and provide some guidelines to help with what can sometimes be a confusing industry. In honor of my upcoming 50th birthday, I thought it would be a fun exercise to share with you 50 take aways that I hope will answer some questions, make you a better investor or help you to realize more when the time comes to sell your coin collection.
Below you’ll find our 50 main take aways in no particular order.
Most Eisenhower dollars are face value
Contrary to popular belief, not all Eisenhower silver dollars are composed of silver. Only Eisenhower silver dollars or three-coin sets issued by the San Francisco Mint that are packaged in blue envelopes, red envelopes or brown boxes contain 40% silver. Coins produced by the Philadelphia and Denver mints are composed of nickel-copper.
Coins that are gold in color aren’t necessarily gold in content
If you have gold-colored coins in your change, there’s a 99.9% chance that they’re simply gold in color and not gold in content. This means that your Sacagawea and Presidential dollars are merely face value coins, including most other novelty items, such as gold-plated quarters or silver eagles.
Don’t believe everything you see on the internet
9 times out of 10 the first online search result that you see related to your coin won’t be applicable. In our experience, Etsy, eBay, YouTube and Tiktok are among the top results. This is because these websites have a high domain authority. While they’re all great at what they do, unfortunately, they’re not necessarily reliable resources when researching coins.
Avoid buying coins and bullion from online marketplace or social media sites
We’ve heard time and time again of folks being scammed with counterfeit coins and bullion that they purchased from unknown sellers on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. Unless you’re a coin expert, or have the proper equipment to verify the authenticity of the items, we recommend staying away from these sites.
Your 1943 (or 1944) Lincoln Cent likely isn’t a million-dollar coin
A handful of copper Lincoln cents were accidentally released by the Mint in 1943. There are approximately 20 known to exist, making them extremely valuable. On the other hand, hundreds of millions of 1943 steel pennies were issued. The 1943 penny that you came across is likely steel and has a nominal value. While steel pennies from 1943 are a dime a dozen, it’s the 1944 steel penny as opposed to the copper penny, that is valuable.
Don’t purchase new U.S. Mint products as soon as they’re released
9 times out of 10 there’s huge demand for newly released U.S. Mint products, with prices being bid up well above the estimated long-term value of the coin. In some cases, the demand for a new release may drive up the price many times above the original issue price. If you wait until the hype dies down, you should be able to purchase the coin at a discount. If a new release is high on your wish list, attempt to purchase the coin directly from the U.S. Mint as opposed to through the secondary market.
An old coin isn’t necessarily a rare coin
There’s a misconception that old coins are inherently rare. That’s not
necessarily the case. Rather, the number of coins produced is the key to determining rarity. Many coins a hundred years old only trade for a nominal amount above their face value. On the other hand, a recently produced coin may be rare if it had a limited mintage.
Limit your purchases of limited edition foreign coins
We see time and time again customers purchasing limited edition foreign coins (typically certified) at significant premiums above the precious metals value. When the time comes to sell, in many cases, they only realize a fraction of the original purchase price. While some of these are beautiful coins, we recommend that you do your homework before making a purchase to determine if it’s a worthy investment.
Always try and do business with a local coin dealer over an online dealer
This may sound self-serving, but there are many benefits in dealing locally, including preferred pricing, first dibs on new products, a quick and easy way to liquidate, when needed, and most importantly, the education that local coin dealers can provide. While the online price offered by a national coin dealer may be slightly less in some cases, there’s no one available to discuss the investment option that you’re considering.
Coins in your pocket change are nearly always face value
We’ve all seen articles, videos, news stories etc. of people supposedly finding coins in their pocket change that are worth tens of thousands of dollars. The likelihood is about as high as winning the lottery, so don’t get too excited until you thoroughly research the coin. We’re not saying that it can’t happen, it’s just highly unlikely.
Most online coin values aren’t accurate
We routinely receive inventory lists from prospective customers with estimated prices of what they believe their coins are worth, which are rarely accurate. In fact, in most cases, we’re not able to sell the coins at these values. In other words, take any online values that you come across through your research with a grain of salt, as they may not accurately reflect the market for the items.
Use reliable resources when estimating values of your collection
These include recent auction prices realized, pricing information from the “Handbook of United States Coins (Blue Book) and the coin dealer newsletter, commonly referred to as the “Greysheet.” Keep in mind that most auction houses charge 20% – 25%, that the Blue Book is a snapshot in time and that Greysheet is closer to market pricing, so you should expect to receive a percentage of these values.
Most coin dealers aren’t trying to take advantage of you.
Sure – there are some bad seeds in the industry, but by and large, most coin dealers want to treat you fairly and provide reasonable prices for your coins. When we receive a phone call from a prospective customer saying that another dealer is trying to “rip them off,” in most cases, the prices offered aren’t too far off from competitive wholesale rates. Of course, if you feel like you’re being taken advantage of, by all means look elsewhere.
Understand the difference between wholesale, market and retail prices
Coin dealers purchase coins at wholesale prices and typically receive market rates when selling coins. Retail prices are rarely, if ever realized. A good analogy is the MSRP on a new vehicle. We all know, that this is just a suggestion and the vehicle will sell for a lesser amount. We recommend ignoring retail prices when trying to determine how much you’ll receive for your coin collection.
Determine if you’re an investor or collector and purchase accordingly
Some of our customers take a shotgun approach to buying coins and have a combination of bullion and collectible coins without sitting down to identify if they’re buying for investment or collectible purchases. If primarily as an investment or hedge against inflation, consider purchasing bullion or bullion coins as opposed to numismatic coins. If buying primarily for collectible purposes, numismatic coins are a great option.
The year of your coin may not be as important as other factors
The year of your coin doesn’t tell the entire story. It’s important to determine where the coin was produced by identifying the mint mark and evaluating the condition of the coin. You may have a high mintage coin, which can differ significantly in value from a coin produced the same year by a different mint.
Most people tend to overestimate the condition of their coins
The value of many coins is based on their condition, and based on our experience, most individuals, especially those new to the field of coin collecting, tend to overestimate the condition of their coins. As you would expect, this results in high expectations that may not be realized when you sell your collection. Do your best to be objective when grading your coins. Online resources can help you to match up your coin with pictures of graded coins.
There can be a significant difference between raw and certified coins
This point is worthy of an entire article itself, but it’s important to remember that in most cases estimated prices that you find online or even from our suggested resources, assume that the coin has been certified by a third-party grading service. Furthermore, the assumption is that one of the leading third-party grading services (TPGS) such as NGC or PCGS has slabbed the coin. The reliability of other TPGS tend to be less and will typically translate into lower values.
Leave instructions to your family members in the event of your passing
Daily we hear from individuals who were left with a coin collection that they’re overwhelmed with and have no idea where to begin. While we all hope to live long healthy lives, sometimes the Lord has other plans for us, so leave detailed instructions for your heirs in the event of your untimely passing. They will thank you for it.
Third party certification isn’t the holy grail that many people believe
This may sound contrary to our previous point, but there’s the perception that having your coins certified will greatly increase their value. While there are situations where this is in fact the case, by and large, it’s not. As a coin dealer that purchases hundreds of thousands of coins a year, we only submit a fraction of 1% for certification. If you have any questions as to if certification will improve the value of your coins, reach out to your local coin dealer.
Not all certified coins trade at the same price
The value of your coin will depend on which third party grading service certified it, the condition of the holder and the aesthetics of the coin. For example, bright white Morgan silver dollars trade for more than toned coins. Additionally, pre-1933 U.S. gold coins with red or brown spots, dirt or grease stains trade for a decent bit less than nice retail-quality coins without these issues. Keep in mind that the grade of the coin doesn’t take into consideration the aesthetics of the coin – only the extent of wear.
Properly secure your items if you choose to mail your coins to a dealer
Overall, we’ve seen an uptick in lost, stolen and damaged packages in recent years. This is because the items aren’t properly secured thereby giving away the contents of the package. When shipping, secure your items so that nothing can be heard when shaking the box. You should also consider double boxing your valuables. Lastly, use an acronym as opposed to the name of the dealer, which will help to reduce your exposure.
If an opportunity sounds too good to be true, it probably is
Unfortunately, people occasionally get taken advantage of when they pursue an online opportunity that sounds like too good of a deal to pass up. If someone is offering to sell you coins or bullion at a price that is significantly below market, it’s probably too good to be true. At a minimum, thoroughly research the company, including their years in business and if they’ve received multiple complaints.
All coin dealers operate differently and may not have a market for the particular items that you’re interested in selling. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your items are worthless, it’s just that it’s not the right fit for you. Rather than become upset, continue to call around until you find the right dealer. If you find that no one is interested in your items, that’s probably a sign that they’re fairly low value or less marketable items.
Purchase coins over bullion when the price difference is nominal
We believe that purchasing government-issued coins is preferable to privately-minted bullion when there is a nominal difference in price. The reason is that coins are government-backed, legal tender, are more liquid and are traded the world over. You can also expect to receive more for coins than bullion when the time comes to sell. Furthermore, coins are counterfeited less frequently than bars.
Buy U.S. silver coins over foreign government-issued coins, when possible
U.S. silver coins, including 90% silver dimes, quarters and half dollars, Morgan and Peace silver dollars, and 1 oz American silver eagles are the most widely traded and recognized silver coins in the United States. If you’re considering purchasing silver coins, these items are best, but only when it makes sense from a cost perspective. If significantly more expensive, consider other well-known and recognizable foreign silver coins such as the Canadian silver maple leaf.
Consider diversifying within each precious metal category
Diversification isn’t just for stocks and bonds. Having a bit of variety in your coin collection may be helpful. For example, if you have a small short-term financial need in the future, it might be helpful to have some smaller size or fractional coins on hand so that you don’t have to liquidate more than you need. If you primarily invest in gold coins, consider some 1/4 oz and 1/2 oz coins in addition to 1 oz coins.
Invest in 90% silver coins if you intend to use your coins for bartering purposes
Many of our customers are a bit hesitant to share with us that they’re investing in gold and silver primarily for bartering purposes. If that’s your intent and you are hesitant to share this information, that’s perfectly fine. Just know that 90% silver dimes, quarters and half dollars are the best options for this purpose, as they’re U.S. issued, legal tender, recognizable and are in small denominations or sizes. This provides potential investors with a good bit of flexibility.
In 1933, FDR signed Executive Order 6102 making it illegal for U.S. citizens to own gold coins. The exception was numismatic or collectible coins. Today, pre-1933 U.S. gold coins, including commemorative and proof coins are considered collectible coins. If you’re personally concerned about confiscation, having some diversification in the event we see a repeat of 1933 isn’t a bad idea.
Limit handling and properly store your gold and silver coins
Over the years, we’ve met with many people who have removed coins and bars from their original packaging, buried their coins or stored them in a humid environment. In many of these cases, this has caused damage to the coins, making them less valuable. Minimal handling and proper storage in a climate-controlled environment will allow you to receive the most for your coins and bullion if and/or when the time comes to sell.
Pricing and demand for coins and bullion can change rapidly
The coin and bullion markets are driven by supply and demand just like any other industry. As a result, there can be substantial swings in the value and availability of certain items. Keep this in mind when obtaining a price quote. The estimated price a month prior may be drastically different than the price today. As an example, we’ve seen the value of proof gold eagles trade anywhere from less than spot to nearly $1,000 over spot and everywhere in between.
Consult with a tax accountant when selling a coin collection
While not tax experts, we can share with you that the basis in a coin collection that has been inherited is typically the value of the items as of the date of passing as opposed to the original owner’s basis. In other words, receipts that you find with the collection may not be applicable to you and your tax liability. In some cases, we purchase collections at a spot price below what it was on the date of passing, possibly eliminating any tax liability. As always, it’s best to consult with a tax accountant to determine your tax liability, if any.
Buy low, sell high
This may sound like common sense, but we recommend keeping your finger on the pulse of the market and taking advantage of buying and selling opportunities. As an example, in March of 2022, the price of palladium reached an all-time high of $3,440. This was driven by the Russian-Ukraine conflict and the fact that Russia is the largest producer of palladium. That would have been an excellent time to sell, as the current price is less than half this amount. On the flip side, now may be a good time to buy palladium at depressed prices.
Don’t limit your coin dealer choices to your surrounding area
We mentioned that dealing with a local coin dealer is typically best, but that’s only when you have a local coin dealer, and/or have a good local option. We purchase estate coin collections from individuals throughout the Southeast, many of which are driven to our offices in metro Atlanta. In most of these cases, the sellers realized more than they were expecting, making it worth their time and effort to travel.
Consider diversifying your precious metals portfolio with different metals
We are often asked which precious metal is the best option. The fact is that they’re all good options, but they operate differently. For example, gold is the most stable of the four precious metals but doesn’t have as much upside as the other metals. Silver has more upside potential than gold but is more volatile. Platinum and palladium are used more for industrial purposes and have more volatility than silver, but can be great investments, especially if purchasing at the right price.
Consider keeping your savings in precious metals as opposed to the bank
With inflation rates currently at three times the historical average, money in the bank is losing spending power on a daily basis. Historically, gold and silver have been among the best inflation hedges, so if you’re a retiree or just an individual that wants to maintain your purchasing power, consider investing at least a portion of your savings in precious metals.
Precious metals can provide diversification to a traditional investment portfolio
While most financial advisors try and steer their clients away from investing in physical gold and silver, as this reduces their assets under management (AUM), they will admit that a 5% – 10% allocation in precious metals oftentimes increases overall investment returns and reduces volatility. This is due to the low correlation of gold and silver compared to other asset classes.
When investing in gold and silver, always invest in physical versus digital investments
While physical gold and silver is more expensive than online or digital investment options, such as ETFs, they’re much safer, as they don’t have counterparty risk. The reason is that online investments are derivative products that may have little to no physical metals backing them. In other words, it’s a paper market that is likely highly levered. Leverage increases the chances of incurring substantial losses, especially if there’s a loss of faith in the investment by the public.
Consider purchasing modern proof bullion or numismatic coins with the OGP
Many coin collectors prefer modern collectible coins with the original government packaging (OGP) versus having them certified. In fact, when the time comes to sell, you’ll oftentimes realize more for your coins when not certified. For example, proof American silver and gold eagles trade for more when not certified, as they’re only IRA eligible when they include the original box and COA. While there may be some exceptions for proof 70 coins, proof 69 coins will nearly always trade for less.
When purchasing bullion coins for investment purposes, disregard the date of the coins
Every year we hear from first time callers at the beginning of the year looking for the most recent date of whichever coin they’re looking for. When we ask if they’re buying for investment or collectible purposes, it’s typically for investment. If that’s the case with you, we recommend that you purchase random date coins, as they’re typically more plentiful and oftentimes sell for less.
Agree on acceptable forms of payment before your appointment
Whether buying or selling to a coin dealer, it’s important that everyone is on the same page with respect to payment. As an example, many dealers don’t accept credit or debit cards, as our industry operates on extremely low margins. Check to see which options will allow you to take immediate physical possession of the items. Typically, items are held until a personal check clears. Also, most coin dealers don’t keep a considerable amount of cash on hand due to safety and security reasons, so if you’re expecting cash, this should be discussed in advance.
Consider the value of your collection before seeking an appraisal
We recommend that individuals spend no more than 5% – 10% of the estimated value of their collection on appraisal fees. We understand that in some cases, an appraisal is required by the probate court, in which case, you may not have a choice. However, if given the opportunity, consider the cost versus the benefit. If not required for estate, probate, or insurance purposes, and you’re merely obtaining an appraisal for information purposes, consider checking coin dealer’s online buy rates as opposed to seeking a paid appraisal.
Don’t sell your coin collection to a gold buyer or pawn shop
If you have a coin collection, especially one that you suspect contains better date coins that may sell at a premium, your best option is to seek the assistance of a coin expert. Rather than just weighing the coins or assigning a flat rate across the board for your items, they’ll inspect them and offer premium rates for low mintage, key date, higher-end condition and certified coins. Dealing with an expert may translate into hundreds or even thousands of dollars more for your collection.
Never clean your coins
As tempting as it may be, we recommend that you never clean your coins. Cleaning coins not only takes time on your end, but it also devalues the coins. Collectors and investors alike prefer coins with original surfaces or patina, as opposed to an altered surface, even if the coins may not be aesthetically desirable.
Find out what your coin dealer needs before itemizing your coin collection
Receiving an itemized list and/or pictures of coins from prospective customers is always helpful, but in many cases, we find that individuals spend more time than they need to, and in some cases, provide information that’s not necessary. We recommend that you reach out to your coin dealer before spending days or weeks itemizing the hundreds of thousands of coins in your collection.
Don’t be too particular with the coins or bullion that you purchase
In certain markets, when demand is high and supply is limited, your preferred coin dealer may not have the exact coin or bar that you’re looking for. In some markets, such as we saw in 2020 and for a spell in 2022, it may take months to acquire these items, especially in a tight market. Consider a comparable alternative, especially if the pricing is reasonable and it allows you to acquire items at a decent price.
Inquire if your coin dealer has an overstock of any items
As a high-volume coin dealer and a specialist in estate collections, we are always purchasing large coin collections. In some cases, we acquire more items than we need and have an overstock in certain items. If you’re not too particular with the type of gold and silver coins or bullion that you purchase, inquiring as to any overstock items available may provide you with the option to buy coins at a discount – especially if the dealer was planning on moving items through the wholesale market.
When comparing quotes, but sure to do an apples-to-apples comparison
Some coins are more market sensitive than others. In other words, the value tends to move in lockstep with the price of gold and silver. As a result, to make sure that you’re receiving an apples-to-apples comparison, we recommend that you obtain quotes within a reasonably short time – ideally within hours. If you wait multiple days, the initial quote that you received will likely no longer by valid or representative of what that dealer is willing to pay today.
Consider the gold to silver ratio when purchasing precious metals
When trying to determine if you should consider purchasing gold or silver, consider the gold to silver ratio. In modern times, the gold to silver ratio has been roughly 60. If the current ratio is above 60, it would appear that silver is undervalued relative to gold. If below 60, gold would appear to be a better buy. It’s a simple calculation – just divide the current spot price of gold by the spot price of silver to arrive at the ratio.
Limit the number of people you share your precious metals holding with
To reduce your exposure, we recommend that you limit sharing your precious metals holdings with only those individuals that absolutely must know. We’ve heard on multiple occasions of individuals’ coin collections being stolen, which was likely as a result of too many people being aware of the items. In some situations, the burglars knew exactly where to go in the house to steal the collection.
If you’ve stuck with us through all 50 take aways, congratulations! It was a bit of a challenge coming up with this many points, but we hope that some of them resonate with you and will assist with your investment or liquidation strategy. I’ll do my best to come up with a new list every decade. If I make it to 100, I may need some assistance from our readers for some tips!
Many of these points can be an article in and of themselves, and in fact, we’ve provided links where we’ve addressed these issues in further detail. We’ll also look for opportunities where we can flesh out these topics in further detail in forthcoming posts.
While we don’t have the capacity to respond to every inquiry that we receive on articles, we do our best, or at least attempt to provide links to resources that we’ve provided in the past, so don’t hesitate to reach out if further explanation on any of the topics is needed.
If you’re in metro Atlanta, we welcome you to contact us if you’re interested in starting or building your precious investment portfolio. If out of state, and you’re interested in selling your collection, reach out to us to arrange an in-person meeting or discuss the logistics of shipping your items to us. If you have specific questions related to this article, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If interested in buying or selling your coins or bullion, we welcome you to email, complete our online webform, or call us at 404-236-9744. We look forward to hearing from you and earning your business!