As a leading coin dealer in Atlanta, including the recipient of the 2015 Atlanta Coin Dealer of the Year award by Kudzu, we spend a good bit of time every day on the phone with customers and prospective customers. Customers who are interested in buying coins typically know in advance the type and quantity of coins that they wish to purchase. However, individuals who are interested in selling coins, especially coins received through an inheritance or as part of an estate, oftentimes are unfamiliar with the type of coins and notes that are included in their coin collection. The amount of information available online can be overwhelming, and unless you have a substantial amount of time (and interest) to research the coins in your collection, you may not know where to begin. The purpose of this article is to highlight the most common coins and notes that we see in our day-to-day dealings and share with you the items that are potentially of value, and those that aren’t.
However, before reviewing the following information on the most common types of coins and bills that we see, we recommend that you sort the coins by type or denomination, such as pennies, nickels, dimes, etc. Additionally, we recommend that you sort and separate your gold coins, silver coins, platinum coins, foreign coins and paper currency. Without further ado, below are coins and paper notes, separated by type or denomination that are typically of value and are of interest to most coin dealers.
- Pennies – Nearly all coin collections that we evaluate or discuss with customers contain pennies or cents. These coins range in value from a few cents to tens, if not hundreds of dollars. Large Cents minted in 1857 and earlier, Flying Eagle cents produced from 1856 – 1858 and Indian Head pennies produced in 1909 and earlier all have some value. Additionally, uncirculated rolls of Lincoln wheat pennies minted in 1958 and earlier as well as key date wheat pennies, such as 1909-s, 1909-s vdb, 1911-s, 1914-d, 1922 and 1931-s can have significant value. Unfortunately most common date wheat pennies and copper cents produced from 1959 through current have very little value.
- Nickels– There’s a common misconception that all U.S. nickels minted in 1964 and earlier contain silver value. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. The only nickels that contain silver content are silver war nickels minted from 1942 – 1945. These coins only contain 35% silver and have somewhat limited value. Most other Jefferson nickels are more or less face value coins. Buffalo nickels minted in 1938 and earlier, V nickels minted in 1912 and earlier and Shield nickels produced in 1883 and earlier all contain value and are of interest to most coin dealers.
- Dimes & Quarters– U.S. dimes and quarters minted in 1964 & earlier contain 90% silver and are some of the most commonly traded coins in the coin industry. These coins are sometimes referred to as “junk silver,” as their value is primarily derived from the underlying silver content of the coins. All Seated Liberty dimes and quarters minted from 1837 – 1891 are premium coins that sell for above and beyond their silver value. Additionally, there are several key date Barber coins, Mercury dimes and Standing Liberty quarters. However, most Roosevelt dimes and Washington quarters are common date coins that sell merely for their silver content.
- Half Dollars– Similar to dimes and quarters, half dollars minted in 1964 & earlier contain 90% silver content. However, unlike dimes and quarters, half dollars produced from 1965 – 1970 also contain silver content; albeit, at a reduced purity of 40% silver. 90% silver half dollars are also commonly referred to as “junk silver.” Unless in uncirculated condition, most Franklin and Kennedy half dollars merely trade for their silver content. Common date average condition Walking Liberty half dollars are also traded for their silver content, but high end condition and better date coins will sell at a premium. The same goes for Barber Head half dollars minted from 1892 – 1916. All Seated Liberty half dollars produced from 1837 – 1891 are considered premium coins unless they’re substantially worn or damaged.
- Silver Dollars– U.S. silver dollars minted in 1935 and earlier are 90% silver and all contain value above and beyond their underlying silver content, unless they’re substantially worn or damaged. Peace dollars produced from 1922 – 1935 tend to have less value than Morgan silver dollars minted from 1878 – 1921, but both coins have key date or low mintage coins that can be quite valuable. All Trade dollars produced from 1873 – 1885 and Seated Liberty dollars minted from 1840 – 1873 are premium coins. Silver dollars produced prior to the Seated Liberty dollar, including Flowing Hair and Draped Bust silver dollars, sell for hundreds of dollars, if not more. Unfortunately most modern issued U.S. silver dollars, such as Eisenhower silver dollars, Susan B. Anthony silver dollars, Sacagawea silver dollars and Presidential silver dollars have very little value, if any, over their face value; although, there are of course exceptions.
- Silver Coins & Bullion– While most countries debased their coinage of silver in 1964 or earlier, many government mints produce one ounce silver coins for investors and collectors. Some of the more popular options include American silver eagles, Canadian silver maple leafs, Austrian silver philharmonics, British silver britannias, Mexican silver libertads, Chinese silver pandas, and Australian silver kangaroos and kookaburras. Additionally, private mints produce pure silver rounds and bars that are commonly referred to as silver bullion. The difference between coins and bullion are that coins are sovereign or government issued, while bullion is privately issued. All coins and bullion composed of silver content have value and are of interest to coin dealers.
- Gold Coins & Bullion– Many people don’t realize this, but prior to 1933, U.S. issued gold coins were used in general circulation. Common denominations include $1, $2.50, $3, $5, $10 and $20 coins. Some of these coins have collector or numismatic value, while others trade primarily for their gold content. Regardless, with gold hovering at around $1,125 at the time of this writing, you can be sure that any gold coin in your possession has some value. While gold coins haven’t been used in circulation for quite some time, government mints have been producing modern bullion gold coins for years. Some of the more popular gold coins include American gold eagles and buffaloes, Canadian gold maple leafs, South African gold krugerrands and Austrian gold philharmonics, just to name a few. Private mints have also been producing gold bars and rounds for a number of years. Some of the more popular producers of gold bullion include Pamp Suisse, Credit Suisse, Perth Mint, OPM, Royal Canadian Mint and Sunshine Mint. All gold coins and bullion are of interest to coin dealers.
- Foreign Coins– Generally speaking, most modern-issued foreign coins not composed of precious metals have very little value. Additionally, since the introduction of the Euro in 2002, many foreign coins are now obsolete, so they’re not even worth the face value of the coins. At the time of this writing, many modern foreign coins are being traded in the wholesale market for only a few dollars a pound. While in the U.S., coins typically produced in the 19th century have some collectible or numismatic value, that’s not necessarily the case with foreign coins. In many foreign countries, coins and currency have been produced for hundreds of years, making older coins quite common. While not a hard and fast rule, foreign coins produced in the mid-19th century or earlier tend to have some value.
- Paper Currency– Many coin collections contain paper currency or paper notes. U.S. bills that contain value are typically those produced in 1928 and earlier. Bills produced after this time tend to be quite common, unless they are R& S Experimental silver certificates, small size National Bank notes, $500 and $1,000 Federal Reserve notes or World War II emergency issue bills, such as those produced for Hawaii and North Africa. Regardless of the year, large size U.S. issued notes contain value, unless they’re substantially damaged or defaced. In addition to the above, obsolete currency, such as Confederate bills, state-issued bills, bank-issued bills and Railroad-issued bills all contain value. In most cases, these bills were individually hand-signed, so if your bill appears to have an original signature versus a photo-copied signature, then it is likely authentic. While of course there are exceptions, most modern-issue foreign paper currency doesn’t contain much value.
In summary, the above are some of the most common coins, bullion and currency that we see on a routine basis. The purpose of this article was to provide direction on coins and currency that are likely to contain value, and hope that we met our stated goal. We regularly write on various topics affecting the coin and bullion industry and welcome you to visit our blog to stay up-to-date on relevant issues. We also welcome you to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 404-236-9744 if we can be of any further assistance.