The thought of selling a coin collection that has been left as part of an estate or as an inheritance can be overwhelming; especially for individuals that are unfamiliar with the field of numismatics. The natural inclination of many people is to categorize each and every coin in the collection, but the thought of doing so may be overwhelming; especially when handling a collection that consists of thousands of coins. Most executors don’t have days or even weeks to complete such a task. Even those individuals that do may be stuck with the lingering feeling that their efforts may be in vain, and oftentimes, that’s the case. We’ve worked in the past with individuals that have itemized coin collections compiling lists in excess of a hundred of pages only to find that their efforts were for the most part non-productive. In this piece, we’re going to provide our readers with four simple steps they can take to reduce the stress of organizing and selling a coin collection, with the added bonus of potentially realizing a higher payout for your coins and currency.
U.S. or Foreign Coins
The first step is to group your coins by those produced in the United States and outside of the U.S., commonly referred to as foreign or international coins. Most U.S. coins should be pretty easy to identify, but there are obsolete coins and denominations that are no longer used in circulation today that may be unfamiliar to you, such as half cent, two cent, three cent and twenty cent pieces. Additionally, if dealing in paper currency, you may come across fractional bills and larger bills that are no longer in production. Fortunately, most U.S. minted coins and currency include the words “United States of America.” As far as foreign coins go, we recommend that you group all of these coins together in a broad category. If the collection includes a nominal amount of foreign coins, separating the coins by country might be helpful, but this isn’t necessarily required.
Denomination of the Coins
Once you’ve sorted the coins and currency by U.S. or foreign, the next step is to sort your U.S. coins and currency by denomination. In other words, we recommend that you group like coins together, such as pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, half dollars and silver dollars. Again, some older collections may be composed of obsolete coinage, so be on the lookout for these coins. If that’s the case, attempt to group these coins together to the best of your ability. Most rare coin dealers will evaluate a collection by denomination, so this is one of the most helpful ways to organize a collection for a coin expert.
Sort by Coin Type
Within each denomination of coins, there are usually several different coin types. For example, there are six different types of dimes, including the Draped Bust dime, the Capped Bust dime, the Seated Liberty dime, the Barber dime, the Mercury dime and the Roosevelt dime. It’s not that important that you know the names and years of mintage for each coin, but it is helpful if the coins are organized by type. The easiest way to do this is to identify the image on the front and back of the coin and sort the coins in this fashion. Word of caution, there are some coins that have the same image on the reverse of the coin, so be sure to check both sides of the coin when sorting. With a few exceptions, most coin types contain lower mintage coins that may sell at a premium, so it’s easiest for your coin expert to reference his or her research materials by category as opposed to haphazardously researching different coin types.
Contrary to popular belief, the age of a coin doesn’t necessarily make it rare. Rather, the total mintage and survivorship of the coin are the primary contributing factors. Additionally, the underlying metal content and condition of the coin can affect the value of a coin. Without a background in the field of numismatics, it may not be possible for you to identify which coins may be more valuable due to their rarity, so we’ve developed a rare coin guide to assist with this process. If you’re able to identify the potentially more valuable coins from your collection in advance of an appointment, you can be sure that the coin dealer with whom you’re working doesn’t accidentally look past a valuable coin, or at the very least, will help to keep him or her honest. If you have the time to do so, this effort may be a good use of your time.
In conclusion, we’ve discussed four steps that most individuals can take to help reduce the stress of organizing and selling a coin collection. We recommend that you first separate your collection by U.S. and foreign coins. Once you’ve done so, we then suggest sorting your coins by denomination. Within each denomination of coin should be several different coin types. It’s not necessary that you be able to identify each coin type; merely that you’re able to separate the coins based on the image on the front and back of the coins. Lastly, for those individuals who are interested in identifying potentially more valuable coins in advance of your appointment, we’ve provided a resource for you to do so. Following the above steps should not only help to reduce a good bit of the stress associated with organizing a coin collection, but may also result in a higher payout once the time comes to cash in your collection. For more helpful tips and educational resources, we recommend visiting our blog.