We’ve addressed many aspects of selling a coin collection over the years, but one topic that we’ve only briefly touched on is how to know if you’ve received a fair price for your coin collection. Like in any field, you rely on experts. You rely on the expert’s experience, and their honesty, considering that this is their area of expertise.
Unless you are already a collector, it is impossible to educate yourself to the point of being an expert in coin collecting and numismatics. However, there are some helpful tips and guidelines. If you use the tips and guidelines you can feel reasonably comfortable that the offer you received for your coin collection is fair and competitive.
In this piece, we’re going to share with you how we evaluate and appraise coin collections. We’ll also share estimated coin prices by type of coin in hopes that you can use this information when the time comes to sell your estate collection to feel reasonably confident that you’ve received a fair price for your coin collection.
Face Value & Novelty Items
The first step a coin dealer will likely take is to separate face value and novelty items. Next, the dealer will set the trade above their face value. Some of the most common face value and novelty items we come across include 50 state quarter collections, Eisenhower dollars, Susan B. Anthony dollars, Sacagawea or Native American dollars, and Presidential dollars.
Additionally, Lincoln cents, unless rare dates, Jefferson nickels, most Buffalo nickels, gold, silver, and platinum-plated coins, common foreign coins obtained during international travel, and privately issued tokens and medals are typically face value items or close to it. The real work begins after separating the wheat from the chaff.
Bullion & Rare Coins
After removing the face value items, the next step is separating the bullion coins from rare or collectible ones. Most collections have some of both, and to the casual observer, it may not be obvious which is which. Examples of bullion coins are American silver eagles, Canadian silver maple leaf coins, and Austrian silver philharmonics. Other coins traded for their underlying silver value are Roosevelt silver dimes, 1964 Kennedy half dollars, Franklin half dollars, and Washington quarters.
Examples of coins that may trade at higher values, depending on the year, mint mark, and condition, include Morgan and Peace silver dollars, Mercury dimes, Walking Liberty half dollars, Standing Liberty quarters, and Barber dimes, quarters, and half dollars.
Other coins, typically issued before 1892 and that are obsolete or no longer used, will trade above their underlying metal content. These coins include Capped Bust and Seated Liberty half dimes, quarters, half-dollars and silver dollars, Trade silver dollars, large cents, two-cent pieces, three-cent pieces, old five-cent pieces, and twenty-cent pieces.
Lastly, most certified coins from a third-party grading service, such as NGC or PCGS graded coins, will sell above their underlying metal content. Sometimes, the additional premium may be nominal, depending on the coin type, year, and grade. This article highlights the coins most likely to benefit from coin grading.
Inspection of the Coins
As mentioned above, bullion coins trade for their underlying precious metals content, so other than determining if the coins are in retail-quality condition or are off-quality, the only other thing that your coin appraiser needs to do is price up the coins. We’ll discuss coins’ pricing in further detail later in this article.
We mentioned above some coins that may trade at higher values based on the type, year, and condition. These are coins that deserve a further look. If they are bulk coins in canvas bags, the assumption is that another coin dealer has also inspected and sorted the coins; therefore, the likelihood of finding a key date coin is not high. In these cases, your coin dealer may weigh the coins or run them through a coin counter.
However, suppose coins are separated or individually packaged, or are complete sets in albums. In that case, it’s worth seeing if any lower mintage coins are present in the collection. For example, most Mercury silver dimes are common date coins that trade for their underlying silver content. However, four coins from this series trade at a premium, including the 1916-D, 1921, 1921-D, and 1942 over 41 dimes.
Of course, all coins that trade above their metal content, including obsolete coins and some of the 19th-century coins we mentioned, should be evaluated individually and priced based on the coin expert’s findings.
Pricing of Coins – Bullion
Pricing will likely be less for more obscure items and less popular sets. These include Franklin Mint sterling silver rounds, bars, and nuggets, foreign silver coins previously used in circulation, commemorative coins, and most silver coins that are less than .999 fine. This list includes U.S. silver war nickels and 40% silver half dollars, which are some of the least popular U.S. silver coins.
Once you’re comfortable with the pricing received for the bullion coins in your collection, the next step is to price the potentially more valuable ones. Please note that, generally, coin price guides, such as the Red Book, provide high-end retail prices and are not reliable resources when determining the value of your coin collection, at least prices you’re likely to realize. In other words, take listed prices with a grain of salt.
Pricing of Coins – Semi-Numismatic
Semi-numismatic coins trade slightly or moderately above their underlying metal value. For example, at the time of this writing, Morgan and Peace silver dollars are semi-numismatic in that they trade for above their silver content, which is .774 troy ounces.
Morgan and Peace
Key date or low mintage Morgan silver dollars, such as those produced by the Carson City Mint, can trade for significantly above their precious metals value. However, even on a common date, average condition silver dollars typically trade for slightly above their silver value. Values of common date average condition Morgan and Peace dollars begin in the $20 range. Keep in mind the market is subject to change. Also, the prices realized for these coins and others are subject to change. If you have much experience with silver dollars, we recently published an article about four key areas to look at when selling silver dollars.
While most Barber half dollars trade close to bulk silver prices, these coins were widely traded and typically heavily circulated. In other words, it’s uncommon to find nice specimens of this coin. Considering that most of these coins are fairly worn, nicer examples will sell at a reasonable premium in higher-end conditions, even if the coin is a common date coin. Beginning prices for higher-end condition coins are more than double the silver value of the coins, with coins in uncirculated condition valuing out at $100 or more.
Another example of semi-numismatic coins is Seated Liberty half dimes, dimes, quarters, and half dollars. These coins were produced from the mid-19th century to the late 19th century. Other coins that fall in this category are $20 Liberty Head gold coins or Double Eagles, but we’re going to primarily limit our discussion to U.S. coins composed of silver and base metals.
While most of these coins were minted in large quantities, even common date coins sell for above their silver value. Again, the price will be based on the condition of the coin. As with Morgan and Peace dollars, some of these coins can trade at significantly higher prices if a key date, low mintage, or high-end condition coin.
Pricing of Coins – Rare or Numismatic
Rare, collectible, or numismatic coins typically trade at the highest prices. The underlying metal content of these coins oftentimes has very little to do with the value. This makes rare coin pricing the most challenging of the categories we’ve addressed thus far. We’ll briefly run through some rare or collectible U.S. Mint coins to give you an idea of potential values before selling your coin collection.
As mentioned above, some United States coins are obsolete or no longer used in circulation. These coins include half cents, large cents, two-cent pieces, three-cent nickels, three-cent silver pieces, half dimes, Shield nickels, and twenty-cent pieces.
The most common of these coins are large cents, two-cent pieces, three-cent nickels, and Shield nickels. Therefore, these have the lowest values. Many of these coins, in circulated condition, trade for less than $10 each. Typically, the most valuable are half cents, three-cent silver pieces, and twenty-cent pieces. Values for these coins tend to be more in the $20 – $50 range.
Dimes, Quarters & Half Dollars
Earlier issued U.S. dimes, quarters, and half dollars are considered numismatic coins simply due to their age. However, some of these coins can sell at substantial premiums if low mintage or in high-end condition. This category includes Flowing Hair, Draped Bust, and Capped Bust coins. While not always the case, typically, the larger the denomination, the higher the value and more popular the coin.
Capped Bust half dollars are the most collectible of these coins. This is partly due to their affordability and the number of coins produced. However, Draped Bust and Flowing Hair coins trade at higher values. While Capped Bust half dollars can trade for as little as $50, nearly any Draped Bust or Flowing Hair coin, no matter the denomination, will trade for more than $100. High-end and certified Draped Bust and Flowing Hair coins can trade for hundreds of dollars, if not more.
Silver dollars, first produced in 1794, maybe the most collectible U.S. coins. U.S. silver dollars considered numismatic coins are Flowing Hair, Draped Bust, Seated Liberty, and Trade dollars.
Seated Liberty dimes, quarters, and half dollars are semi-numismatic coins, while Seated Liberty silver dollars are considered numismatic coins. These coins trade at values of $150 or more. Trade silver dollars are more plentiful than Seated Liberty dollars. Therefore, the silver dollar trades at slightly lower values, with prices beginning at the $100 level.
Flowing Hair and Draped Bust silver dollars are the most valuable U.S. silver dollars and trade at substantial values. Values for Draped Bust silver dollars begin in the $500 range and Flowing Hair dollars at $1,000 or higher. Unfortunately, these are some of the most frequently counterfeited coins. So, don’t be surprised if your coin appraiser identifies them as replica coins and returns them to you.
In conclusion, we’ve identified some of the most common coins represented in coin collections. We provided guidelines as to how the collection should be separated, assessed, and valued. We also offered some general coin price information, with the understanding that values can range drastically depending on the specifics of the coin.
If your selected coin appraiser approaches the valuation of your coins similarly, including providing an itemized price list, you’re more likely to receive a fair price for your coin collection. However, if they don’t consider these factors, we recommend shopping around until you find someone you feel comfortable with.
At Atlanta Gold & Coin Buyers, we thoroughly evaluate all coins in a collection to help you maximize your items’ value. We take the same approach whether we’re appraising or purchasing a coin collection. We are always happy to assist in any way we can.
We’re members of the most respected third-party organizations in the industry. Some of our memberships are with the American Numismatic Association, RoundTable Trading, PCGS, and NGC, to name a few. Contact us today to receive unparalleled customer service and expert advice.