In the U.S., the most common coins traded are U.S. coins and bullion, which of course makes sense considering that we’re located in the United States. However, there are plenty of individuals that collect foreign coins or have received them through an inheritance. While it’s relatively easy to find a list of better date U.S. coins that may sell at a premium, it’s more difficult to find this information on foreign coins. There are of course resources, such as the Krause Manual, but typically these values reflect retail prices, are out of date, or don’t currently reflect the market for these coins.
Furthermore, as we’ve discussed in the past, merely searching for a coin online isn’t necessarily going to provide you with accurate price information nor will it tell you the current market or demand for your foreign coins or coin collection. Much like other specialized fields, it normally takes an expert to provide a proper assessment of the value of your foreign coins.
Foreign Coin Factors to Consider
Considering the nuances associated with foreign coins, commonly referred to as international or world coins, it may be in your best interest to sell your foreign coins to a foreign coin dealer or a coin buyer that is well versed in foreign coins to maximize the value of your collection. If the coin dealer that you’re working with doesn’t have a background or knowledge of foreign coins, you’ll likely receive much less than you should. Many coin dealers make offers for your foreign coins based on the gold, silver, or platinum content of the coins. While this approach may be appropriate in most cases, especially since a majority of modern-issued foreign gold, silver and platinum coins were produced in high quantities, this isn’t always the case.
In some cases, you may have a foreign coin that on the surface appears to be pedestrian, but based on the year and where it was produced, commonly referred to as a mint mark, it could be quite valuable. In particular, a number of old foreign silver coins minted in the 1600’s, 1700’s and early 1800’s from countries such as Russia, Spain, Germany, France, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, and some of the Eastern European block countries can sell for quite a premium.
Many of these coins are scarce as a result of the low mintage of the coins; however, factors other than the overall mintage of the coins can play a large determining factor in the value of the foreign coins that you wish to sell. As mentioned above, the year and where the coin was produced are factors. Other factors include the condition of the coin, if it has been cleaned or altered, if the coin is certified or professionally graded and if a coin has been attributed to a famous collector or coin hoard find.
The foreign coin dealer that you’re considering should be able to evaluate your foreign coins based on these factors and explain how and why they arrived at certain pricing for your coins.
What Makes a Foreign Coin Valuable
We’ve already touched on this briefly, but we are frequently asked what makes a foreign coin valuable? Generally speaking, four factors will affect the value of foreign coins. The base metal of the coin, if gold, silver, or platinum has intrinsic value due to the precious metals content. Selling foreign coins merely for their precious metals value can be quite profitable, as gold, silver and platinum have been performing well in recent years due in large part to economic uncertainty, a shaky banking system and an explosion in the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet.
Secondly, the coin may have features that make it susceptible to wear. Coins that were minted with a shallow relief can result in many of the details being worn away in a relatively short period of time. Many foreign coins that were minted in the 17th and 18th century are relatively shallow relief coins due to the technology, or lack thereof, that was being used at the time to mint coins. Most of the details of the coins are no longer present unless the coins were properly preserved. Older coins with sharp strikes and those that have a high relief can trade for substantially more than low or standard relief coins.
Thirdly, countries, on occasion, have melted coins due to an error, a change in design, or to make gold, silver, or platinum available for the mintage of future coins. Case in point is the 1904 and 1905 50 Centesimos from Panama. The reported mintage of these coins is 1.8 million and 1 million, respectively. This appears to be a large
mintage, which is in fact the case; however, in 1931, 1 million of these coins were melted so that the San Francisco mint had ample silver available to mint Panamanian coins this year.
To use a U.S. example, a substantial amount of Morgan silver dollars were melted down in response to the Pittman Act of 1918. An estimated 270 million coins found their way to the melting pot to help supplement the war efforts.
The term best used to describe these coins is survivability, or the number of coins that still exist today. Note that the actual number of coins remaining is impossible to know for certain. One of the best ways to determine the existing number of coins is by looking at the population reports of the major third-party grading services to see how many coins have been certified in all grades.
Last, but not least, is the year the coins were produced, and which mint produced them. In certain years, a limited number of coins were struck, which typically occurred in times of war and during times of economic hardship, such as the Great Depression. Most countries had a primary mint that produced a majority of the coins, but in some cases, smaller mints or those that were part of separate states or territories produced their own coins.
Furthermore, in the past, some countries relied on other countries to produce their coins, such as Australia with some British gold sovereigns and the U.S. for Philippines coins when they were a U.S. territory. Some of these “foreign-issued” coins are sought after by collectors.
Foreign Coins That Aren’t Valuable
We’ve talked a bit about some valuable foreign coins and the factors that make foreign coins valuable, but there are many foreign coins that aren’t valuable. In fact, this is the case more times than not.
Foreign coins that aren’t valuable are typically those composed of base metals, such as nickel, copper or aluminum that were minted in the 20th century or later. This means that the coins that your parents or grandparents collected during their international travels are likely low value coins…unless they specifically purchased the coins as investment coins while overseas.
Other coins that tend to have limited or no value are obsolete coins. These are coins that are no longer being used in that particular country or that are from a country that no longer exists. As an example, most of Europe is now on the Euro. This means that your old Spanish pesetas, Italian liras and German marks are no longer legal tender and are more or less novelty items. Keep in mind that this doesn’t apply to coins that contain precious metals, which will always have value.
While the U.S. produced coins with 90% silver content up until 1964, most foreign countries debased their coins of precious metals much earlier. This means that in most cases, even if a coin appears to be gold or silver, the chances are it’s likely just gold or silver in color – not content. While not a hard and fast rule, most countries eliminated silver from their coins produced for general circulation in the 1950’s and gold from their coins in the early 1900’s.
In summary, when it comes time to sell foreign coins, it makes sense to reach out to a foreign coin dealer or at least a coin dealer that has some familiarity with foreign or world coins. While many foreign coins trade for their underlying precious metals value, there are some exceptions. It’s these exceptions that can potentially make a big difference in the value that you receive for your foreign coin collection. Don’t leave money on the table by working with just any coin dealer.
Atlanta Gold & Coin Buyers is a regular buyer of all types of foreign coins; most notably gold, silver, platinum and palladium. If you have a foreign coin collection that consists of these types of coins, reach out to us today at 404-236-9744. We look forward to hearing from you and earning your business!