5 Reasons Why Your Coin Collection May Not Be as Valuable as You Think
“I saw on TikTok that my coin is worth $8,000! How much will you give me for it?” or “Etsy has coins in my coin collection valued at over $100,000 and I wanted to sell them”.
Funny enough, this has truly become an all too familiar opening statement from calls we’ve received regarding coins and coin collections.
In fact, we receive more than a hundred inquiries each week from prospective customers requesting appointments to sell their single coin or coin collections. In many of these cases, the individual has made some assumptions regarding the value of their coins or coin collection based on their research. Often these expected values don’t take into consideration or accurately reflect the demand and market for their coins.
This isn’t necessarily anyone’s fault, as there’s a lot of conflicting information online and many nuances in the field of coin collecting, also referred to as numismatics. These differences can dramatically affect the value or perceived value of an individual’s coins and coin collections.
Unfortunately, the values that are available online may lead some people to believe that a coin dealer is attempting to take advantage of them. This is rarely the case, especially if you’re working with a coin dealer that has a strong reputation, as their livelihood is dependent on treating individuals fairly.
It takes years for a coin dealer to build a solid reputation, so they’re unlikely to risk it by trying to purchase a single coin or collection drastically lower than its fair market value.
Thankfully, after more than a dozen years in business, we’ve helped identify some common misconceptions that individuals have regarding the value and rarity of their coin collections. Granted, this isn’t always the case, as we regularly deal in six-figure collections, but in many cases, the final appraised values may be lower than expectations.
To help provide guidance when evaluating your coins, we’re going to share with you five reasons why your coin collection may not be as valuable as you think. We hope this information will help you identify and avoid these common pitfalls.
Plus, armed with this information, you will not only feel more comfortable as you approach coin dealers with your collection but should also help you to arrive at a more accurate value for your items while also managing your own expectations.
We’ve talked in the past about using reliable resources when valuing coins, but it bears repeating here. Using unreliable resources will establish unrealistic expectations and will not only cause frustration but will limit your ability to make headway with your selected coin dealer. This is because a coin dealer isn’t likely to spend much time on a collection where he suspects the seller’s expectations are unrealistic.
When searching online, you need to be careful with the resource you’re using to establish values, as it may or may not reflect the actual value of your coins. This means that resources such as Etsy, TikTok, YouTube and many values found on eBay, or at least asking prices, should be disregarded, or at the very least, taken with a grain of salt.
Unfortunately, these are some of the first search engine results that you’re likely to see due to the popularity of these sites, which leads you to believe that they’re reliable.
While these sites offer interesting and unique items for sale, including valuable resources on how to fix a problem, they don’t focus on coins or bullion, and for the most part, shouldn’t be used when conducting your research. At the very least, don’t use them as your primary resource.
While the “blue book” gives a great idea of values, it is not exact when finding out what a coin dealer will pay for your coins. It does generally get within 10-20%.
Type of Coin
One of the common mistakes we see is that individuals tend to attribute a value to a coin based on finding a similar type of coin online. For example, they may have a US silver dollar coin from 1904, which is commonly referred to as a Morgan silver dollar. They may then wrongly assume that because they found a high value for a Morgan silver dollar online that the same value applies to their coin.
Unfortunately, this typically isn’t the case, as several factors affect the value of a certain type of coin, such as the year, where it was produced, the condition of the coin, if it has been certified, and who certified the coin. Only when taking these factors into consideration can you truly arrive at an apples-to-apples comparison.
Now, let’s delve a bit deeper into each of these factors affecting the value of coins. We hope that by going into further detail that you’ll develop a better understanding of why the value of your coins may or may not be in line with the values you found through your online research.
Year of the Coin
Having a similar coin to what you found online doesn’t provide a true sense of the value of the item. The first thing you should do is check to make sure that the year of your coin is the same as the coin that you found online. This should be an easy task to accomplish, as all modern-issued U.S. coins have prominent dates on the coin unless they are extremely worn. This can be a greater challenge if you have a foreign coin, and the date is in another language.
Keep in mind that when you’re researching different types of coins the most valuable and most popular tend to be the first coins that you see in the search engine results. For example, if you do a search for Draped Bust silver dollars, you’ll likely find an 1804 Draped Bust dollar at the top of the list of results. There were only 8 of these coins produced, with values beginning at $1 million, so this isn’t likely going to provide good comp information. The same goes with a 1913 Liberty V nickel. Only 5 of these coins were minted, as specimen coins, and will run no less than $1 million-plus as well.
If you happen to have one of these coins in your collection, you’re likely out of luck, as all these coins have been accounted for and are in high-profile coin collections or at the Smithsonian. It’s safe to say that if you have one of these coins in your collection that it’s likely a replica.
In fact, an inventory list that was recently sent to us included a 1913 Liberty V nickel, which is a sign that there may be other replicas or counterfeit coins in the collection. You can be sure that we’ll be on high alert if we end up meeting with this individual.
Mint Mark on the Coin
If you’ve come across a coin online that has the same date as your coin, you may have a valuable coin, but then, on the other hand, you may not. It’s important that you also check the coin for a mint mark, or lack thereof, to determine which mint produced the coin. The mint location can have a substantial impact on the value of the coin.
For example, an 1889 Morgan silver dollar issued by the Philadelphia mint has a value of $25 – $40 in circulated condition. The value jumps to $1,000 if it was issued by the Carson City mint.
The last example is an 1895 New Orleans Morgan silver dollar with a value of a couple of hundred dollars, increasing to over $10,000 if issued by the Philadelphia mint.
As you can see, the mint mark can dramatically affect the value of coins, even if the coins are in the same condition. The location of a mint mark varies depending on the type of coin. For example, on the Morgan silver dollar, it can be found on the reverse side (back of the coin) below the wreath between the letters “D” and “O” in “Dollar.”
The absence of a mint mark means that the coin was produced by the Philadelphia mint.
Condition of the Coins
Let’s say that your coin is the same year and mint mark as a valuable coin that you found online. If that’s the case, you’re halfway there, but there are still a couple of other factors that could affect the coin’s value. We recently wrote an article highlighting eleven coins that are common date in circulated condition and quite valuable in uncirculated condition.
Just like any other collectible, the value of a coin is based on its condition.
The condition of a coin can be quite subjective, which is why it’s important to have your coin evaluated by a coin expert. For example, would you be able to tell if your coin has been cleaned? What about altered? Most folks, when asked, comment that their coins are in great shape, but a coin dealer evaluates coins differently. They evaluate coins more objectively. Specifically, they use a 70-point scale with 1 being the worst condition and 70 being perfect condition.
To further drive home the importance of condition, one of the first questions that you’ll likely be asked by a coin dealer when you reach out is the condition of the coin. This is as important, if not more so than the other factors we’ve discussed so far. Be careful when trying to compare values online, as the condition, year, and mint mark all need to be the same.
Even then, it’s important to remember that anyone can ask whatever they would like for a coin. That doesn’t necessarily mean that someone is willing to pay this amount for it.
Folks that aren’t coin experts may have a difficult time determining the condition of their coins, as what appears to be an insignificant detail can have a substantial effect on the coin’s condition. In that case, having an unbiased third-party opinion on the condition may be helpful.
Third-Party Grading Service
One way to remove subjectivity with respect to the condition of your coin(s) is to have your coins certified by a third-party grading service (TPGS). This helps to provide both the buyer and seller assurance as to the condition, and subsequently the value, but only if the coin is certified by one of the two most reputable TPGS in the industry, namely NGC and PCGS.
Two common mistakes we frequently see from prospective customers is that they don’t take certification into consideration.
In other words, the extremely high values they find online are oftentimes certified coins, and in most cases, the finest known examples. There will be a disparity when comparing the values of those coins, versus their own coins, which are typically circulated, raw or ungraded coins. In this case, you’re comparing apples and oranges, as the value of the two coins can differ dramatically.
One other comment regarding TPGS is that not all are created equally. As we mentioned above, the two leading TPGS are NGC and PCGS. ANACS and ICG are second-tier grading services, and all other grading services are not recognized in the industry or are now defunct. This is important to remember, as the value of a coin online not only needs to have the same year, mint mark, and condition, but also the same TPGS.
Why is the TPGS so important? Many certification companies have gone out of business because their grading standards were inaccurate and inconsistent. They frequently over-graded coins, oftentimes by several grades, and failed to take into consideration alterations to the coins, such as cleaning, polishing, and/or whizzing, which all affect the value of coins. For those high-value coins, you’ll want your coin to be certified by a reputable company and solid history within the industry.
We hope this helps clear up some of the immense amount of confusing information that can be found online. It’s not uncommon for prospective customers to overestimate the value of their coins and coin collection. As we mentioned, it’s not enough that you have the same type of coin as you found online, as there are other factors that can and will affect a coin’s value.
Remember, it’s also important that the year, the mint mark, the condition, and the grade be similar as well. Even then what you find online may simply be an asking price, which may or may not reflect the actual value of a coin.
Again, list prices aren’t necessarily a good indication of a coin’s value.
Rather than spending the lion’s share of your time trying to research the value of your coins, we recommend that you create a detailed inventory list of your coins so that a coin expert can accurately value your items. If the price indication you receive falls short of your expectations, you can always obtain a second estimate. However, in most cases, the price quotes that you receive are likely much more accurate than the prices you were able to find online.
If you’re in the market for a reputable coin dealer who will provide fair and accurate pricing on your coin collection, we encourage you to reach out to us at Atlanta Gold & Coin Buyers. We have years of experience and a reputation for paying among the most competitive rates in the industry. We look forward to hearing from you and earning your business.
Give us a call today at 678-922-4909!
Happy Treasure Hunting!