Reasons For Selling Coins

Weather you are looking to sell granddad's old tin can full of coins, or a high value collection that has been passed down for generations; there are a number of factors you need to consider first.  You will come across many people in the numismatic industry who love to 'help' unsuspecting recipients of valuable rare coins and if you don't know what you are doing they may offer you far less than your collection is truly worth.  There are also different ways you can go about selling coins and the method you choose will greatly depend on the type and value of the coins you hold.  In this respect it is important to understand the value of any coins or numismatic items before you even consider selling them.  I hope to give you a few quick pointers that will help guide you in the right direction to get the best price for the coins you are looking to sell.


First, Understand Coin Collecting From The Buyers Perspective

When selling anything it is important to understand it from the buyers perspective and coins are no different.  If you can see what drives a collector it will help you understand what youre coins are worth and how best to sell them.  You wouldn't sell a car if you had no idea what it was worth, first you would take a look around at similar cars with similar mileage and gauge an average price. With cars we know there are a few things that determine their value such as, model, age, miles and condition.  In the same way there are a number of factors that go into determining a coins value and it's important that you learn what these things are first.  

A mistake often made by those who happen across an old coin is the assumption that because of the old mintage date it is somehow worth a lot of money.  The misunderstanding that old coins are automatically valuable is one of the most common sources of disappointment I see.  Let me dispel this myth right now; age does not determine value in the rare coin market and in fact rarity does not even determine value in the rare coin market!  There are 3 factors you need to understand that drive the numismatic industry and these are what buyers of coins are looking for.


1.  Rarity

This is an important factor but not as important as some might think.  Rarity can actually be looked at in a couple of different ways.  There is the actual rarity of the coin which is a reflection of how many specimens exist.  Lets say there are only 10 examples of a particular coin left in existence.  It would be a truly rare coin.  But what if 8 of those coins were held in museums?  That would leave only 2 coins available to collectors and would significantly increase their value.  We now have an extremely rare coin.  So when selling coins we don't just look at how many exist we also look at how many exist 'on the market'.

2. Grade

This is one of the most important factors when considering the value of a coin and is something a collector will scrutinise before handing over any cash.  For that reason it is important to not only know the grade of your coin but also make sure any prospective buyers have the opportunity to see the grade for themselves. Coins are generally graded using a numeric system called the Sheldon grading system.  They are rated from 1 to 70 with 1 being a coin that is worn flat to 70 being perfection.  Generally coins graded 60 and higher are considered as being in mint or uncirculated condition.  Obviously the higher the grade the more buyers are going to pay and it is vital that you give accurate information regarding this.  For rare coins in the high mint states a difference in price for a coin in MS66 and one in MS67 could be several thousands of dollars.  The reason for this is that coins generally become rarer exponentially as the grades rise.  

If you truly believe you have a high value coin on your hands I suggested getting them graded and certified by one of the trusted third party grading companies (TPGs).  These companies will independently grade your coin and then encapsulate them in a tamper proof 'coin slab'.  This is very important if you are selling on sites such as ebay as it will alow your buyer to purchase with far more confidence thus resulting in higher bids.  It is very difficult to accurately grade coins from photographs, even very high quality photos and many collectors will either ignore coins that are not slabbed or will bid with the assumption that the coin is several grades lower than the sellers claim.  

Another reason to get your coins graded by a third party company is to prove that they are real.  Some coins can fetch hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars and when there is money like this changing hands there will always be crooks to take advantage.  Counterfeit coins are an ever growing problem and getting coins certified not only helps prove they are real it also provides insurance for the buyer if it is later found that they are fake.  This gives them piece of mind and will help encourage them to buy.  There are two TPGs I would recommend as they are the most trusted graders in the United States (including for most world coins) and buyers will pay the highest premium for this trust.  They are the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) and The Numismatic Coin Grading Company (NCGS). 

3. Desirability

Desirability is often driven by the first two factors but can also be affected by trends and simply what is most popular.  Some coins are just not as popular as others and this has an impact on how many people choose to collect them.  It can give buyers a great opportunity to acquire rarer coins at lower prices with the hope that one day trends will change but obviously the reverse could be true for the current popular coins.  

It's not important to worry too much about which coins are most popular, simply realise that the thing which ultimately drives the price of a given coin at a given grade is supply and demand.  One way to get an idea for this is to search around online.  Lookup your coin on ebay and at some of the online dealer sites.  If you find many examples currently for sale then collectors can afford to be choosy and they will be driving the price for your coin.  If, however, you can't find any example of your coin, this is a very good sign.  It means collectors are probably waiting for an opportunity to buy and when you put yours up for sale there may be many who jump on it.  Some coins are so scarce that examples only become available once every few decades and these will typically sell at astronomical prices.



Valuing Coins Prior to Selling Them

So once you have taken the points above into consideration you now need to find out what your coins are worth.  You can start with a simple search on ebay.  Look at the completed listings to see what they have sold for in the past.  Also check sites such as PCGS as they provide an indication of value on most coins by grade.  If you are really serious about finding out the value of your collection and delving deeper into understanding the hobby then I recommend investing in a copy of The Red book which will give you accurate estimates of US coin values for 2013.  This is the bible of US coin collecting and most countries will have an equivalent book for their coins and a simple search online should point you in the right direction if youre coins are from another country.

Another way to find out the value of a coin or collection of coins is to take them into a dealer for appraisal.  There is nothing wrong with doing this but I would never consider selling coins without at least investigating the values myself first.  If you just want to get rid of them, then at least get more than one appraisal from different dealers.  An easy way to get several dealers to look at your collection is at a coin fair where you can simply go from dealer to dealer.

Where to Sell Coins

The answer to this question will depend on what you are selling and how much value you wish to wring out of it.  Here are my thoughts on the three most common ways to sell.

Direct to a dealer 

This is the easiest way to offload your coins but will possibly yield the lowest price.   You are selling to a middle man who also needs to make a profit on the coin and won't pay the actual market value.  He is well within his rights to offer a lower price for your coins so don't be offended if he pays lower prices than those listed in the Red Book.  You also need to make sure the dealer is trustworthy and has given a proper appraisal of your collection.

On eBay

This is a great way to sell coins that are worth a few dollars up to several hundred dollars, or even a few thousand if slabbed by a third party grading service.  Here you are selling direct to the collector who may be willing to pay a premium for a coin they have been waiting to fill a gap in their collection.  I believe this is the best way to get the most when selling coins of moderate value.

At a Numismatic Auction

This is the best way to sell very high value coins that are worth tens of thousands to millions.  Obviously buyers would be wary spending this amount of cash on a site like ebay if they didn't already know or trust the seller but at a high end auction house they will be more than willing.  However, I don't believe this is the way to sell more common items that are worth only a few hundred dollars as buyers in this range are looking for bargains at auctions.  Only sell rare and highly sought after coins at auction and you are likely to do well.

Good Luck Selling Your Coins

Thanks for taking the time to read my Selling Coins page.  I wish you the best of luck selling your coins and hope you are able to get the best price possible for them.  Remember that in numismatics as with all things, knowledge is power and I highly recommend reading up as much as you can before taking any action.  Your coins have probably spent many years growing in value so a few more weeks or months won't hurt.  

The other option to selling coins is to keep them!  I love coin collecting and would recommend the hobby to anyone who has an interested.  So the coins you have now could be a great base for a life long passion.