It’s quite often that we have a little box or a dusty wallet full of old coins and banknotes. We may stumble upon it during springtime cleaning or just keep it as a bunch of souvenirs, safe and half-forgotten in a cupboard. But there might come a time when you’ll be interested in selling them, while also not being sure where to start. Well, that’s probably the reason why you’ve stumbled upon this article in the first place! Stay with us – you’re in the right place to get all of your questions answered!
Selling old coins:
Find out what’s your coin worth
The very first step you should take when planning on selling your coins is to find out how much are they actually worth, or at least, what you can expect to get for them. Since the coin market is pretty significant, you won’t have much trouble finding several separate sources that can help you with that. Printed and online guides, appraisers, auctions, coin shows – there are many ways to compare your collection with others, and get a well-rounded, comprehensive idea of its value.
You may ask: ‘But why should I go through the hassle? Can’t I just walk into a dealership and make a sale?’. Well, yes, you can do that. But it’s a guaranteed way to minimize your profit. If you’re looking to make the most out of your coins, you have to learn as much as you can about them. It will give you an upper hand when it comes to price negotiations, as dealers will not likely hesitate to up their earnings on your lack of knowledge.
1. Identify the coin
To start off, you have to know what it is that you’re holding in your hands. Identifying your coins if the foundation to actually recognizing their value and potential uniqueness.
To do this job properly, make sure you’ve got a good source of light, like an overhead lamp and a magnifying glass, as some of the details you’ll have to look out for are tiny and easy to miss with a naked eye. To find out the brand of the coin, look out for the denomination, issuing country, mint mark and production year. It will give you the very basic information you need, for example, that you’re holding a US 2-dollar coin from 1879, produced in Philadelphia.
Next, examine the condition of the coin. This is when your magnifying glass is going to especially come in handy, as you’ll have to look out for really fine details and minuscule signs of damage. Are there any scratches or signs of wear on the surface? Can you clearly see all the letters and the design on both the obverse and the reverse? Keep in mind that a coin doesn’t have to be completely free of damage to have value!
Having identified both the type of your coin and its condition, you can compare it to a grading system, such as the Professional Coin Grading Service. This will give you an idea of how well-preserved your coin is. PCGS’s system is widely recognized in the US, so you shouldn’t be afraid of sounding funny when you throw a bunch of letters and numbers at your dealer or buyer.
The final product of your efforts is a piece of information, which says that you own a US 2-dollar coin from 1879, produced in Philadelphia, in MS/PR-67 condition. This already gives you plenty to work with and creates a good foundation that ensures you have what it takes to make the most out of your coin.
2. Check the coin’s value
If all the information you’ve had already collected on your coin seems insufficient to you, that’s because you’re right – it’s time to go deeper!
Once you know a bit about your coin, it’s time to take it to the wider world. That is, to compare it with others of the same type and find out the closest estimate to how much your coin is worth.
If you’re looking to sell US coins, a good place to start is The Official Red Book. It’s a respected and well-established guide to American coins released annually, used by hobbyists and professionals in the field. Sure, it’s an investment, but if you’re looking to make a really good profit, it’s sometimes necessary to first put some money into it.
Another good place to determine the value of your coin is the Internet. Go to Ebay, Amazon, Facebook Marketplace as well as thematic websites, to find out how much similar coins are selling for. Don’t be afraid to ask questions at online forums or Facebook groups – that’s what they’re for!
Lastly, you should consider visiting coin shows, meetings, seminars and conferences. There are plenty of them taking place all over the USA and the world. Not only you might find out more about your coins, but you might also meet a potential buyer!
3. Bullion or a collectible?
Broadly speaking, you can divide coins into two price-based types: bullion and collectibles. The price of the former is determined by its precious metal content, the latter’s, by factors such as rarity, exceptionally good condition or age.
What does that mean to you? If you own a coin, it may have a certain value as bullion. However, it might be rare or highly sought after and as a result, its price might be way higher than the precious metals it contains.
4. Get your coins graded
If doing research on your own is not exactly your forte, or you just don’t have the time for it, you can always get someone to help you. And we’re not talking a friend or a neighbor (although if they know a thing or two about coins, then that might be a good idea!). We’re talking about appraisal and grading services. For a fee, they can professionally evaluate your collection. It will allow you to fully realize the value of your coins without you lifting your finger, other than to provide them with your coins and confirm the payment. PCGS, which we mentioned earlier, offers such services. It’s a good place to start, but make sure to have a look in your local area for similar businesses. If you do that, however, make sure to do some research – read the reviews and ask around. That’s the best way to avoid a scam.
Who to sell coins to
Now that you know everything about your coins, from exact specifications to predicted value, it’s time to sell! There are several types of places you can go to – we’ll cover each of them below. We would like to advise you to compare as many baskets as possible before you put all your eggs into one.
1. “Near me” services
It sure does feel nice to get something done quickly. It takes a couple of minutes to walk to your nearest convenience store, or book flight tickets a week before departure, without prior planning. The thing is, convenience often costs more than if you took some time to use a cheaper option. And while in the two cases above you lose money by overpaying, when it comes to coins, you lose by getting less.
“Near me” services are a bit like that. Good when you need to make some quick cash, not necessarily the best if you want to make the most out of your coins.
This is not to say that there are no good “near me” services and that by using them you’re always going to get a worse value. However, if you’re looking to maximize your profit, we advise you to look further and further than what’s in your local area.
2. Selling bullion
Bullion is pretty much precious metal in coin form. However, if you’re selling it purely as gold or silver, the condition of your coins can still impact the price. After all, no one would pick a scratched, worn disc of metal over a shiny one, even if its only purpose is to store wealth in.
The best way to sell your gold or silver bullion is to start by tracking changes in precious metal prices. Sometimes it’s better to wait for several months or even a year (unless you’re in need for some quick cash), as, for example, gold prices tend to change slowly. Slow pace of change makes it easier to identify growth or decrease trends and make the best decision as to when to start the process of selling.
Our advice to you is basically the same as with anything else we’re covering in this article – do your research! Take some time to find dealerships, whether online or physical, that offer the best price, and sell your coins to them. Remember – you should be looking to get the spot price or the price that’s closest to it.
3. Selling collectibles
Collectibles and numismatics are a much more specialized branch of the old coin business. If you know that you have some rarities, then taking your collection to a dealer is not going to be enough. While dealerships might have knowledge about rare coins, it is their job to increase their cut as much as it’s possible. You stand a much better chance of getting a really good price for your numismatics if you take them to people passionate about them, who are ready to shell out a nice sum to increase their collection.
What does that mean in practice? Go to coin shows frequented by rare coin aficionados. Talk to them on online groups and forums. Set up pages and auctions on retail sites such as Ebay and Amazon.
‘Diamonds are forever’ sang Shirley Bassey in a James Bond movie. Coins are actually pretty much forever, too. Banknotes, on the other hand, are not. Quite the contrary – it takes one uncautious move for it to rip in two. In the long run, they are susceptible to humidity and mold. The oldest known banknote dates back to around 1375 and originated in current China. And while it is a significant piece of history, it looks as if it could fall apart at a single bad glance. The oldest known coin, on the other hand, the Lydian Lion, is about 2,000 years older than the note and still looks stern.
Sadly, banknotes don’t stand the test of time. Being highly perishable doesn’t, however, mean that there is no demand for notes! Unfortunately, and contrary to coins, the market pretty much ends there. Since notes cannot be sold as bullion, their only value lies in their rarity and condition.
When selling banknotes, our advice is to treat them in the same as you would coins. Banknotes have plenty of enthusiasts. There are a plethora of websites devoted to rare notes, as well as listings on online retail sites. Use them to your advantage to identify your banknotes, find out their value and, ultimately, sell them for profit! Keep in mind that researching places for finalizing a sale will make a huge impact on the final value you’ll get!