Best way to sell a gold coin collection?
August 13, 2013 10:12 AM   Subscribe

My elderly father has spent all of his savings in recent months – around $200,000 – buying expensive coins. Most are gold, some are silver and platinum. Some are bullion; most are old and "rare." His collection was fun and interesting for a while, but now it has become a source of stress to him. He has no money left in the bank, and has decided he doesn’t want to keep the coins. It looks like Dad was skillfully played by slick sales reps, but I haven’t seen evidence yet that he has been defrauded. He has asked me to sell the coins for him. What’s the best way to sell a bunch of expensive coins?

There are several lessons to be learned here, but my question is not about the wisdom of buying valuable coins or the best way invest in them. That is over. The question now is how best to sell them. The dealer he bought them from is not interested in buying them back.

I am looking for resources and advice on how best to sell dozens of assorted collectible gold, silver, and platinum silver coins for him. Most are graded, certified, slabbed coins. Some are “raw.” My eBay seller score is around 200, with 100% positive feedback. Would I likely net more for him on eBay than by selling these to dealers? What’s the best process for working with local or distant dealers? Any recommendations for specific dealers to contact, or how to find out a dealer’s reputation? Online valuation services?
posted by spockmuppet to Grab Bag (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Just so you know, everything I've learned about this I learned watching Pawn Stars...

I would say you'd have a better shot of at the very least breaking even on Ebay. If you go back to a dealer, odds are he/she is just going to quote you a number well under retail that allows him/her to turn the coin over and make a profit.
posted by Fukiyama at 10:28 AM on August 13, 2013

Cannot speak to the coins but it sounds like you might be also dealing with dementia and it might be time to manage his affairs to limit future excitement.
posted by leslies at 10:49 AM on August 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

Red flag! If the dealer he bought them from is not willing to buy them back then i would be very careful about representing the coins properly. Some may be fake. I would try to find a local numismatic club and ask if you can attend a meeting, or ask a few members who they would trust for an appraisal. FWIW you should at least be able to get scrap value at any pawn shop, and you can look up scrap value in a lot of places.
posted by Gungho at 10:54 AM on August 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

Not answering the question, but beware of a couple things - the price of gold has fallen about a third in the last year after skyrocketing by five times over the last decade. Make of that what you will. To me, it looks like a bubble and I'd get out of gold ASAP, but that's me.

Also, whenever you're dealing with small expensive items, be very aware of fraud. I tried to sell a couple $150 gift cards on eBay and was IMMEDIATELY hit with a sloppy try at stealing them from me. I'd read up on fraud and probably insist on using an escrow provider for anything like expensive coins.
posted by cnc at 11:10 AM on August 13, 2013

Mod note: Folks, OP is not anon, it's okay to send non-answers to them directly.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:16 AM on August 13, 2013

Best answer: Be aware of something called the "premium" on bullion -- if you sell it at scrap value, the buyer usually charges a little premium, or profit, on it, usually just a couple percent, up to a bunch. If you've got genuine coins, people are actually selling coins on eBay for up to 20% more than their scrap price, which is a pretty good rate. Unfortunately, if your father was buying from unscrupulous dealers, they may have charged him a high premium when they sold the gold to him, which -- if the gold was at its peak -- may mean he won't get anywhere near the price today. Holding on to the coins until the price goes back up may be the only way to recoup what your father spent on the coins.

With that sort of loss in the global price of gold in play, picking up a couple extra percent via eBay, with its inherent very-risky risks, isn't worth it. If you just want to sell the gold and get quick money, go to a coin shop, or second-best, a pawn shop, and get what they'll give you as scrap. It might be 10% less than today's gold spot price, but it's better than the gold sitting in a sock drawer for a couple years.

I believe it's difficult to trust an online valuation service; anyone who grades off photos emailed is missing valuable information and their opinion should be taken with a grain of salt.
posted by AzraelBrown at 11:19 AM on August 13, 2013

One more consideration - eBay seller's premium + PayPal fees will take 13% off the top of anything you sell there. Not sure how much selling you do on eBay, but -13% is a daunting figure and needs to factor in any decision you make. Sorry.
posted by mosk at 11:29 AM on August 13, 2013

Best answer: You will never get top dollar from dealers. Especially not when they have to take on the risk of the price of precious metals going down and also have to sell on at a mark up. In addition, they negotiate professionally, so you may get as little as half what you paid back from them.

The reason the dealer doesn't want them back doesn't have to be because they're fake. The dealer's just shifted a whole bunch of stock, some or much of which will not be great stock, at a decent mark up when gold was riding high. He absolutely does not want to have a conversation with an angry buyer about why this fabulous investment opportunity has just halved in value. Diamond merchants play the same game.

Be aware that the price of gold is taking a kicking at the moment, as others have said. Do your research. You are basically having to either sell with the market or hold onto some % of your gold with the view that the price will go back up. But because the price is going down, an awful lot of mom and pop "investors" are coming to the view that their savings in gold are not as rock solid as they might have seemed.

Take your gold round and get some quotes. But above all, do your research. If - if - there is rare stuff in the collection then you need to know that before you sell it because any qualified buyer will jump on stuff that is undervalued and being sold for its metal value only.

I would also suggest talking to a lawyer. Your dad clearly has been taken for an almighty ride and given the hit you'll take on his life savings trying to offload this gold I'd want to do some basic due diligence on whether something fishy had gone on.
posted by MuffinMan at 11:36 AM on August 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

My husband has spent a great deal of time and effort in the last year liquidating his late father's extensive coin collection. I'll see if I can get him to write up an answer here later on tonight, but he might feel more comfortable discussing by email. MeMail me if this of interest to you.

For the time being, though: I would definitely NOT go the ebay route to start. First step I think is to get to a reputable coin dealer or two for an appraisal of the collection. There are also sites where you can doublecheck the recent history of prices for specific coins at specific grades at auction to see if they're even remotely consistent with what the dealer is telling you. At the very least I should be able to get some resources from him to put on the green this evening. Stay tuned.
posted by Sublimity at 11:42 AM on August 13, 2013

My son-in-law's parents are heavily into flipping coins (mostly gold) for profit, and they do almost all of their reselling on Ebay.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:40 PM on August 13, 2013

Red flag! If the dealer he bought them from is not willing to buy them back

I see nothing in spockmuppet's question indicating this happened.

Would I likely net more for him on eBay than by selling these to dealers?

Maybe. Why not try, since you're already an eBay seller? I'm not, and that sounds like a lot of hassle to me -- I'd just take a sample 'round to my local coin shop, and then to another, for comparison.

the price of gold has fallen about a third in the last year after skyrocketing by five times over the last decade

Appears to me it hit bottom last month, and is on the rise again.
posted by Rash at 1:55 PM on August 13, 2013

> Some are bullion; most are old and "rare."

Deal with the bullion differently than the old/rare coins:
  • Sell bullion at a local "precious metals" store. Here's an example in the Portland Oregon area (not affiliated in any way).
  • Old and rare coins would be sold for "numismatic value" and is a much more complicated area.

posted by sarah_pdx at 2:41 PM on August 13, 2013

Best answer: So, I was in a similar situation but with a dad that had a life-long fascination with rare coins. He was active in numismatic associations before he had kids. My dad gave me pretty specific instructions before his dementia got too bad for how to sell them. He would go to coin shows and make bids online for rare coins ($50 to $5000 sorts of coins). He mostly worked with Heritage Auctions and recommended that I use them to divest after he was gone. They work with the really high-end stuff that is usually encapsulated by professional organization (PCSG or NGC). Heritage takes a percentage of the sale and charges the buyer a percentage as well (you can negotiate that even if it doesn't seem like you can). The auctions happen every couple of months and the auctioneers will know which time and location would be best for your specific type of coin. I can send you a private message with contact information for the person my dad most closely worked with.

In general, the high-end coins are doing really well right now due to rich people trying to find a good place to put their money while interest rates are so low. It does depend on what kinds of coins (USA, foreign, ancients, rare or just worth their gold weight) on who can help you.
posted by BearClaw6 at 7:02 AM on August 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

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