What to do with an old coin collection?
September 8, 2006 6:14 PM   Subscribe

Should I sell my COIN COLLECTION, and how would I go about it?

I have a large collection of old American coins. I'd purchased many as a kid, but the majority of them that hold any significant value are a large number of silver Morgan Dollars and Peace Dollars that I'd found in a cigar box after my grandmother died in 1989. My question is in two parts....

(1) Should I sell the coin collection? With interest rates at, say, ING Direct, now at 4.25%, and with other invesements types out there too (like mutual funds), it seems to me that I could make better money those ways instead. The value of old coins don't go up more than 4% annually, do they?

(2) How would I go about selling them? Not only do I not have the expertise, but I have so many of those silver dollars too that it'd be much too time-consuming for me to look up and estimate each one's value myself. But, if I take them to a dealer, how I do I know if he or she will be suggesting the proper price for each piece? I don't want to get conned, of course. What would you recommend?

Thank you!
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (8 answers total)
I would be very careful about a dealer they want to pay as little as they can, and in my opinion may not be trustable maybe ebay? I would definitely put the effort into each one as there may be that rare one in there and if you don't find it someone else will make the money off it. And keep a few for sentiments sake.
posted by Iron Rat at 7:10 PM on September 8, 2006

Your first step is to buy a book and/or read some websites to learn a little about the dysfunctional world of grading.

Remember that prices are determined by the market. The price in a book may not be what you get. The price a dealer will sell a coin for will be higher than the price they can pay you for it (they have to make a living, after all).

If you think a coin may be particularly valuable or rare, you might consider having it slabbed (graded and sealed with a certificate), although that can be controversial as well. You could also find someone in your area to do an independent professional appraisal.
posted by gimonca at 7:40 PM on September 8, 2006

You are correct that traditional investments are a better way to save and earn money.
posted by gimonca at 7:42 PM on September 8, 2006

PCGS Price Guide: Morgan Dollars. Note the wide range in prices. Also note that some prices are marked as currently rising or falling.

If your Morgans have been rolling around in a cigar box for some time, it seems somewhat unlikely that they would be in the top grades in this chart.
posted by gimonca at 7:57 PM on September 8, 2006

The problem, as you've said, is that antique collectors can easily shark anyone who doesn't know what he's got. This is where eBay shines: It levels the playing field. Just put up as much information as you can, along with a couple of pictures, and let the market determine a price.

That's what I'd do, if I were you. EBay.
posted by cribcage at 8:01 PM on September 8, 2006

eBay is a huge hassle for a large collection.

Find three dealers.
Make each one of them apppraise a third of your collection, telling them "this is just a sample, there is more".
Then rotate each third around twice more.
I'll bet one of them will show you the reference books of the trade and will offer the best deal.

Otherwise, sell each third to the one who offers the most.
posted by bru at 7:59 AM on September 9, 2006

You can have coins graded by the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation for about $12 per coin.

Using resources online to determine which coins have the highest potential value as suggested above might give you a subset of coins to have professionally graded and valued.

I'm really not sure what your coins will be worth. If they're looking like $20 versus $2,000, perhaps you should group a bunch into a single auction?

Search eBay for matches of your coins. See what the market value is that way, since it's all nice and good to know that a coin is "valued" a certain way, but eBay is what actual *people* are paying. The highest ones should be graded—professional grading will net higher returns, so it'll definitely be worth the $12.55 on those.

Oh, and IANANumismatic.
posted by disillusioned at 8:13 AM on September 9, 2006

My answer for Best way to sell comic books?
Fact is, a fair price has as much to do with your expertise as it does with objective valuation.
As far as I can tell, collectables are collectables. Well, not exactly.. There are old markets for established collectables, and new markets for the latest fad in collectables. They look different from each other, but it has surprisingly little to do with the items being collected.

Consider, once you have invested the time required to understand the coin market to the point that you can sell your collection for "a good price", you will be in a much better position to invest profitably in coins than stocks.
posted by Chuckles at 12:54 PM on September 9, 2006

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