The rise of the internet, online dealers, and social media have made coin collecting far more accessible over the past few decades. Accumulating a diverse collection from numerous sources has never been easier. For many, though, selling coin collections remains a daunting task. The intimidating nature of selling coins is especially true for those who inherit coins and have little or no familiarity with them to start. This article will give you some insight into not only how to sell a coin collection but where to sell a coin collection. Reading this piece will provide you with some guidance into best practices when considering selling a collection, like how to handle and organize your coins, as well as who can assist in this endeavor, from your local coin shop to professional numismatists, and more! No one approach may work for everyone or every collection, but being well informed and having a strategy is vital.
Why People Sell Their Coins
People sell coins for various reasons, and in some cases, those reasons determine the best way to sell. Some people keep all or part of their emergency funds in silver and gold and sell pieces when the need for extra cash arises. Others saved their coins for a significant life event or purchase, such as retirement, and are ready to convert their collections back to money. Still, more may have alternative investment opportunities.
One of the most common reasons that people sell collections is because they are inherited. Coins and collections passed down to loved ones may have little or no meaning to the heirs, who may simply prefer cash. In other cases, heirs may need some money, whether for the deceased’s final expenses or different needs in their lives. Whatever the case may be, collectors and their heirs may decide not to hold onto their collections forever, and they must know what to do when the time comes to sell.
When selling individual coins or complete collections, there are some basic things to keep in mind that can make the process run smoothly. Some common mistakes should be avoided at all costs. Here are some of the essentials of making the process run as smoothly as possible.
Understand Terms and Definitions
Coin sellers should make a point of understanding some basic terminology. The value of collectible coins is determined by two factors: numismatic and bullion value. “Bullion value” is the melt value of the coin, meaning the gold or silver in it is worth. “Numismatic value” is what, if anything, makes the coin special. What makes a coin special could be age, an error, rarity, condition, etc. Coins without any bullion value may have a high numismatic value.
Sellers should also be familiar with coin grades and the terms “dealer” and “appraisal.” An appraisal is simply a professional opinion on the value of a specific coin or collection. A dealer is a business that sells coins as its primary function. Note that some businesses, such as pawnshops, may sell coins, but they are not dealers. These types of companies typically offer well below the value of the coins or collections.
Don’t Clean Your Coins
Some sellers may be tempted to clean old or tarnished coins. Even when done correctly, this can dramatically reduce the value of a coin. Sellers have often cost themselves hundreds and in some cases far more, by cleaning coins.
How to Handle Your Coins
Coins should typically be kept in protective packaging, be that plastic flips, wraps, or, in the case of graded coins, slabs. Sellers should wear cotton gloves when handling the coins and avoid touching them with bare hands. Scratch testing coins, knocking them together, or otherwise exposing them even to minor scratches or abrasions can in some cases greatly diminish the value of a coin.
Take Photos of Each Coin Individually
Sellers should photograph each coin that they plan to sell. Photographing makes record-keeping easier and facilitates online appraisals, as descriptions of coins will not be easily confused. For online or other remote sales, this also helps to clarify precisely what the purchaser is getting.
Keep Your Coins Organized
Collectors tend to keep their coins organized for a reason. Organization can help to identify complete sets, and either serves as basic cataloging or makes cataloging easier. Sellers who inherit or otherwise receive a group that is not their own should always keep coins organized and packaged as they were upon receipt. The value of collections may be diminished if the organization is confused. For example, coins that constitute a set may end up being sold individually rather than together.
Organize/Categorize Your Coins
When a collection is not yet organized, sellers should attempt to manage them. One of the most straightforward ways of doing this is by condition. Coins that are in poor condition should be separated from coins that are in stellar condition. Coins that are common or damaged may sell more quickly together than individually. Note that this is a guideline, and coins should always be appraised individually. A rare coin in poor condition may be far more valuable than a common coin in stellar condition.
Where to Sell Coin Collections
There are several options for finding buyers, each with its pros and cons. Some are more convenient, while others are more likely to fetch the best prices. Here are some of the top options.
Coin shops are typically the most convenient option, as they have regular customers to whom they can sell. They may be willing to purchase entire collections, making for quick and easy liquidation. The downside is that these shops are typically flipping coins for profit, meaning that they may want a discount to ensure their profits.
Many sellers choose to sell their collections online. With valuable coins, this typically must be done coin by coin or set by set, as buyers tend to want specific pieces or sets rather than complete collections assembled by other collectors. E-bay offers a large buyer pool but also comes with fees. Other online options include social media groups and websites dedicated to sales on the secondary market. Social media offers the advantage of low or no fees, but buyer pools can be limited to group sizes.
Coins are often auctioned off by auction houses that charge a fee for their services. Sellers are limited to the auction house’s schedule, though, and the fees can be relatively high. The advantage, though, is that auction houses typically have large buyer pools with deep pockets. For this reason, especially rare coins are often sold this way.
How to Have a Coin Collection Appraised
Getting a professional appraisal is the best way to get an accurate dollar figure for a coin or collection. Some assessments are free, while others have costs associated with them. Whether it is worth getting an appraisal of a coin or collection should be reasonably clear from the seller’s initial research on the coins and conditions. Still, it can also save considerable time in any case. Many individuals and businesses that provide appraisals are also buyers.
Online appraisals are ideal for the tech-savvy and are often free for individual coins. Collectors typically have to submit pictures of the item that they want to be appraised. Documentation should also be submitted when possible, though appraisers know that this may not always be available. Appraisals for items photographed and submitted online typically are completed quickly.
Physical Location Appraisals
Professional numismatists typically charge $35-$50/hour. They can be well worth it when they find and identify coins that stand out in value. They are tremendous time savers. They can sort through the valuable from the not so valuable coins in a collection far quicker even than experienced collectors, much less someone who knows nothing about the hobby.
Find Accredited and Trusted Appraisers
Sellers looking for a trusted appraiser should check dealers in their area. Typically, the best ones are from well-established businesses. Social media groups of collectors can also be excellent resources for finding reputable appraisers. It should be noted that an appraiser is only as good as their knowledge of the types of coins being appraised. Seek out an appraiser that is familiar with the types of coins you have. For example, an appraiser of ancient coins might not know much about modern coins, and an appraiser of U.S. rare coins might not be familiar with modern coins. Knowledge, area of expertise, and experience can be integral when considering an appraiser to evaluate your coins. Sellers should also always check with the Better Business Bureau before entrusting collections to an appraiser.
Do Your Research Before You Sell
Research is an essential initial step in selling coins, especially for those who receive gifts or inheritances. Those who are selling their collections likely have records or at least a general knowledge of the coins in the collection. Others may not know anything about coin collecting at all and need help from multiple sources. For American coins, A Guidebook of United States Coins is an excellent starting point. Similar books on foreign or ancient coins can be a good idea for international collections, although there could be language barriers in some cases. These are generally good starting points for determining the value of coins and collections.