Numismatic Value Guide to Estate Coin Collections

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Understanding proper numismatic value of estate coins and collections will help you fetch the right price for your estate sale clients.

Many estate sales may have a few old coins or entire coin collections.

The coins will vary from gold coins, to silver coins, ancient coins, world coins, and rare, odd coins.

We’ve researched and gathered information to help you on your research and pricing journey.

Numismatic Coin Value

The term “Numismatic” is used when talking about paper currency, coins, or medals.   It defines the price you can expect to get when selling coins.

The numismatic value of estate coins is not easy to determine, there are a few factors that must be considered. Here are the top contributors to evaluating and pricing estate coins:

Coin Circulation

The value is different between a circulated and uncirculated coin, so you can’t automatically assume that an un-circulated coin is more valuable.

Some circulated coins can be more valuable than the un-circulated ones.

Rarity

How rare is the coin? Even if thousands of coins were minted, if the coin is hard to find, it can be valuable because it’s rare.

Condition

Condition is a big factor when determining value.  It’s always advised to not clean the coins before they’re evaluated.

Origin

Where was the coin minted and when? U.S. coin collections are quite common, but there are also foreign coins that can be quite valuable and much harder to identify.

Defining the exact origin will narrow the search and make the valuation process much easier.

Supply and Demand

Assigning numismatic value takes supply and demand into consideration.

Coins are different from other collections.  You sell paintings at estate sales all the time.  If a painting is mass produced, it’s often not as valuable as one that has a limited issue.

When it comes to coins, this way of thinking does not apply!

Even a coin that has been mass produced can be scarce and hard to come by. This scarcity increases its value.

Grading Coin Collections

Depending on how many coins you have to sell at an estate sale, you will have to determine if you even have the time to begin educating yourself on the proper numismatic value of coins.

It takes years to master coin valuation. An estate coin’s grade is a main determinant of its value.

The condition of the coin is graded on a scale of 1 to 70 by experts that are experienced and trained to follow strict guidelines.

A coin graded at 70 is considered perfect, valuable, and flawless.

Precious Metal Estate Coins

If you’re looking at a platinum, silver or gold coin, don’t automatically assume that its value is based on the precious metal only.

Numismatic coin value goes above and beyond the face and base metal value of a coin.

As an estate sale professional, you are trusted to get your client the highest value possible for their unwanted personal items and collections.  Proper due diligence will lead to success.

Pricing Estate Coins and Collections

Estate sale experience often helps you properly price common estate sale items, but when it comes to coins, some things should just be left to experienced professionals specific to that industry.

As an estate sale company, it would prove beneficial to make contact with a local coin dealer that’s experienced in numismatic value.

If you are not experienced in determining proper coin value, it would be best to avoid pricing them yourself.

If you’re adamant on researching and pricing the coins yourself, here are some tips you can use to begin the process:

Find the Origin and Date

1907 Twenty Dollar Gold Saint Gaudens High Relief – Source LondonCoin.com

U.S. Coins

Most modern U.S. coins will have a date of issue printed directly on them. The information will obviously be in English, and this will help you begin the research process by using reference books or websites.

The reference guides should also help you if the coin does not have a date printed on it. You may need to sift through hundreds of images to find your exact match.

Bronze Chinese Coin Emperor Kao Tsu 618-626 A.D. Source: Tami Dickason Lodon Coin Galleries Newport Beach

Foreign Coins

If the coin you’re looking at is in a language you don’t understand, you may need to rely on world coin reference books, websites, or even a world coin expert to determine the origin.

Ancient Coins

It’s not easy to pin point the origin of an ancient coin. These coins can be reasonable in value or extremely valuable.

Determining the origin of an ancient coin may require you to seek the help of an ancient coin expert, or coin appraiser.

Ancient coins aren’t always gold, the base metal can also be silver or bronze.

Some ancient bronze coins can be more or just as valuable as a gold coin.

Once you’ve determined the origin of the coin and possibly the date, you must determine the condition next.

Determine the Condition

As mentioned above, the coin’s value is determined by its condition. The higher the quality of the coin, the more valuable it is.

Uncirculated Coins

These coins that were only collected but never actually used.

Circulated Coins

Coins that were used or circulated but must still be rated based on their condition.

From perfect condition often referred to as “mint” to poor condition, meaning it’s damaged.

AE Ch’i Knife, five hundred Wang Mang Odd Currency – Source: London Coin Galleries Newport Beach

Odd Coins

There are unique coins and currency that cannot be automatically defined as currency.

These coins originated in ancient times and do not have the shape of what looks like a modern coin; therefore, you may mistake them for something else.

As an estate sale professional, gathering a list of contacts that specialize in various items will prove to be fruitful to you.

Relying on these professionals when you come across odd items can really help you when you’re in a pinch to identify, price, and sell.

No matter what coin you’re looking at, as tempting as it may be, avoid cleaning the coins yourself to improve its condition.

Always have the coins evaluated and appraised exactly as you found them.

The condition plays a big part in determining value and you could ruin that value with one quick wipe.

Once you have the origin, date of creation, and condition, your research can begin.

The Five Most Expensive Coins Ever Sold:

  • The Flowing Hair Silver/ Copper Dollar 1794/5 – $10 million.
  • The Double Eagle 1933 – $7.6 Million.
  • The Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle 1907 – $7.6 Million.
  • The Brasher Doubloon 1787 – $7.4 Million.
  • Edward III Florin 1343 – $6.8 Million.

Value Resources For Coins

Online resources such as ebay, and other online sites are a good reference for common U.S. coins.

If you’re dealing with a possibly rare and valuable coin, it’s best to rely on a local coin dealer, an appraiser, or professional grading companies.

In the United States, the coin grading companies are ranked into three main tiers.

  • Reputation in the coin industry
  • Reliable and consistent evaluations
  • How well they’re accepted in the numismatic marketplace by dealers and collectors

The two most superior grading companies are Professional Coin Grading Services (PCGS) and the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC).

Any coin grading performed by these two companies is considered reliable and acceptable.

Other grading service companies such as ANACS are also acceptable and considered middle tier.

Any other company besides the above-mentioned ones are considered lower tier in the industry due to inconsistent grading standards.

Many people think that a graded coin by a top tier company is more valuable than a coin that has not been graded at all. This isn’t always the case! The value of the coin can remain the same whether it’s graded or not, but the grading offers the collector a “confirmation of sorts” that what they are buying is correct and not misrepresented.

As an estate sale company, you’re limited on time. Outsourcing grading can be costly and time consuming. Something to consider when setting up an estate sale with a coin collection.

Experienced Coin Dealer

We spoke to Tami Dickason, at London Coin Galleries in Newport Beach. She has been dealing with coins for over 37 years. Her experience goes above and beyond numismatic value.

She is sought after for her experience in antiquities, world coins, old currency, precious metals and shipwreck finds.

After explaining to her about the estate sale industry, the time constraints the professionals face when setting up an estate sale, we asked her to provide us with some tips on how to best handle the process. She had this to say:

“Find a reputable coin dealer and build a relationship with them. A professional numismatist can look at a collection and determine if there is value much faster than you can, which will save you valuable time.”

We asked Dickason what is the best method of  liquidation when there’s an estate coin collection. She said:

“If there is rarity to the collection a coin professional will know market values and the most profitable way to liquidate which isn’t always at an estate sale.”

She continued…

“I consult for many industries who encounter coins on a regular basis. The process is often as simple as them sending me digital images, whereby I can advise on the next step they should take to secure top dollar for the collection.”

We asked Dickason, “Are there specific reference websites you recommend or books you suggest to professionals in the estate sale industry to use if they choose to research themselves?”

“There are many sources available online offering information and values on coins, but unless you know how to authenticate and grade coins this process is time consuming and often misleading. I do not recommend that non-professionals attempt to evaluate their coins.”

While estate sales may or may not be the best place to liquidate coins, each situation is different and should be handled as such.

Decisions you make with a client should be based on the estate sale itself, quantity and type of items, among many other factors.

Martin Codina with Fine Estate Inc. serving the San Francisco Bay Area said:

“Coins are like jewelry, they create a buzz at an estate sale and increase the foot traffic to the sale.  It’s in the best interest of a client if they include the coins in the sale because it means the other items will also get the visibility they need.”

He continued by making a suggestion to other estate sale professionals, “If you choose to sell to a coin dealer, our experience has shown that it’s best to get multiple offers.”

Offers made by coin dealers can vary greatly, and getting the most for the client is ideal.  Veteran estate sale professionals understand this.

In the estate sale industry, there’s no right or wrong answer.  Each estate sale situation will dictate how a professional proceeds with the liquidation strategy, from tiered commission to auction, online sales, and consignment.

Professionals are experienced in advising the client on the best method of liquidation for the highest value possible on all items.

Coin Industry Resources

If you prefer books, Yeoman’s Red Book is a great general reference book for U.S. minted coins.

For world coins, Krause publishes a standard catalog of world coins by Century.

On your journey to doing the best job you can for your estate sale client, we hope this article helped you gain some insight into the world of estate coins and numismatic value.

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