How to determine the value of a rare coin
How to determine the value of a rare coin
By the Sam Shafer / Numismatist — Lost Dutchman Rare Coins / EAC #6289
One of the most common questions we receive in the shop on a weekly basis is “What is a good price guide for coins.” Like many things in life, the answer is not always as easy as it should be. There just isn’t a perfect written source for accurate pricing. Luckily, numismatics is one of the most transparent collectible markets in the world and if you’re willing to do a little homework, finding a reasonable buy price for rare coins can very easy.
Here are 4 ways we track the coin market and purchase rare coins every single day. These are all tools that both dealers and collectors can use to make sure that a coin is sold for a fair market price.
- The Coin Dealer Newsletter or “The Greysheet”. This newsletter is available at greysheet.com and is owned and operated by a team of numismatic professionals from various major firms in the rare coin world. It is a subscription newsletter which is published in sections throughout each quarter with a weekly and monthly section as well. It is the staple of the coin market and what many dealers across the nation use to purchase and sell rare coins. For many coins that trade regularly (like Morgan Dollars for instance) the prices in the Greysheet are fairly accurate and the “bid” number represents a good starting point as far as value. The problem with sole reliance on the Greysheet is that it doesn’t take into count the rarity of original choice coins from the 19thcentury. For instance, we would happily pay full bid for ANY problem free graded Seated Half dollar, because we know that collectors of that series consistently are willing to pay more because the majority of those coins are damaged or cleaned. The bid numbers are simply lagging behind and don’t fully reflect the strength of the auction houses. The Greysheet also fails to account for “eye appeal”. Beautiful Original coins are simply worth a much larger premium than a standard sight unseen “bid” number represents. This is where many collectors have some confusion and may think a dealer is overcharging.
- The Major Auction Firms – (Heritage, Stacks, Great Collections etc.)
The rare coin market is very fluid and certified coins of all types and grades change hands on an almost weekly basis through auctions held by the major firms. Typically these websites archive all of the auction results for anyone to see. The only caveat is that you have to create an account to view them. This doesn’t mean that you have to pay anything or place bids, it simply means that you must use your email to create a login. Using major auction results is the best way to pinpoint the prices of trickier items or coins that carry a price tag of more than $100. The only downside to reliance on auction records is a result whether high or low, doesn’t necessarily mean it is the “Retail” number. Both dealers and collectors purchase coins through major auction and sometimes coins sell for lower prices because they lack eye appeal, or because a dealer is not competing against interested buyers at that given time, and is thus attempting to stock the item. In this regard, it is important to look at numerous results when pricing a coin. (Outliers – coins with very high, or very low results most be examined carefully.)
- PCGS Coinfacts – PCGS (one of the 2 industry leading grading companies) offers a free service via their website called PCGS Coinfacts which is essentially a large database of every United States coin. The database contains all the critical information such as coin weight, diameter, and mintage. However, it also contains listings of the 5 most recent auction results by grade for every single coin (if applicable). It takes much of the effort of searching through pages of auction results out of the equation and is thus a highly useful tool. PCGS Coinfacts used to be $100 per year as a subscription service but PCGS has opened it up for public use. It comes with a learning curve but understanding how to use it can be time well spent for the savvy collector.
- Work With a Trusted Dealer
This might be the easiest step that many collectors miss. Every year we see quite a few well-meaning lone wolfs attempt to build their entire collection based off their own perception and knowledge. While finding deals this way can be rewarding, we have also seen disastrous results. Time and time again, we have seen collectors buying coins with significant problems, or paying way over a fair market value. At Lost Dutchman Rare Coins we employ 3 full time numismatists and 2 part time numismatists who combine to more than 60 years of experience in the coin market. Our passion is collectible coins and we strive every day to make sure our customers are getting coins that meet their collecting needs, but also coins that are liquid, and available at a true fair market price. This is also what makes us one of the strongest buyers of rare coins in central Indiana. The coins that you see in this newsletter are coins that we have personally vetted as choice, original, problem free coins that are solid investments at real prices. We hope you enjoy looking at them and always remember we are available 5 days a week for all of your numismatic needs.