Last week my wife and I were sorting through some old boxes in our attic. It was our pre-spring, spring cleaning. The major changes happening in our lives (ie. bringing home a baby sometime soon) have given us a sense of urgency in regards to reducing clutter and maximizing our savings. To accomplish both of these goals we decided to sort through all of our boxes, and sell, donate or trash anything that was not completely necessary.
It’s amazing the hold that stuff has on you.
We were neck deep in old boxes up in our attic when I stumbled across an old box of coins that I had collected as a child. The coins had no real meaning to me, except that they had looked shiny at the time I put them in the box. I knew there was some real value in old coins, and even smelt value in some coins with the current high price on precious metals.
I decided to take the box down out of the attic and see what the coins could possibly be worth.
Coin Value Research – Numismatics vs. Smelt Value
The study of coins and their values is called numismatics. This was an entirely new word to me until about 6 months ago when I was talking with a friend’s husband who works as a numismatist (We’ll talk more about that in a moment). With this new found knowledge and my coins in hand, I went to the internet to begin my search.
I began my search in two separate places. One, I looked at CoinFlation. This website gives a great run-down of what the smelt or metal value of coins are. The real money with coins is in their silver content. For example, a quarter that was minted prior to 1956 is worth roughly $5.86 in current silver prices because it has a 90% silver content. This means that the quarter is not worth much for it’s collector value, but it’s worth a good bit for it’s smelt value. Sad thing for us, is that you can’t run out to your local pawn shop and sell in your old coins for their smelt value. The United States Government says that is illegal, and if they catch you, they could arrest you and fine you no more than $10,000 and/or up to 5 years in prison. Well then, on to option No. 2!
The opposite of buying and selling coins for their smelt value is to buy and sell coins for their intrinsic or collectible value. This is the study of numismatics, and is a widely popular hobby. When looking to sell any old coins that you may have, this is the route you want to take. A great resource that I found to aid in determining the fair market value of your coins is NumisMedia. All of the coins are separated by denomination and by year. You simply find your coin and look at the corresponding chart for an idea of what you could sell the coin for. The one factor however, that we as untrained professionals will struggle with is the quality of the coin.
The sliding scale of fair market values depends heavily on the quality grade of the coin. In some rare coins, this difference in quality could mean the difference in thousands of dollars in value. My advice? If you find a coin that has a high price (anything over $50) for it’s lowest quality rating and you think it is in decent shape, then it would be worth it to have the coin professionally valued by a numismatist. This grading will likely be free, and you will also have likely found a buyer if the coin is of real value. As with all transactions of this nature, be sure to verify the authenticity of the professional you are dealing with. Unfortunately, there are shady characters in this world!
Selling My Coins for $102 – Where to Sell?
Once I completed all of my research I determined that I had 5 coins which were worth roughly $130 according to the fair market values online. I was pretty excited about this, especially because these coins had been collecting dust in my attic for years. My next biggest question was where to sell my coins?
I began my search on Ebay and found that there are indeed millions of collectible coins for sale. As with most things on Ebay, rare coins have a very small profit margin. The majority of people buying on Ebay want to pay low prices. Based on completed auctions for my coins, they were only worth about $80 on Ebay. Moving on…
I next checked Craigslist. This looked promising. There were certainly a good many collectors in my area looking to buy and sell rare coins. Problem was, none of these folks had actual coin shops. I am a little hesitant about showing up in a parking lot with $100 in rare coins and asking a stranger to verify their authenticity. I’ll keep my coins and my safety too please. Craigslist is good for many things, but I would not recommend it for selling rare coins unless you find an actual coin shop willing to deal.
Finally, I searched online for coin dealers in my area. I found a great resource in CoinInfo – Coin Dealers Search. I simply typed in my zip code, and it found all of the coin dealers in our area. Then I searched around each of their websites until I found one that looked respectable. Next step, pay day!
Before I went in to meet with this coin dealer I emailed a list of the coins that I had to my new friend who is a numismatist. I asked him if he could give me a rough trade-in value on these coins. or at least give me an idea of what I could realistically expect to get for the coins. He told me around $100. So, with that newfound knowledge, I headed to the coin dealer to see what I could get.
Long story short, the coin dealer went over all of my coins, graded each of them, consulted his reference guide (a huge telephone looking book of small numbers) and told me he would pay me $102 for my coins. Sold!
If you are looking to sell any old coins I would recommend doing your research first to determine which coins are actually worth anything, and then researching whether it would be better to sell your coins on Ebay, or through an actual coin broker. Always remember to stay safe in deals of this nature. This is a great way to make some extra money, and who knows, you might even pick up a new hobby along the way!