Been getting a lot of emails about how to liquidate coin collections lately, so thought I’d finally put out a piece on it in case it helps anyone else out there too 🙂
In a PERFECT world whoever inherits these blessings would continue building out the collection and passing it down through the generations!, however we all know it’s not the most sexiest of hobbies these days, so if you have to get rid of them for whatever reason, here are the best ways to do so.
Feel free to send over any other question/ideas you might have and I’ll continue to update this over time so it becomes a nice resource!
Here are the best ways to sell a coin collection, ranked in order of getting the most profit for them, but also proportionate to the amount of *time* you want to spend too 😉
Hope this helps!
#1) Value and sell the coins yourself!
This is by far the hardest and most time consuming method, but profit-wise you’ll get much more bang for your buck taking the time and selling them one-by-one yourself (not to mention learning a ton in the process!). And while it might be tricky at first, the advent of the internet and books over the years have made the process as painless as possible once you get going.
Just start yourself a spreadsheet, grab a copy of the “Bible” of coin guide books – The Official Red Book®, A Guide Book of United States Coins – and then start inventorying each and every coin along with the estimated value so you have a good sense of what you have on your hands!
You’ll learn quick which types/years of coins are literally worth pennies and which to spend more time on to better gauge values.
The Red Book lists almost all U.S. coins ever minted since our country was born, but it’s the *details* to pay attention to like the year and “mint mark” of each coin, as well as the estimated “grade” of them (i.e. their condition) which can be the difference between a $1.00 coin or a $10,000 coin. Although unless you’ve inherited your collection from Scrooge McDuck, chances are the one in your hand is the $1.00 one 😉
(Here’s a good book on *grading* coins too if you really want to get your hands dirty: Grading Coins by Photographs: An Action Guide for the Collector and Investor. I use both this and the Red Book in conjunction for valuing all my coins.)
Other ways to quickly value a coin is to pull up Ebay.com or NGC.com once you have your inventory and see what others are buying and selling them for. Though again it’s the details that can make all the difference in the world…
Once you know what you have in the collection, it’s then about finding the *best ways* to hawk them! Which can be done using any of the methods listed below, or in combination of the good ol’ fashion way of listing them methodically online (Ebay, Craigslist, Facebook groups, auction sites/houses that specialize in coins, etc).
It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s the method that will bring you the most money and skills! And not too bad if we’re talking smaller collections! 🙂
**Note: valuing U.S. coins and currency is MUCH easier than valuing *foreign* coins, so if that’s what’s in your collection I’d recommend going with one of the below options unless you’re super interested and/or curious about them yourself. Sites like Ebay and NGC can also point you in the right direction to see if you have a treasure on your hands or not…
#2) Take them to a local coin club
Next on the list would be taking the collection to the nearest coin club in your area who can much easier – and faster – tell you what you have on your hands. as well as guide you through the process without having to worry about being ripped off!
People like myself who spend their free time attending these clubs LOVE learning and helping others in the hobby, and not only could we help you value the coins (often for free, or for a small donation to the club), but more often than not we can also help sell them through our internal auctions or other means of distribution as well (like direct purchases from members or through our network of trusted dealers).
This route won’t get you an offer or valuation right away, but it’s one of the best ways trust-wise to pass your collection to someone who knows what they’re doing – and enjoys it! – in the process. Just do a quick search online to find the nearest club in your area, and then reach out to the president of it who can best advise you on how they can help.
Better yet, bring your collection to the next meeting for all the members to gawk at! Maybe you’ll make a friend or two in the process 😉
UPDATE: here’s a good place to find local clubs in your area –> money.org/club-directory. This directory is maintained by the American Numismatic Association and you can search for your city or state to see all the ones listed (if your city doesn’t show any, go right to the state as often times there’s only one club covering multiple cities and might only be listed under one city)
#3) Take them to a local coin shop/dealer
While the clubs will spend more time pouring over the coins, and often for free, taking them to a dealer will usually get you an offer right on the spot – but at a hefty discount for doing so. Since after all, dealers are in the BUSINESS of flipping coins! Most however are pretty trustworthy and will tell you how they value/price coins (usually depending on how fast they can flip them and/or how common they are), and it can also be nice to just sell them all at once and be done with it.
This is where knowing the estimated value of the coins *ahead of time* though would come in handy so you can gauge how fairly or not they’re treating you! They also tend to eyeball collections and not dissect each and every one, so if you knew there were a handful of coins that require more special attention, you could bring it up to them to make sure they’re not lost in the shuffle.
And FYI: the more modern the coins are (outside of those containing silver/gold, which we’ll get to in a bit) the less odds you’re going to get rich off them as the industry is saturated with ’em.
Still, reaching out to a dealer will give you a quick idea of how much you can get on the spot, as well as if you’re holding anything super valuable or rare – again provided they take the time to search for them. (Often times you can also schedule an appointment to drop off the coins to allow them enough time to really pour over them – which can be another option to consider if you’re not in a rush and you feel like you can trust them)
#4) Take them to a local coin SHOW
If you think taking coins to a dealer or club with multiple members is helpful, just think about taking them to a place where 100+ dealers are – and all under one roof! Haha… This is essentially what coin shows are, where all types of transactions are going on from buying to selling to flipping to trading. So if one dealer low balls you for your collection, you can easily just go right to their neighbor and get the next available offer 😉
The downside to this is that the shows only come around once or twice a year and the dealers don’t always have the time to value a collection right on the spot, however they typically have experts in all kinds of different coin (and currency) fields, so no matter what you’re trying to offload there will be someone there that can tell you exactly what you have and if it’s valuable.
I tend to sell more of the common/less valuable stuff to other collectors or club/dealer friends, and then save the Big Boys to shop around the shows where you have a better shot of getting top dollar, as well as *authenticating* a coin and learning more about them from an expert in the field.
(FYI there are also 3rd party grading services you can submit coins to who will grade and authenticate them for you at a small cost (usually $30-$40), but unless you think you really have something good on your hands it’s probably not worth the effort… Although at coin shows some of these services will set up a booth so you can get them done right on the spot without the hassle of mailing them in which is usually required… Two of the more popular grading services are PCGS and NGC)
#5) Hit up a pawn shop/jewelry store with those “we buy gold and silver” signs in the front window
I hate to list this one here as it’s usually a last resort, but it *is* an option, and again just really depends on how fast you want them gone and what you’re willing to receive for the honor 😉
Most silver-looking coins made before 1964 (except for nickels) are comprised of the precious metal silver, just like many gold-looking coins from the 19th and early 20th century are made of precious gold, so regardless of the *collector* value of these coins you will always find a place that will pay you a % of “melt” value for them on the spot. (I.e. the value of silver or gold in weight of each piece, based on the market’s value that day which fluctuates much like the stock market. Currently silver is at $15.04 an ounce, whereas gold is going for $1,288.85/oz)
So for example, if you have some old silver dollars from the early 1900’s they might be worth $30 or $40 to a collector, however they also contain precious *silver* too (quite literally) making it worth something on that fact alone. If you sell these to another collector or dealer you might get $25-$35 for them, however if you hawk them to a pawn shop or jewelry store you’re more than likely getting about $11 a piece for the silver contents. Unless it happens to be a more rarer coin, and they also happen to know about it and/or tell you about it 😉
So still a way to liquidate your collection, but I’d exhaust all the top ways first for a better shot of getting the best pay out… And dealers will also pay for the silver/coin contents too btw for the more common/beat up coins referred to as “junk silver”, and typically more of a % of the “melt” value.
And those are the main options you’re looking at! I’m sure I forgot a bunch of other nuggets as well, but I’ll continue to update this post as time goes on so hit me up with any other questions/tips/ideas you might have so we can make this a valuable resource for people 🙂
And if none of this above looks appealing to you and you still feel stuck with your collection, send me a note directly and I’ll see what I can do about personally helping you out.
I’ve liquidated a handful of collections over the years for family and friends – ranging from a few coins to collections worth north of $5,000 – and I’m always happy to help inventory/buy/sell/provide opinions on them for people 🙂 Nothing’s more exciting to a collector than going through an old box of coins looking for treasures!! Especially if you tell us it’s been sitting in an attic for over 100 years! Haha…
Hope this helps!
Back tomorrow with our regular personal finance chit-chatting…
PS: For more coin insight, check out my hardly-updated-but-still-pretty-awesome blog on coin collecting here: CoinThrill.com. Maybe it’ll get you interested in the fun before you cash out?! 🙂
Here are more updates since the initial publishing of this post:
#1. You can typically get *more* selling your coins if you do them individually than in lots or trying to sell the entire collection all at once. Of course you might not want to spend the time doing it, but it’s something to consider. Or at least plucking out the super good gems and selling those outside the collection to maximize profits.
#2. Be sure to ask all your FRIENDS and FAMILY members if anyone is a collector!! That could be another excellent route to unload them faster, while also bringing joy into their lives… Especially if you end up making it an early Xmas present 😉 (Conversely, if you’re a collector *yourself*, be sure to remind everyone you know that you collect!! That way when *they* come across any collections, they’ll know exactly who to tap first. And believe me – you’ll be the only one they know and will get first dibs, haha…)
*** For those interested in learning more about the hobby or joining it! ***
While this guide is mainly for helping people sell their collections, I’ve started getting a lot of requests for info on great resources and ideas on starting collections whether for themselves or others (like kids), so I thought I’d add a section here for anyone looking to go down that path as well… Which of course is my preference because it’s a super fun hobby!! 🙂
Here are a handful of ways to get started in the hobby:
#1) Pick up a few coin boards and try plugging all the holes from pocket change! You learn a TON by doing that alone, and it’s super fun and easy too (until you get to the last remaining slots and go crazy trying to find them, haha…)
#2) Pick up a copy of the “Red Book“ – which will run you maybe $12 or so, but will give you ALLL you need to know about what coins are worth, and what to look for, and a bunch of back history on the hobby as well. Makes for excellent light reading 🙂 (Another book that helped me a lot in the beginning was also Coin Collecting For Dummies)
#3) Join your local coin club! They usually meet once a month, and it’s fun to be around others (in real life!) who share similar interests and are full of *knowledge* you can tap. They only cost $15-$30/year to join, and typically host coin auctions for their members where you can pick up new coins for your collection relatively cheap too. Plus – every meeting there’s usually a presentation of some sort to learn from! It’s very fun, I promise! 🙂
#4) Follow some coin blogs! There aren’t too many in the space, but here are a couple I enjoy:
- Coin Collectors Blog
- Coin Update
- CoinThrill (okay, that’s my flailing blog, but gotta plug it any chance I get ;))
#5) Lastly, if you think you’ll enjoy it enough to stick around, join the American Numismatic Association (ANA) and you’ll get all kinds of resources for learning and enjoying the hobby. Including an excellent monthly magazine to your door every month which covers coin news, trends, and other in-depth research.
Lots of easy ways to get started! I hope you go for it!
// Links above to books are affiliate links through Amazon
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