Understanding How to Value and Sell Rare Coins

Have some rare coins you’re thinking about selling? Wondering what they’re worth? Learning about coins and their value can be both fun and profitable.

To get the best price for your coins, you’ll need to do some research — here’s an overview of how to value and sell coins.

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Types of coins

There are three primary types of coins: collector coins, bullion coins and commemorative coins. Collector coins are “real” coins that have been on the market and circulated as currency to buy and sell things. The condition of collectible coins largely determines their value.

Bullion coins are made from precious metals, such as gold or silver, and are manufactured for the purpose of being investment pieces. Bullion coins are generally valued based on their weight in gold or other precious metal, rather than their condition.

Commemorative coins are created by companies to commemorate a person, place or event. Little if any gold or silver is usually used in commemorative coins, so purchase them if you really like them, but not as an investment that will hopefully increase in value.

Certified coins

Once you have coins that you believe are worth holding or selling, consider getting them officially certified. Certified coins are easier to sell, more liquid, and usually sell for a higher price than non-certified coins. It generally costs between $20.00 to $50.00 to get a coin certified by a major certification or grading company.

Four criteria of coin values

Coins are valued based on four main factors: grade, rarity, interest, and liquidity.

  • Grade: The grade of a coin is a way to determine and describe its condition. Grades range from Poor — a coin that’s almost completely worn out—to Perfect Uncirculated — which is a coin with absolutely no wear or flaws of any kind. Most coins fall somewhere between these two extremes.
  • Rarity: To help determine the rarity of coins, many collectors use the Sheldon-Breen rarity scale. Devised in 1958, the rarity scale rates a coin’s scarcity based on how many coins of a certain date and type are estimated to still exist. The scale ranges from R-1, a coin with at least 1251 coins remaining, to R-8, where only one exists.
  • Interest Factor: Another big influence on a coin’s value is how many people are seeking it. A high interest factor tells us that the coin is wanted by many people, while a low interest factor shows that the coin is sought by just a handful of collectors — affecting its value.
  • Liquidity: A coin’s liquidity, or how quickly it can be sold and converted into cash, is another factor that determines the value, and thus price, of a coin. Rare coins that are in demand have a high liquidity factor that’s nearly unmatched when compared to other collectibles.

Coin books and price guides

If you’re interested in learning more about coins and coin values, here are some go-to books on the subject.

Red Book Price Guide of United States Coins

First published in 1947, the Red Book is the longest running coin price guide and considered one of the most comprehensive and authoritative books on coin values.

In addition to background information on coins, it includes the retail value of all U.S. coins, issue prices and current values of mint sets and proof sets, commemorative and modern bullion coins, private and territorial gold, Confederate issues, and more.

Handbook of United States Coins — Blue Book Paperback

Similar to the Red Book, but smaller and less comprehensive, the Blue Book is a must-have for anyone planning on selling their coins. The book contains wholesale price values that are close to what you should expect to be paid when you sell your coins to a dealer.

U.S. Coin Digest

The U.S. Coin Digest is another comprehensive retail coin price guide with background information and prices for eleven grades of coins.

If you’re interested in evaluating your coins or are thinking of selling or taking a loan against them, bring them to Empire Pawn of Nassau. Our appraisers will provide you with an accurate quote and your coins will never leave your sight.

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