If you've found unfamiliar gold or silver U.S. coins in that dresser bequeathed to you by your great-grandfather (or even in an unassuming pile of spare change), then you might have something extremely valuable on your hands. Here are some steps for finding out what your coins are worth and getting the highest possible price for them.
Determining Your Coins' Value
Before you trade in your gold and silver coins to the local metal merchant for their "melt" (scrap) value, find out whether you're sitting on a gold mine above and beyond the material itself. Rare coins can command unbelievable fortunes as collector's items. While you can obtain the current base value of specific coins by consulting various online resources, you might find it handier to carry a reliable, respected, annually-updated hardcopy such as the Guide Book of United States Coins, also known as the "Red Book."
It should be noted that even if your gold and silver coins aren't rare or sought after by collectors, that doesn't render them worthless. The metals themselves still hold a certain amount of value, depending on their purity. The melt values of gold, silver, platinum and other metals fluctuate from day to day, so you'll want to consult a source that updates its numbers accordingly, such as the World Gold Council. Once you know the current one-ounce price of your precious metal, you can weigh the coins to find out how many ounces of the stuff you have. (This will be an approximate result unless you can account for the actual percentage of the precious metal in your coin.) Under no circumstances should you ever accept a lower price than the melt value!
Choosing a Dealer
Now that you know your coins are worth something to collectors, how do you connect with your potential buyers? You can either sell your coins directly to coin dealers online, such as Penny Pincher Coins & Jewelry, or via other channels, or you can sell them to a dealer. Selling to a dealer greatly streamlines the process for anyone who just wants to get a fair price quickly. The only downside is that you probably won't get more than the intrinsic or Red Book value; it's the dealer who will see any huge profit from auction.
That said, look for dealers who promote themselves as coin specialists. Narrow your field to dealers who belong to a professional organization, such as the PNG (Professional Numismatists' Guild), which enforces certain ethical standards for members.
Hitting the Marketplace
If you decide that you want to make the leap into selling your valuable coins directly, you may enjoy a higher profit margin, but you'll pay for it in the amount of effort you have to put forward. Common venues include:
- Coin shows - A coin show gives you a chance to present your beautiful collectables to their best advantage while interacting with knowledgeable experts. This can prove a great education in case you get bitten by the collecting bug yourself. Local coin clubs are a good source of information about upcoming coin shows in your area. You can find the nearest coin club by consulting the American Numismatic Association's online club directory.
- eBay - eBay is a tremendous buying and selling resource for just about anything, especially rare, antique or otherwise valuable speciality items held by private owners. But while you may find some knowledgeable online coin dealers here, be aware that you'll also be dealing with a large population of amateur or casual buyers who will bid as little as possible in hopes of making a big score. You might want to hedge your bets by insisting on the current Red Book value as your fixed price, with no bidding allowed. But this will eliminate the potential for a huge profit, so you'd do just as well to sell directly to online coin dealers through their websites.
Do your homework, shop around for the best offers from reputable in-person or online coin dealers, and experience the excitement of receiving top prices for valuable coins. You may have just found your new favorite hobby -- and you may even strike it rich!Share