There comes a point in our lives when we consider selling our coins. Whether for cash for medical expenses, a down payment on a house or that vacation you have been dreaming of, there will come a day when you decide to sell some or all of your collection or leave it in your will to your children. Had I known then what I know now I would have been better prepared to ensure I got every penny out of that collection. In hind sight, I know “I got taken for a ride.” I thought you might benefit from my lessons learned with buying and selling coins over the last 35+ years.
Please read all of this before selling any of your coins to anyone.
Screen available dealers.
Call several dealers, ask them a few questions to determine their knowledge level. Ask them what they specialize in, what grading credentials they have, and what references they use. Ask for referrals. Follow your instinct. If you think they are not absolutely straightforward and upfront with their answers to your questions, they most likely lack the honesty and integrity to help you get the most out of your collection
Do not clean your coins with anything.
They are worth more as they are. A cleaned coin might as well be a cull coin. If you have cleaned coins you should expect them to be devalued by at least one full grade. Uncirculated to Almost Uncirculated or Fine to Very Good. Cleaned coins are very hard to resell. Cleaning coins can leave fine hairline scratches on the coin. Harshly cleaned coins with scrub lines may be downgraded several grades. The use of cleaning solvents leaves chemical residues in the valleys and pores of the coins. As hard as you try to rinse the solvents off the coins, you will not get it all. The residue will further corrode the coin over time.
Schedule the appraisal.
When scheduling the appointment, let the dealer know what you have so that he brings the right reference materials. Plan on the appraisal taking some time to complete. A good thumb rule is a well-organized shoebox full of coins takes about 60 minutes to process. Understand that appraisals are not free. We charge 35 dollars per hour for one of us or 60 dollars per hour for two of us to appraise your collection. This fee includes travel time if outside of 30 miles from Charleston, SC. The good news is that the appraisal is free if we purchase your collection, since we would have had to do it anyways.
Test the dealer during the appraisal.
If you have a key date or semi-key date coin, place it in a common slot in the book. A reputable dealer will point it out and appraise it correctly. If the dealer fails this test it means he was either not properly appraising every coin or he was intentionally letting it go at the cheaper price for the common date that should have been there. Either way, you lose. So if they fail, BOOT THEM OUT THE DOOR! Another way to test the dealer is to spot check the grading of your coins yourself after the dealer has graded them. If there is a disagreement, the dealer should be able to justify why he recorded the grade he did. Bear in mind that distracting scratches will deflate the grade of the coin by at least one grade. If the dealer can not justify his grade, SHOW HIM THE DOOR! He is most likely downgrading your coins so that he can pay you less.
Demand that appraisal sheets be used.
Appraisal sheets will include a complete listing of your coins, their grades, any significant varieties (Recorded in the Red Book or Cherrypickers’ Guide) and the latest pricing from the most recent CDN Monthly Greysheet. Spot check the recorded prices. If any are incorrect, GIVE THE DEALER THE BOOT!
Expect that each coin is appraised and graded BEFORE price guides are referenced.
Why is this significant? There are dealers who will set the grading standards next to the price guides as they grade the coins. When they see the higher price associated with the higher grade they may record a lower grade so they can pay you less. If you see the price guide and the grading standards being used together during the appraisal, BOOT THE DEALER OUT THE DOOR!
Do NOT expect to get Red Book value for your coins.
The Red Book is produced many months in advance and the recorded values may be over a year old. The Red Book prices represent the most hopeful resale price, not necessarily the average or current price. As more of any particular coins become available in the marketplace the realized sales prices lower. However, if fewer coins of a particular date are available the price tends to go up. The reality of the business is that every dealer out there is in it to make a few bucks by reselling your coins. Most dealers have overhead business expenses that have to be absorbed into what they pay for your coins. Reselling of your coins may cost the dealer up to 18% of the sales price due to auction fees, credit card fees and related business bills and taxes. So if the dealer wants to make 15% profit he can only pay you 67% of the expected resale price.
Expect the dealer to openly share with you all of his reference materials.
If the dealer cannot or will not share his references, DO NOT SELL HIM YOUR COINS! Those references shall include the latest monthly CDN Greysheets as a minimum. If the dealer you are working with does not have them, DO NOT SELL THEM YOUR COINS! Additional reference materials are dependent on the seller’s advance notification that they have specific coin varieties and errors. These references may include books on silver dollars such as the “TOP-100 Morgan Dollar Varieties” or the “TOP-50 Peace Dollar Varieties”. While Morgan Dollars constitute the largest area of variety collecting, there are other coin series with known significant varieties that command a premium. Some dealers will show up hoping you know nothing about these other varieties. Most of these significant varieties are listed in the “Cherrypickers’ Guide To Rare Die Varieties of U.S. Coins.” If you have known coin varieties or error coins tell the dealer up front when setting the appointment. If they don’t show up with the reference materials in hand, SHOW THEM THE DOOR!
- Expect most dealers to charge an extra 3 to 5 dollars to verify variety designations. This is time consuming, We don’t.
- Expect the dealer to bring a copy of the “ANA Grading Standards for United States Coins” or a copy of “Making the Grade”. Expect them to show you how to use the grading standards and to openly share use of the grading standards. Unfortunately, many “coin dealers” are cash flow dealers and don’t even know how to properly grade coins. We will bring the grading standards, show you how to use it and openly share it with you. And yes, I am a certified grader.
Do not allow acid testing of your gold, silver, or platinum coins.
A reputable dealer will have a precious metals spectrometer which does the same without scratching the coin. Do expect the dealer to verify every gold coin against the “United States Gold Counterfeit Detection Guide.” Unfortunately, as much as 15% of the mid and late 1800’s and early 1900’s gold coins are counterfeit. Remember, no scraping, scratching or acid testing of your coins is needed.
Expect the dealer to ask for your identification.
This is required by South Carolina law to deter the selling of stolen goods. SC law requires the dealer to record your name, race, gender, birthdate, address and driver’s license/legal ID number.
Your experience selling your coins should be as memorable as the years you spent collecting them. We will do everything we can to show you we are serious about helping you get the absolute most for your collection. The words in this writeup are mine and mine alone and represent “my experiences and opinions.” I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to buy your coins. I am retired Naval Officer, CWO4(SS) with 29 years of nuclear and submarine service. My house payments and my family’s livelihood are not dependent on this business. This is why we can and will pay more for your collection. Remember, your collection is yours alone to sell. Do not be pressured by any dealer, including us, to sell your coins.