Why Coin Price Guides Are Not (Always) Accurate

So, many collectors and dealers rely on coin price guides to value or hype their coins, but one thing should be apparent; a price guide is just that, a guide. A guide is defined, for the purpose of this article, as a model or standard for making comparisons. So, most of the popular coin price guides are but an example of what a coin can be worth, or the highest that a particular coin sold for recently or what you might buy it for from a dealer, and may not reflect the actual value of the coins you own.

You must consider who decides what premiums coins are worth, most of these values are derived from large dealerships, major auction outlet sales, and the largest coin shows. These coin venues rely on coin values to be as high as possible for the best profit margin. It's not to say these coin sellers are acting in malice, but they want collectors to buy the higher premiums; it's within any acceptable business boundaries to sell coins for what collectors are willing to pay.

Also, consider, the coin market is on fire and it's presently much easier to push prices past levels never before seen. It's basic supply and demand.

However, a visit to a coin show or a look at completed ebay coin auctions, and you can see the difference in how much less a coin sells for when compared to most of the major price guides. Often it can be as much as 50% less than the price guide list value! Of course, there are many factors that affect these sales like poor pictures, rarity of date, denomination, metal content, timing, or the grading company, etc. But the rule still applies, that most coin transactions are well below most of the price guides. (BV).

It's not to say these price guides are worthless. However, there are more realistic alternatives for a collectors to determine the actual worth of a coin or a collection. One alternative is called Coin Dealer Newsletter or CND. The CDN is a wholesale price guide for dealer to dealer trading. The last coin show I attended, everyone had a copy of the CDN and the dealers where often selling 5% to 25% below the listed CDN value! However, key dates and graded coins that had a chance at grading "up" where the exception. In example, a Old Green Label PCGS 1928-S, graded MS62 but looked MS62, would trade for the MS62 plus 25% of the CDN listed value.

Another alternative is the dealer ads found in local newspapers or in the back of Coin Prices Magazine and Coin World. Some dealers list what they will pay for certain coin dates and denominations, and this is invaluable in helping determine what a coin or a collection is worth. One other alternative for more realistic coin prices is the Blue Book Handbook of United States Coins or 'Blue Book'. It's a close indicator of what one might sell their coins for to a dealer.

In conclusion, remember not to be too hung-up on the most popular price guides, and that most coin transactions do not reflect these higher premiums. These 'official guides' are just not the gospel when it comes to coin values, and it's better to look a little deeper to gain a more accurate interpretation of what coins are worth and what they can be sold for.


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