As an experienced coin dealer who has been in the industry for a number of years, we frequently see a large number of old and rare coins come across our desk. Our familiarity with these coins allows us to properly evaluate, grade and value these coins. By and large most of our customers have done some research in advance of their appointment to obtain a general sense as to the value of the coins, and oftentimes realistic expectations are established prior to the appointment. It’s readily apparent which customers have taken the proper approach with respect to researching their coins, and it’s even more obvious when individuals have gone about pricing their coins incorrectly. In this article, we’re going to highlight four common mistakes individuals make when attempting to properly value their coins.
Assume all Dates are Created Equally
Many individuals who are new to the field of numismatics wrongly assume that the value of all similar types of coins are the same, regardless of the year and location minted. These individuals typically search online for the absolute highest price of a coin that they can find and are extremely disappointed when they’re informed that the coin in their possession has very little value. While it’s certainly possible to find or inherit extremely rare and valuable coins, chances are that the coins you find in your grandmother’s coffee can aren’t million dollar coins. It’s important to keep in mind that the value of old and rare coins is based on the date, the mint location and condition of the coin, so be sure that you do your research on the specific coin that you have in your collection before estimating its value.
Use eBay “Buy it Now” Prices as Comps
While eBay is a great resource and is oftentimes helpful in determining the value of coins, a common mistake made by individuals is to assume that “Buy it Now” prices are accurate comps for the purpose of valuing coins. In our experience most “Buy it Now” prices are a decent bit higher than the price realized for many coins, and in fact, sometimes they’re many times greater than the market value of the coin. There are likely a variety of reasons why “Buy it Now” prices are a good bit higher than market prices. Some sellers may hope that a buyer without much experience will stumble across their coin during a search and overpay for it. Other coin dealers may be using eBay as a form of advertising without actually intending to sell their coins. Lastly, other sellers may need to sell their coins at a certain price to realize a profit and can only do so by ensuring that they receive their asking price for the coins. Regardless of the reason coin sellers choose the “Buy it Now” feature, it should be stressed that these values typically aren’t consistent with market prices.
Assume Redbook Prices are Market Rates
While we believe that the Redbook is an excellent coin resource, and in fact, purchase multiple copies of the book every year ourselves, we occasionally meet with customers who expect to receive Redbook prices for their old and rare coins. It’s important for individuals new to the coin market to realize that the Redbook provides estimated retail prices for coins. In fact, the prices at which coins sell; especially when you compare ending auction prices on eBay to Redbook values, are drastically different. The truth of the matter is that very few coin dealers are able to sell their coins at retail Redbook prices. In order for coin dealers to realize a profit, they need to purchase coins at wholesale rates, which are lower than market rates. If you’re new to the coin market, you may be surprised that prices quoted to you for your old and rare coins are substantially less than Redbook prices. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the coin dealer you’re working with is trying to take advantage of you; it may just reflect the price at which the coins can be purchased to realize a reasonable profit.
Use Online Retail Prices as Market Prices
While this point is very similar to eBay “Buy it Now” prices, we thought that it warranted a separate discussion. Much like “Buy it Now” prices, asking prices posted on coin websites for various items can vary dramatically, so it’s important to not give too much credence to posted selling rates; especially when trying to value rare coins. Case in point, we recently we met with a prospective customer that placed yellow “post it” notes with prices that he found online for all of the items that he was interested in selling. The prices were admittedly the highest that he was able to find through his online research. In one particular case, he had a $99 price tag on a 1976 40% three coin silver proof set. We quoted him a competitive price for the set, which was still about five times less than the price that he had posted on the item, and he promptly put the set back in his box. Needless to say, we unfortunately didn’t see eye to eye on most of the items that he was interested in selling. We recommend that you avoid using posted selling prices from websites as a gauge when valuing your coins; otherwise, you’re likely to have unrealistic expectations for your items.
In summary, we highlighted four methods to avoid when attempting to value your old and rare coins. Keep in mind that not all coins are created equally and that the year of mintage as well as the mint location can have a substantial impact on the value of your coins. Secondly, avoid “Buy it Now” prices as comps, as these prices are typically well above market rates. Thirdly, we recommend that you use the Redbook as a general guide, but that you don’t rely on it as a way to estimate the selling price of your coins. Lastly, asking prices on individual coin websites; especially for old and rare coins, are oftentimes well in excess of market, so avoid this approach as well. In a future article, we plan on providing tips on how to properly value your coins, but in the meantime, hopefully the above guidelines on what not to do will help you to put you on the right path.
As was the case in the United States, most European countries produced gold coins for general circulation into the 20th century. This occurred at a time when the gold standard was still in existence, which has since been abandoned. When fiat currency was introduced, individuals began to take a closer look at the previously issued gold coins to identify coins for their gold value as well as their collectible value. In this article, we’re going to examine three very affordable European gold coins that would make an excellent edition to most world gold coin collections.
It may be a collector’s dream to find any remaining 15th century sovereigns (British sovereigns were first produced in 1489), but most of the British gold sovereigns that are available in the market today are from the 20th century. The image on the front of the coins has changed over the years, but some of the most popular British gold sovereigns were minted in the early 1900’s and contain images of Edward VI or George V. While the weight of these coins varies from standard weights for modern bullion coins at .2354 troy ounces, British gold sovereigns have such worldwide appeal that this slight difference should not cause potential collectors to shy away from these coins. While rarer than the previously mentioned gold sovereigns, a George III or a Queen Victoria coin from the early to late 1800′s can still be had at a reasonable premium over the melt value of the coins. On the other hand, premiums on half gold sovereigns tend to be a bit higher.
French Roosters and Angels
The French gold angels were children of the Revolution, but weren’t minted until the 1870s. They tend to have more numismatic value than French roosters, which floated in and out of European trade from 1899-1914. Roosters are an easily obtainable gold coin with a low premium, which makes them an ideal investment for budget strapped investors.
Some collectors may want the Angel for its supposed luck value – apparently Napoleon’s Waterloo misfortune leads back to his loss of an Angel coin before battle. Other reasons may include the coin’s rarity, along with the artistic and historical draw of the angel, the French constitution, and the small rooster icon on the obverse side. Much of the attraction of the actual Rooster coin comes down to Marianne on the face side, the spirit of liberty and reason, and the fighting Gallic bird on the obverse side. As is the case with the aforementioned coins, gold angels and roosters are composed of 90% pure gold, but are a bit smaller than the British gold sovereign with an actual gold weight of .1867.
Swiss Helvetias are some of the most popular old world European coins due to their design and notoriety, and are most commonly found in 20 Franc denominations. They contain the same actual gold weight as French angels and roosters at .1867 troy ounces. As a bit of history, between 1897 and 1949, the Helvetia was a reserve banking coin for most of Europe, bolstering the Swiss position that their vaults were safer and more discreet than those in London. Swiss Helvetia coins minted prior to 1933 tend to be the most popular and valuable of the Swiss coins. The low premium at which these coins are bought and sold makes them another good option for beginning investors.
In conclusion, we’ve highlighted three highly collectible and affordable European gold coins that individuals should consider adding to their world coin collection. Because they’re fractional gold coins, they are available to collectors and investors of various economic means. While none of the coins contain an actual gold weight that is commonly used for modern gold bullion coins, they are still popular among gold coin collectors, who are well versed with the gold value of these coins. In particular, European gold coins minted prior to 1933 tend to be a bit more popular and sell at a slightly higher premium than post-1933 coins. Unless you’re targeting a particular rare European gold coin or a brilliant uncirculated pre-1933 coin, you can expect to pay premiums that are on par with modern gold bullion coins, and oftentimes, even less.
Historically regarded as the poor man’s gold, silver has wide uses from an investment perspective as well as for industrial purposes. Below we’ll highlight a few of the many uses of silver and discuss which silver coin investment options you should consider pursuing.
Silver’s Marketable Uses
While silver is no longer valued as an aid to photography, as pointed out in Investopedia’s Beginner’s Guide to Precious Metals, that doesn’t mean its use as an industrial metal is over. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Much of our technological advancement is due to silver’s amazing use as a conductor, from batteries and microcircuits, to medical and industrial machines. Continued demand from emerging markets and developing nations should help to increase the need for silver for various uses such as x-rays, water purification, and solar energy.
The Silver Institute lists among the benefits of silver its use as a purifier and as a means of limiting algae and bacteria growth in water (along with chlorine buildup). Silver also helps to eliminate bacteria from household appliances, such as refrigerators and dishwashers. Additionally, silver is used alongside silicon cells to develop solar energy panels, and is also used to protect office workers in high-rise buildings as a window coating from the searing rays of the sun.
Types of Recognizable Bullion Silver Coins
For the average investor, possibly the best way to invest in silver is in the form of silver coins. It’s always advisable to buy easily recognizable items for liquidity and resale purposes. Some investors choose to speculate by making annual purchases of American silver eagles; sometimes in the form of a monster box, and re-selling them in a few years’ time for a nice profit. Per Silver Monthly’s article “The 10 Best Silver Coins for Investment,” Austrian philharmonic silver coins should also be considered. As is the case with American silver eagles, they’re considered legal tender and regularly command a premium; although less so than silver eagles. Canadian maple leaf silver coins are also a recommended silver bullion coin option and have the dual advantage of a slight increase in purity (.9999 fine), low mintage years, and high resale value. While these coins aren’t as visually appealing as the aforementioned coins, they’re highly popular among investors and collectors alike.
Differences Between Bullion and Numismatic Coins
It’s potentially dangerous to your investment dollars to ignore the differences between bullion and numismatic coins. Numismatic coins are rare coins that primarily derive their value from the age, condition, and rarity of the coin. An ill-advised touching up or cleaning of a numismatic coin, as well as improper handling, can significantly reduce the value of the numismatic coin. Bullion coins, on the other hand, derive most of their value from the metal content of the coins, and aren’t significantly devalued if they’re not in uncirculated condition. In a worst case scenario, you may be looking at the difference of just a few dollars for an off quality bullion coin.
Numismatics to Watch
The field of numismatics is flush with options available to the coin collector. Whether you’re investing in obsolete coinage, such as three cent silver pieces or twenty cent pieces, or prefer to invest in more recognizable options, such as silver dollars, there’s something for everyone. Slight variations, including the patina, coloring, alloy, denomination, cameo contrast, and mintmark all play into the value of silver coins. The NGC Price Guide is a good resource for determining coin prices, and shows the huge disparity in prices for coins based on their demand and collectible value. Distinctions such as a Morgan silver dollar minted in Carson City (CC), or a Mercury dime’s small bundle of wooden rods (fasces) that display fully separated horizontal bands (FSB), can be worth a great difference in the value of the piece.
In summary, due to its many industrial uses and demand from emerging markets, we would expect for silver to continue to perform well for the foreseeable future. For most individuals, investing in silver bullion coins is the best way to invest in silver, as the premium is relatively low, and the resale market is broad and liquid. Rather, if your primary interest in silver is primarily as a collectible, consider one of the many numismatic coin options that are available for coin collectors.
Individuals in search of positive inflation-adjusted returns are hard pressed to find many investment options to their liking these days. Through the first quarter of 2014, the S&P 500 has returned a disappointing 1.3%, while the Dow has performed even worse. An overall slowdown in the global economy, including disappointing manufacturing data from China, inconsistent monthly jobs reports and a residential real estate market that has likely peaked have all contributed to an underperforming market. Additionally, thanks to the Federal Reserve’s massive asset base expansion and unprecedented bond buying program, most fixed income options, including money market accounts, are yielding negative real returns. Considering the relatively poor performance of more traditional investment options, more and more individuals are looking at collectibles as an investment option, as this market has done quite well over the past decade. According to Elliott Wave, the rare coin market has logged returns of 248% over the past ten years. While the rare coin market has the opportunity to produce above market returns, it can also be detrimental to individuals that aren’t numismatists. In this article, we’ll highlight three ways that investors commonly lose money in the rare coin market.
A sure fire way to lose your shirt in the rare coin market is to heavily invest in all new commemorative coins issued by the U.S. Mint and world mints. For example, the new Dr. Who coins produced by the New Zealand Mint are great collectible pieces, especially if you’re a fan of the show. However, at an issue price of seven times the spot price of silver, the likelihood of these coins appreciating in value on par with the overall rare coin market is slim. In fact, you would be hard pressed to name many recent U.S. issued commemorative coins that have performed well over the years. The only two recent examples that come to mind are the 2001 American Silver Buffalo coins and the 2009 Ultra High Relief double eagle gold coins. While time will tell, the recently issued 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame coins, which we wrote about in a previous piece for Money.org, have the potential to endure and appreciate in value in line with the overall rare coin market. Considering that many modern issued commemorative coins can be purchased today at or below the original issue price, proper due diligence should be conducted before wading into this market.
While there are many coin brokers that look out for their clients’ best interests, unfortunately that’s not always the case, as we highlighted in a previous article. While it’s fine to trust the recommendations of your broker, it’s also wise to verify that what they’re attempting to sell you is a solid investment at a reasonable price. Based on discussions we’ve had with customers who have used brokers in the past, one of their favorite products to sell are certified modern gold and silver coins, which they commonly sell at a substantial premium over the melt value of the underlying metals. This is likely due to the high commissions they receive from their suppliers for the sale of the coins. The fact of the matter is that all gold and silver bullion and proof coins that are issued by the U.S. Mint are in uncirculated condition, so unless you’re considering a rare or limited edition modern certified gold or silver coin, it may be best to save your money and instead purchase a nice uncirculated example of the coin at a substantially lower price. Taking all of your coin broker’s recommendations at face value, without researching further, is likely to lead to long term underperformance of your rare coin portfolio.
Failing to diversify a rare coin collection is a common mistake made by individuals that are purchasing rare coins for investment purposes. As with stocks and many other investments, there will be times when certain coins and precious metals outperform others, so if you have a diversified collection of coins, you’re more likely to see less volatility and higher returns over time. For example, the price of silver and platinum can be especially volatile, so rather than investing purely in these coins, consider adding some numismatic coins composed of other metals to your portfolio, whose value primarily derives from the rarity, condition, and demand of the coins, as opposed to the metal value of the coins. Purchasing coins in varying condition at different price points may also be a good strategy, as this may broaden the potential market available to you when the time comes to sell your numismatic coins.
In summary, we’ve highlighted three surefire ways to lose money in the rare coin market. Investing heavily in modern issued commemorative coins, most of which fail to appreciate in value, will likely lead to poor returns. Secondly, accepting all of the recommendations from your coin broker, without first verifying that the coin offerings are sound investments, is likely to backfire on you. Lastly, failing to diversify into coins composed of different underlying metals and at various price points may increase the volatility and reduce the long term returns of your rare coin collection.
It wasn’t long ago that a couple in California found a multi-million dollar hoard of U.S. Gold coins on their property. Also it didn’t take long for them to come up to market because many of the coins are currently on sale at Amazon. Buy Saddle Ridge Coins At Amazon If you did plan on buying a piece of this historical hoard then expect to pay anywhere from a few thousand dollars to a few million. The image on the left is representative of a lot of 14 of these gold $20 coins that includes the original can they were found in. It’s listed at 2,750,000!
Of course many of these coins are extremely rare and some are just not found in uncirculated grades so they will bring up to a million dollars or more each. However, as you look over the listings on Amazon you will see several affordable coins you can buy from this hoard. Not only do you get the opportunity to own a coin or coins from the most valuable coin hoard found in the United States to date, it’s also graded, authenticated, pedigreed, and encapsulated in a protective plastic slab by PCGS. So your investment will be protected and labeled as to what it is and where it came from.
It is becoming more and more commonplace these days for individuals to melt and produce their own silver bars and ingots. The price to purchase the necessary equipment is within reach of many silver bullion investors/collectors and the temptation to produce unique silver ingots in various designs and with custom stamps is hard to resist. Bars and ingots of various purities, including .90, .925, and .999 fine can be produced as long as the purity of the items being melted together are the same. While the thought of converting old dingy silverware into standardized sizes of ingots is appealing, we recommend that you take into consideration a few factors before you begin melting your .999 fine silver, sterling silver or 90% silver coins into silver ingots.
Unless you plan on becoming a national producer of silver bars and ingots, there’s a high likelihood that the only person that will recognize your silver bars or ingots is you. If you plan on holding the bars forever, that’s not a problem, but if you have any intent of selling your silver ingots in the future, or even if there’s the possibility that you might, it’s probably best to stick with recognizable silver bars, rounds and ingots. The most well recognized and popular silver bars and rounds are produced by Engelhard and Johnson Matthey, but there are many other name brand bars and rounds that are popular. Even generic rounds, such as those stamped “.999 fine” or “one troy ounce fine silver” are highly liquid, but in general, if it appears as though a silver ingot is hand produced, unless by a name brand refiner, individuals may be hesitant to purchase the items.
As alluded to above, the purity of a silver bar, round or ingot is an important factor with respect to the marketability and demand of silver bullion. Even generic silver bullion, when stamped .999, is highly liquid. Unfortunately, demand begins to tail off as the purity of an item drops. In reality, the interest level of any generic silver that has a purity of less than .925 (sterling silver) is next to nil, so it’s best to stay away from melting junk silver coins. Furthermore, it’s illegal to do so, so your best bet is to sell the coins in bulk to a coin dealer, even if the coins are highly worn; commonly referred to as “cull coins.” One issue with handmade silver ingots is that the purity of the items may be questionable. Short of confirming the purity of an item through a professional assay, the purity may not be able to be confirmed, which will limit the prospective buyers.
One benefit in owning silver bars, rounds and ingots from a well-established private mint or refiner is that the sizes of the items are standard, and are oftentimes stamped on the item. Common sizes of silver ingots or bars include 1 gram, 5 grams, 10 grams, ½ ounce, 1 ounce, 5 ounces, 10 ounces, 50 ounces and 100 ounces. While 99% of items that are stamped can be trusted to be accurate in weight, it’s a fairly simple process to bring along a scale to confirm the weight. On the other hand, hand produced silver ingots tend to vary in weight, which can make it difficult to determine the melt value of the item. Unless you regularly deal in the bullion industry, it may not be readily apparent what the value of your silver bar or ingot may be if it varies from one of the standard weights mentioned above. This will in turn limit the number of potential suitors for your silver ingots.
In summary, producing your own silver bars and ingots can be fun hobby and instill a sense of accomplishment, but if your intention is to sell your ingots at some point in the future, you may want to consider selling your unwanted silver bullion to a coin dealer and acquiring silver bars and ingots that are likely to be more liquid and marketable. Possible pitfalls with producing your own silver bars or ingots involve producing an item that is recognizable and in demand in the marketplace. Furthermore, the purity of your item may be questioned if not stamped on the item, or possibly even still if the silver bar or ingot isn’t common and recognizable. Lastly, having a standard and recognized size and weight is important with respect to silver bullion, and unfortunately it can be difficult to produce standard sized items when melting your own silver ingots.
First, let me disclose that in no way, shape, or form am I accusing or suggesting that any certain person or seller is attempting to cheat, fool, scam, beguile, or rip you off with these “unsearched” rolls for sale. This guide I wrote should be considered as ‘my opinion only’ and used for educational purposes only. However, there’s a few sellers that who do use this as a trick to make more profit.
The first set of pictures show the tools used: A count tray, end rollers, and of course the empty ‘preformed’ coin tubes. Cost equals about $18.00 to get started.
Looking closely at picture #6, you can see inside the recessed rolling ring of the square plastic end crimper. Can you see the small raised bar or nub? This is the part of the ‘roller’ that curls the paper into its doughnut shape as you gently push in and twist the tool. Like everything else in life, the more you do it, the better you get and I have seen some “expert” work by some of these sellers.
Looking at the picture labeled ‘M’, you will see: ‘factory’ creasing (green arrows), a tight ‘paper split’ (blue lines), & the highest points that are ‘ROUNDED’. This is a factory, as they call it, end crimp. Expert roll makers are not even able to get this ‘true roundness’, due to the bar or nub on the roller we saw in the close up discussed earlier. They will look close, but if you inspect the pictures closely, the “non-factory” rolls will show some very faint ‘flatness’ to this top area and it’s not the same as storage “smashed”.
Have I ever purchased a ‘stacked’ roll before because the ‘end coin’ was a supposed ‘seller unaware’ rare variety. What’s the most I have ever seen a stacked roll sell for? Just over $1700.00 What was it? A roll advertised as a back-2-back BU/MS/RD 1909 VDB Lincoln Cent Roll. What did I see? 2 XF+ low contact, completely cleaned & dipped coins. (Was this a heavy shill bid auction? The second place bidder had a 96% bid ratio for that seller over the past 30 days, a 64 feedback, with 36 bids alone on this 1 item.)
Was there a “possible ‘S’ mintmark” in the description? Of course. Also beware, there is a lot of word-play going on, for instance, “double die”, “doubling”, “die double”, “with doubling”. The correct term is “Doubled Die” for those varieties so read the descriptions, they are not ‘lying’, as far as those “coin strikes” go, (letting you, not yet educated enough in that area, think that they are rare) but these are ‘striking anomalies’, but back to rolls.
If I have my pre-teen children at home making just 100 of these rolls a week to sell, and I close up the end, it is “un-searched” by me, right? However the big pile of coins used to make these rolls was searched by someone. So purchasing OBW’s (original bank wrapped) rolls is a bit of an art form and takes skill.
Someone at Heritage, whom I am not sure, figured the odds of a roll with BU/MSRD back to back 1909 S VDB’s somewhere around 1:170,000,000. Now this is common sense talking here. I don’t care who you are, if there is a roll with a high value or key date end coin showing, you’re not going to auction it for .99¢ no reserve!
You must also remember when looking at crimped and possibly unsearched rolls that you can see any possible damage to the rim nor can you see the other side. You just can’t be certain if the coin has been cleaned or damaged when it’s inside a wrapper, and it becomes a crap shoot when you buy these, hoping you’re getting something good for your money.
So, take a few minutes to look at the images posted. You should see some distinguishing characteristics that should tip you off on if the roll is not an old bank wrapped roll.