Most collectors would like to know how to find and buy 'actual' unsearched coins, but finding unsearched lots is a lot like a lottery ticket, if you don't do some research. A few win sometimes, very few win big, and most lose their money when they buy just any unsearch lot, by believing the hype and storyline the seller presents. However there's some facts and information one can learn to help their chances.
One aspect of buying unsearched coins depends on what a collector expects when purchasing so-called unsearched coins. Is one looking for mint errors and varieties or trying to take a chance at finding rare and valuable coins?
If looking for rare or valuable coins, the chances of finding them is low. It's just a fact that I explain, in detail, in this guide. If you're looking for mint errors and varieties, the chances are better because only a few people know all the different varieties including the unsearched lot sellers. Either way it can become expensive and time consuming finding either, but there's still a chance of finding unsearched coins, and with the information in this guide, you can eliminate some of the mistake unsearched lot buyers are making.
Let's start with some facts:
1. Most of the coins minted by the United States Mint are common dates, and there are literally billions of common US coins in circulation, storage, buried, or in collections, all over America, and overseas. The vast majority of these coins consist of Lincoln Cents, and all denominations of modern coinage (1965 to date). So, most of any unsearched lot or bank wrapped roll will consist of common date and mint coins, and only on occasion a rare date or semi-key date will be found, if that.
It's falls on logic, if there where several key and semi-key dates in every lot or collection than these dates couldn't be rare or valuable. You stand a better chance of finding a variety or mint error than a rare date key date.
2. How coins become unsearched.
(A) Someone placed their loose change in a jar, box or other container for several years, and they either passed away leaving it to a friend, the State or relatives.
(B) A collector rolls and bags their coins for years, and then dies, leaving the collection to a relative who doesn't care about the coins, and sells them without even knowing what they sold.
(C) Imagine, years ago, before, during, and just after the Depression, how many US Citizens buried their coins in the ground. It may have been in their backyard, near a barn or in the walls of a house or in the basement, and there is more hidden or lost coins than many realize. Even thieves buried and forgot where they hid their cache, or died in prison before they could get back to dig it up.
(D) Banks used to shotgun wrapped coins and store them in a vault.
Note: Anyone can learn to re-wrap rolls, just like the bank, after they searched through them. So, I don't advice buying shotgun rolls. Plus, most of these rolls contain common coins, and who is to say that someone didn't invest in a few key dates and re-wrap the roll with the key date on the end?
3. What if you found one of these unsearched stashes? Would you sell them on ebay unsearched? I know I wouldn't, no matter how long it takes to go through them, I am going to look for key dates, varieties and mint errors. What about the large dealers who acquire hundreds of collections and thousands of coins? Do they search all the unsearched lots they buy? Some do and some don't. Why don't some? Just refer to fact #1 above.
An experienced dealer knows that most collections consist of mostly common coins, but they also have preconceived notions on which lots might be worth a detailed look. For example, a jar of silver coins that can be seen to contain possible rare dates, or the story behind the lot, and what time frame the coins where stashed away. In example, a coin lot that was hoarded in the early 1900's and before. Most of these lots are worth searching.
However, if a dealer buys a huge lot of wrapped cents then they would look through a few rolls and make a determination, based on time and money, if the rolls are worth searching.
Let's finish with some information:
Buying Unsearched Rolls:
At any given time, ebay has a few hundred auctions for unsearched rolls. The new fad on ebay is bank wrapped rolls showing a key or semi-key date on the end, and the old fad is pointing to their (the seller's) feedback on how many key dates that have been found in the rolls they are selling. Let's examine this a few in more sentences.
Fact: Most coins found in bank wrapped rolls are common and well circulated coins
Fact: Shot gun wrapped rolls can be opened, searched, then re-crimped as it came from a bank.
Fact: The same rolls that can be searched and a key date put on the end, then re-crimped as unsearched for ebay.
For example, let's say I have a shot gun roll of Lincoln Wheat Cents, and all are common dates. So, I buy a 1909-S key date for $125, (this is the actual book value of the coin in good condition) and I replace the end coin with the 1909-S Lincoln. Also, I know that a 1909-S with the VDB on the back is worth $900, and I also know that you can't see if the 1909-S on the end of the re-crimped roll has a VDB or not. Now I start my auction on ebay with a statement "Unsearched shotgun roll with a 1909-S showing" and a question "Is this a 1909-S VDB?".
I sit back and watch my $125.50 cent investment sell for over $255.00, because some buyers wanted to risk the chance to discover a 1909-S VDB. So, they pay $130.50 more than the roll is worth, and my paypal account grows over a hundred dollar more. Now I'm thinking, "What if I did this with 10 rolls? I could make well over a thousand dollars in a week!"
To top it all off, other ebay sellers see my success and copycat my act. Now, it's a huge problem. Don't get into "lottery" wars like this with other bidders. It's never worth it!
Buying Unsearched Lots and Collections:
The same example that I used above can be used for collections, lots and hoards of coins. Most will be common and heavily circulated coins, and any seller can buy a few silver coins, and some key dates, mix them in a pile of coins together, then sell the coins in lots of 100, 50 or in 1 pound or 2 pound lots. Sellers know that most people don't do the math to see how much the coins are being sold for, and most people don't ask for a refund.
You will notice that many of these lots will mostly consist of common cents and nickels, and any silver coins are circulated and common also, except for lucky seller or two that get's the key dates I mixed in. Plus, these buyers can charge $5.00 to ship 56 coins that should cost $2.00 or $3.00 max, and they may even charge a 10% restocking fee for returns. So they never lose.
All Of This Great, But How Do I Buy Unsearched Lots Then?
*A collector must bid on unsearched coins lots/rolls with caution. First, I would check the sellers feedback. If they have several negatives then don't bid on their items. Look for sellers who maintain a rating of 99.5 % to 100% and with hundreds, if not thousands of positive feedbacks. One thing you will notice on ebay, is that most unsearched coin sellers amass several negative feedbacks in a years time. So, don't ignore feedback ratings.
Also, look at the feedback carefully, and to see just how many unsearched lots they have sold and read what the buyer has said about the lot they won. Sometimes it's evident that the seller has sold hundreds of these lots, and only a handful have actually found a good date or two. Most buyers will have received common coins, and the feedback shows it.
Another tip, don't overlook neutral feedback either, and the fact that most sellers don't leave negative or neutral feedback even if they realized they paid too much for the coins. In a culture, like America, that is known for gambling, high interest rates, and scams, most people just lump the loss and move on.
*Read a sellers entire description. With the potential of paying hard earned dollars on unsearched coins, one owes it too themselves to read what the seller says. For example, one seller claimed they where selling an unsearched roll of Lincoln Cents, all teens. But reading their description I realized a conflict, they where basing the fact of "all teens" on one coin, the end roll was showing a 1909 date. That's faulty logic, because we know the seller couldn't possibly know they where "all teens" unless the roll was searched. So, what are they actually trying to sell?
*Look past the hype in the description and remember the facts and examples outlined in this article. If they use huge letters and winded descriptions about an old hoard from an old widow or old farmer or estate, be careful on how much you bid, and don't ever pay more than you think it could be worth. Trust your instincts. Sometimes these kinds of descriptions serve to distract and excite potential buyers to bid against each other on these "coin lotteries", hoping to win rare or valuable coins.
Buy It Now Auctions
*Don't buy unsearched coins with a "buy it now" option. It's obvious the seller has calculated just how much they can sell the coins for to make maximum profit. Note: This does not include buy it now auctions that discloses the exact type, date and mint of each coin.
*Be cautious when it comes to coins from 1958 and earlier that are wrapped in new shotgun wrappers (white and red). A true shotgun roll from this era will be a solid color like green, maroon, blue or light brown. It's best to buy modern, bank wrapped, BU rolls, and look for varieties and errors. You stand a better chance that the rolls are unsearched.
Reader Challenge: I offer the reader a challenge. Go to your local bank and buy rolls of nickels, cents, quarters, half dollars, etc. for face value. Then buy an unsearched lot off ebay, search the rolls from the bank, and compare the unsearched lot to the rolls from the bank. The first thing you might notice is, the bank rolls have mostly common dates, but so does the unsearched lot. Also, you paid more for the unsearched lot then you did for the bankrolls, and you didn't lose any money buying the bank rolls at face value.
If you're one of the lucky few that got a valuable coin in the unsearched lot. Great! But remember that thousands of other buyers didn't.
*Coins in long and rectangular boxes with carded coins inside are mostly common coins, and only a lucky few get a silver, gold or decent date coin. The feedback tells the whole story. It's likely that most winning bidder will get several common cents and nickels, and maybe an Eisenhower Dollar, silver dollar, quarter or couple dimes, but paid $80 to $150, not including shipping, for coins that they couldn't resell for more then $50. The same can be said for cigar boxes, treasure chests or bags filled with coins.
Coin In Piles:
*Coin in piles or heaps can be deceiving. At first glance, some of the auctions, look to be mostly a mound of silver coins, but further inspection of the picture will show mostly cents or nickels under the layer of silver coins. Also the description often reveals how many common cents and/or nickels contained in the lot. Always pick apart a sellers pictures, descriptions and feedback so you're bidding on the actual coins and not on a "chance lottery".
In conclusion, I would to add, that if these unsearched lots where the best method of obtaining rare and valuable coins, then dealers would be buying them up. But such is not the case. Dealers know the ruse and secrets of most unsearched lots on ebay, and you should know them to.
For those of you who want to buy unsearched lots off ebay, I have done some research for you. Below is a list of handpicked sellers that sell unsearched lots and rolls with a feedback rating of 99.5% or better. I don't guarantee you will get great coins from these sellers, but most of their customers where happy with their purchases.