What To Know Before You Sell

You only get one chance to sell a coin collection.  You want to be sure you do it the right way.  The advice below has been gathered by talking to dozens of people who make a living buying and selling rare coins.  While all of the advice won’t apply to your specific coins or situation, there should be some good information to help make selling your collection as stress free as possible.

Know That Everyone Is Trying To Make Money Off Your Coins

The above comment is scary but true.  Dealers, auction houses, and grading services all need your coins in order to make money.  You can never assume that you are truly getting unbiased information from anyone.  But don’t let that fact intimidate you.  The market of buying, selling, grading, appraising, and auctioning coins is an industry just like any other buy-low sell-high type of business.  Do your best to educate yourself on your own then find the right people to work with after that.

Know That Not Everyone Is Trying To Rip You Off

It is sometimes deserved, but many times it is an unfair characterization that all coin dealers are bad people who want to take advantage of less knowledgeable sellers.  The fact of the matter is that a lot of sellers just don’t have the type of material where it would even be possible to rip them off.  The average “collection” that walks into a coin shop is usually just a hodgepodge of silver and copper coins from the 1880s and newer.  Yes, if you get a face value offer then the dealer is taking advantage of you.  But if the retail value on a group of a couple dozen coins is only $200 and the dealer offers $100, then that is probably a reasonable price given the type of material being sold.  There are dozens of reputable operations (notice we didn’t say hundreds…) across the country who will treat you fairly if given the chance.  We have probably worked with all of them at some point; that includes the good ones and the bad ones.  We would be happy to share our opinion.

Know That Some People Are Definitely Trying To Rip You Off

Our general advice is don’t believe everything you see online or anything you hear inside a coin shop.  If your intuition tells you that a buyer is being pushy or really wants one particular coin in a collection because he “personally collects that type of coin” then he is probably not offering a fair price.  Slick dealers know lots of tricks to make you think a coin is not valuable.  This usually involves comments about a weak market, the coin being cleaned or damaged, or other woeful tales about why the coin is undesirable.  If you feel like a dealer is hiding something from you then it is probably time to walk away.  Most honest dealers will be genuinely excited to see a rare coin and will be interested in buying it outright and having an open conversation about what the coin is worth.

Know That Auction Houses Usually Give The Best Advice

This is probably the easiest advice we can give.  No matter what, even if you 100% don’t want to auction your coins, just reach out to a legitimate firm to get an opinion on what the coins would well for.  The oldest coin auction firm in the country is called Stacks Bowers.  They sell tens of millions of dollars’ worth of coins on an annual basis.  Because of the large volume of sales that they do, they can quickly look at a group of coins and let you know what is junk, what is rare, and what is worth further inspection.  They act on the behalf of consignors so you know exactly how much they are making.  An auction house makes money by keeping a small percentage of what the coin sells for.  That fee they make is usually just based on the size and value of the collection.  Because they work on a flat fee that is disclosed ahead of time, you don’t have to worry if they are making $10,000 while you got paid $200.  That kind of thing just doesn’t happen with reputable auction houses.  It is their goal to give you the best information so that they can have a chance to auction your coins for as much money as possible.  They want to sell your coins for as much as possible so they make more money while you make more money.

Know That You Should Never Let A Dealer Consign Your Coins To Auction On Your Behalf

While it isn’t necessarily deceptive or wrong, you just don’t need a dealer’s help to consign coins to a major coin auction house.  If a dealer feels like he doesn’t have the knowledge or finances to buy a rare coin collection then he will often offer up the idea of letting himself represent the seller as an auction representative.  The dealer will usually provide this service at a 10-20% fee to the seller.  The dealer is probably also getting a 5-15% kickback from the auction house.  So for making a phone call and sending a package, the coin dealer has made anywhere from 15-35% of the collection’s value.  Anyone can submit coins to an auction firm.  You don’t need a dealer to help you.  Just contact the auction house directly.  If you work directly with an auction house then you get to keep the extra 15-35% in your pocket instead of giving it to a dealer.

Know That Very Few Coins Are Worth Getting Graded

We have a great article about how and why coins should get graded.  Certification (aka grading) is an amazing service that has revolutionized the way rare coins are collected and marketed.  But when to get a coin graded is a concept that many people just don’t understand.  Grading is a costly process that requires both time and knowledge.  We don’t want to get into too many details here other than to advise reading our grading article and to talk to one of our coin experts before making any grading decisions.

Know The Current Value Of Gold And Silver

For someone in the coin business this may seem like a no-brainer, but if you have never handled a coin before you may have no idea what an ounce of silver and gold are worth.  Most common pre-1965 gold and silver coins are valued based on their precious metals content.  Common silver coins usually end up trading at a multiple of their face value.  Common gold coins in circulated condition are valued based on a percentage of the melt value of the current spot price of gold.  Knowing the current market value of gold and silver will allow you to at least have a basic understanding of how and why some coins are valued the way they are.

Now that you have a better idea of what exactly is going on in the coin world, we would recommend reading the slightly more in depth article about How To Sell Coins For Top Dollar.  It has five steps that you can take to help sell your coins for as much money as possible.