By Tony Davis
Atlanta Gold and Coin Buyers
As a coin and bullion dealer that specializes in rare coins, we’re frequently asked by prospective customers how they know they’re receiving a fair price for their rare coins. After all, rare or numismatic coins are quite different from gold and silver bullion coins whose value is primarily derived from the prevailing spot price of gold and silver in the commodities market. While this piece isn’t intended to be a complete comprehensive guide on the intricacies of the rare coin market, it’s our intent to provide you with enough information so that you can feel well informed and comfortable when the time comes to sell your rare coins. In particular, we’ll discuss the difference between retail, market and wholesale prices, provide you with some valuable resources and identify some common mistakes that we see individuals make when they research rare coin prices.
Retail prices are suggested prices that rarely, if ever, are realized. A good way to view retail prices is to think of automobile manufacturer suggested retail prices (MSRP). Anyone who has gone car shopping knows that this is the starting place from which you begin negotiations. With respect to rare coins, “The Redbook” is one of the most popular and referenced resources, but it’s important to keep in mind that the prices noted are retail prices. In other words, most coin dealers would be thrilled to be able to sell their coins at the stated prices in this guide, but most of the time, the actual price realized is what we call a market price, which is determined by demand in the marketplace. Retail prices can also be found on the websites of PCGS and NGC, the most respected third party grading companies in the industry, as well as on the website of Coin Trackers. If you’re in the market to sell your rare coins, retail prices should be disregarded, as they don’t accurately reflect what you should expect to receive for your rare coins.
Market prices are prices actually realized by coin dealers when they sell their coins. A couple of good online resources to obtain recent sale prices are eBay and Heritage Auctions. With respect to eBay, it’s important to look at the sold auction prices as opposed to the active or completed auctions, as many of the asking prices are never realized. This is a common mistake sellers of rare coins make, which results in inflated expectations that are sure to disappoint. Heritage Auctions provides prices realized for many types of coins. While it requires signing up for an account, most of the information that you’ll need is available with a free membership. A third resource for obtaining market prices is the “greysheet.” While initially intended to reflect coin dealer wholesale prices, this guide is commonly being used as a price guide for rare coin collectors, which in effect has become a market price guide as opposed to a wholesale guide.
Wholesale prices are prices that you can expect to receive when you sell your rare coins. While it’s not an exact science, most coin dealers will pay 70% - 90% of greysheet prices for your rare coins. The lower end of this scale should be for designated for less popular or improperly priced items. At the moment, some of the items that will bring prices on the lower end of the range are clad and silver uncirculated sets, silver proof sets and modern commemorative silver dollars. It’s also important to keep in mind that the greysheet isn’t the end all be all, and some of the published prices aren’t indicative of the true market value of the coins. Additionally, some of the published greysheet prices may be for CAC coins, which sell at a premium over standard graded coins. Another resource that is used by coin dealers to determine wholesale prices is the “Blue Book.” However, a potential issue with this resource is that it’s only published once a year and doesn’t take into consideration changing trends in the coin industry throughout the year. Regardless, it will at least provide you with some decent benchmark pricing for your rare coins.
We’ve touched on a number of different resources that can be used to obtain retail, market and wholesale pricing, but also wanted to share some other resources that may be helpful. Using many of the above resources will help in arriving at prices for professionally graded coins, but the fact of the matter is that most rare coins aren’t professionally graded. Considering the condition of your coins is one of the major factors in determining their prices, it would be helpful to become familiar with the basics of coin grading. There are many resources available, but you might want to consider purchasing “The Official American Numismatic Association Grading Standards for United States Coins,” which can be found here. This resource is a picture guide that will help you to accurately determine the grade of your coins. We’ve also created a Rare Coin Guide, which is basically a quick reference guide for determining which coins are lower mintage coins that may sell at a premium. Lastly, some helpful websites that you might want to consider visiting include the American Numismatic Association, Coin Week, Coin Auctions Help, Numismaster and Coin World, just to name a few.
In conclusion, it was our goal to arm you with information and resources to help you to receive a fair price for your rare coins. We’ve discussed the difference between retail, market and wholesale prices, where to find this information, and what you should expect when you sell your rare coins. We’ve also provided links to some informative websites that provide a wealth of information to folks that are new to the rare coin market. While all of the above resources will assist in receiving a fair price for your rare coins, the most important factor is identifying a reputable and trustworthy coin dealer who will treat you fairly. Check the coin dealer’s standing with the Better Business Bureau and confirm that they’re an ANA lifetime member before proceeding with the transaction. We hope that you found our article to be helpful and welcome you to contact us if we can be of any further assistance.
About the Author
Tony Davis is the owner of Atlanta Gold & Coin Buyers, a full service Atlanta based coin and bullion dealer specializing in buying, selling and appraising coins and coin collections of all types and sizes. Tony frequently writes on various economic and numismatic related topics affecting the coin and bullion markets and has been published on some of the industry’s leading websites, including Coin Week, the American Numismatic Association, Coin Collector, Coinflation and Coin Auctions Help, just to name a few. Visit Atlanta Gold & Coin’s website at atlantagoldandcoin.com to obtain additional information on the products, services and educational resources offered by his company. Tony can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 404-236-9744.