If you inherited a coin collection from a parent, grandparent, , you most likely want to know what to do with it. I understand that most people if not everyone reading this is going to be a serious coin collector. However, there are some tips here you can share with family members or friends in case they end up with a collection, possibly even your collection, and don’t know what to do with it.
1.) Slow and steady wins the race.
If you inherit a coin collection, you never want to rush to sell it. Some people may want to keep the collection for sentimental reasons or maybe because they are already a collector, but most will be interested in selling it for the most money possible. Many coin dealers are honest professionals who will give everyone, regardless of their coin collecting background, the same amount of money for a specific coin. Some dealers, however, are far from legitimate. Based on the background of the seller, a dealer will likely give different prices. Never go into a shop claiming you inherited the collection, know nothing about coins, and want to sell it for money. Learn about coins before selling to make sure you don’t get ripped off when selling to a dealer.
2.) Read, learn, appraise...then sell.
If you inherited a small collection, the entire process will be much easier and faster than if you inherited a large collection. The first step to value a collection is to sort the collection into different sections. At this point, you likely know almost nothing about coins, so simply organize it into the ways to make it easier for you. Similar coins can be placed in the same area to help make the process quicker and easier. Folders and albums can go in one section, binders in another, slabbed coins in another, loose coins in yet another, and if there are non-coin items, such as currency or bullion, they can go in another section. The Whitman Red Book is an extraordinary resource for collectors. It can give you the basics of collecting. The internet is also a massive place where you should be able to find all the information you would need about any coin. Learn all about every coin in the collection. You don’t have to be an expert, but you should know the basics of the coin, the value, and the rarity.
Grading is one of the most important skills needed to be a collector, even if you are just searching through an inherited collection. Figure out the approximate grade of every coin in the collection using the Sheldon Grading Scale, which goes from 1 to 70, 1 being so worn the details cannot be identified and 70 being the “perfect” coin with no marks, scratches, hairlines, etc. PCGS is a great resource to use. While it is definitely beneficial to learn even more about grading, PCGS shows you pictures of each grade in the specific coin, which you can then use to determine the grade of the coin. Be sure to look carefully at the coin and don’t rush this process. Figure out the grade to the best of your ability. Never use natural light for grading, rather use LED or incandescent lights in a dark room. Fluorescent lights are not recommended for grading. Magnifiers are also exceptionally helpful in grading a coin. Use magnification loupes to your advantage here. If the collection you inherited has coins that are slabbed, it will likely already have a grade listed on the holder. If it is a holder from PCGS, NGC, ANACS, or ICG, the grades are mostly accurate. If the slab is either self- or from a different company like INB, SGS, , I would recommend removing them from the slabs and grading them yourself. Many grading services are illegitimate companies that do not accurately grade, often grading significantly higher than they should be.
4.) Value the collection
Once you have graded and looked at all the coins, currency, bullion, proof sets, etc. In your inherited collection, you will need to get a value for the entire collection. If you have raw coins (coins now in graded slabs), you can use the Red Book mentioned above. Make sure to use an up-to-date book from the year you are working with the collection. The values of each coin can be found through knowing the denomination, type, year, mintmark, variety, and grade. You can use the grades you found in the previous step to help value your coins. If you have coins graded by PCGS and/or NGC in your inherited collection, you can use the PCGS and NGC Price Guides, respectively. There are some alternative options to value your collection, one of which is having it professionally appraised. Professional appraisals generally aren’t cheap but are helpful if you want to prevent the time and effort on learning about coins yourself, as long as you trust the appraiser. Most dealers do free appraisals, but you should not use these services. This is the dealer telling you what they will pay for your coins. You should choose an appraiser who will not even offer to buy the coins for you since they will generally lower the appraisal price so they can buy your collection cheaper.
5.) Selling the collection
Once you find the value of your collection, you can visit local or trusted coin dealer to sell it to. Use your values as a general rule, but know that dealers are out to make a profit. They won’t give you top dollar for your collection, even if they are a legitimate, honest dealer. Never go to pawn shops, “Cash Gold” type stores, or any other store in shady areas that claim to “Buy Silver & Gold For Cash!” These stores will give you spot price at best even for coins with a significantly higher numismatic premium.
PCGS Price Guide: https://www.pcgs.com/prices/
NGC Price Guide: https://www.ngccoin.com/price-guide/united-states/