Inheriting a U.S. Coin Collection — Video Vignettes

Rod Gillis explores the various options available when inheriting a U.S. coin collection. This vignette presents several helpful avenues for the collection whether you intend to sell, donate or keep it intact!


Hello again, this is Rod Gillis from the American Numismatic Association. I’m the Education Director. And earlier I spent some time talking about what to do if you have a collection that you’ve inherited and you’re really not familiar with numismatics. We spent some time talking about what to do if you had an ancient coin collection or a world coin collection.

Right now, I’d like to spend some time talking about the most common collections that people have and that is United States coins. So often we’ll get a phone call from someone who has a lost a loved one and they’ve inherited their collection, and they want to know what to do with it. And after we have determined that it is a United States coin collection we’re then able to steer them in the right direction. The very first thing that they might be interested in doing is putting their collection into definitive parts. In other words, they would want to organize their silver dollars into one part, and their buffalo nickels for example, into another part so that they know that it is that they have. We often ask them if they’re up to researching their collection and if they want to do that, using the Guidebook of the United States Coins, otherwise known as the Red Book, is a great source to help them to find out if they have any coins that are particularly valuable.

We then ask them what is it that they plan to do with the collection. Sometimes people tell us that they just need for tax purposes for the coins to be appraised. And if that’s the case, we advise them to go to an ANA affiliated dealer that’s close to them, and the dealer will, in fact, be able to appraise their collection. Now, there generally is a fee tied to that, and the fee can vary from dealer to dealer, but they are providing a professional service, and we advise the person that they will need to pay for this appraisal.

Sometimes the person is just interested in selling the collection. And if they are interested in selling the collection, then they have several options based on the type of collection they have. So if they have a small collection that is a very modest value, there are a couple of options, they can decide to sell the coins to a coin dealer, or they can sell their coins privately. In that situation we often say that it might be a great idea to find out the local coin club in the area and then make contact with that coin club and talk to someone about the availability of their collection. You definitely don’t want to make it known to the general public that you have a coin collection to sell for obvious reasons.

If your collection has more value to it, and especially if there are coins within the collection that are of higher value, then there a couple of other avenues. Again, you could sell the coins to a dealer, you could contact your local coin club, another option would be to be able to contact an auction organization that specializes in numismatics. Now, there are pluses and minuses to each. If you should decide to sell to a dealer, it’s a very direct and a very immediate transaction. If you should decide to sell to someone privately, that may involve a little bit more work on your part. The advantage of taking very valuable coins and submitting them to an auction house is that you reach a wide number of collectors, and so the value or the price that you’re able to get for your coins can be substantial. The downside of course is that you won’t be able to get your money right away because you’ll need to wait until that auction takes place, and then there’s the paperwork involved once the auction happens. So if you’re not in need of money right away, an auction house for a very valuable coin or a very valuable collection might be the best way to go.

It’s important to understand that there’s always the option of learning about numismatics yourself and getting really involved or getting really interested in the hobby, and we always make that suggestion as well. If you should have any future questions about your collection, we’ll be happy to talk with you about it at headquarters, at the American Numismatic Association.

This is Rod Gillis, Education Director, and hoping that you enjoy your collection.


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