How Much Is My Coin Worth?
How Price Is Established
Of course, like anything else, a coin is only "worth" what someone is willing to pay for it. Several factors are taken into consideration by a potential buyer to establish what he or she considers a fair price. In general, a coin must be physically examined to determine its authenticity, grade and the presence or absence of problems before a value can be established.
Identification. What country issued the coin? What is the face value, the date and the mint mark (if any)? Usually, this information can be determined without much difficulty. Keep in mind that if no denomination (face value) is indicated, your "coin" is most likely a token or medal. If more than one design was used that year, which one is it? Beginning collectors may have a tuff time with this aspect of identification. For more information on coin design you may want to consult one of the many books published that include information on this subject. We've listed some of them in the next section, Price Guides & Clubs, Publications & On-line Resources. Tokens & medals are also considered collectible. If you believe your coin-like item is actually a token or medal you may want to review some books published on this subject as well. We've listed a few in our Clubs, Publications & On-line Resources section. Many Numismatic reference books can also be ordered through our Coins & Supplies website.
Authenticity. While the average citizen usually thinks of currency (paper money or "bills") when they think of counterfeit money, as a collector you should be well aware of the numerous counterfeit & altered coins that have been produced over the years. Unlike the typical counterfeit "bill", which is usually produced for use as business issue (the kind you spend & don't collect), counterfeit coins are usually made, sold and/or traded by unscrupulous hucksters for the sole purpose of parting collectors from their money. We don't want to confuse or mislead you, counterfeit currency is also made for the sole purpose of ripping off collectors, but they are more often made in large quantities for the purpose of spending. Also, some altered coins were not made for the purpose of deceiving a collector either. Certain coins have been altered over the years as mementos or as a joke. These types of coins are sometimes referred to as "love tokens ". The name can be confusing as a "love token " can in fact be an actual coin (legal tender) that has been altered or it can be an altered token or medal.You can also find a few books on these subjects under Clubs, Publications & On-line Resources. Keep in mind an expert opinion may be needed to determine whether or not a coin (or piece of currency or any collectible for that fact) is authentic.
Grade. A grade summarizes the overall condition of a coin. Fair market value often varies by orders of magnitude for the same coin in different grades. This topic is covered in more detail in the Grading section of A Guide to Collecting found in the Main Index .
Cleaning and other damage. In general, the vast majority of collectors prefer coins which have not been tampered with. A coin that is cleaned, polished, corroded, scratched, holed (drilled through so that it can be hung on a chain), glued or soldiered (for mounting or use in jewelry), purposely altered, artificially toned, "dinged" on the edge or bent is less desirable than a problem free specimen. Cleaned & damaged coins are still bought and sold by collectors but usually at a substantial discount compared to problem-free examples.
How Much Is My Coin Worth?
Once you've identified a coin and have have some idea of its grade & condition, a guide can be consulted for typical prices. Some of the most commonly used coin price publications include:
- The Standard Catalog of World Coins by Chester L. Krause and Clifford Mishler. There are four volumes, each covering a different century from 1601 (17th century) to present. Each volume identifies and lists prices for coins from around the world.
- "The Red Book" (a.k.a. A Guide Book of United States Coins ) by R.S. Yeoman, is published annually and is a commonly used "retail" price guide for United States coins. It also includes other useful information about grading, mintage, varieties, errors, etc. "The Red Book" should only be used as a general guide since annual publishing cannot reflect the most recent fluctuations in prices.
- "The Blue Book" (a.k.a. A Handbook of United States Coins ) by R.S. Yeoman is sometimes used as a "wholesale" price guide by dealers and for those collectors looking to sell their coins. As with "The Red Book", "The Blue Book" should only be used as a general guide.
- Retail prices for U.S. coins are available in Coin World. Coin Prices and Coin Age. The prices listed in these publications are more "up-to-date" than those published in "The Red Book" & "The Blue Book" because they are published throughout the year instead of annually.
- The principal price guide used by dealers is the Coin Dealer Newsletter (CDN), popularly known as "the Greysheet ." CDN also publishes the Bluesheet. which lists sight unseen prices for certified coins, and the Greensheet. which covers paper money. You don't have to be a dealer to get these publications. Anyone can buy a subscription. See our list of periodicals for where to call, write or visit on-line. "Serious" collectors and those who buy or sell frequently can benefit a great deal from the information contained in these price lists. Although they are ordinarily available only by subscription although you can occasionally pick up a copy from your local coin dealer. We should emphasize "occasionally" as many coin dealers guard their Greysheet with their lives and some even hide them from their customers (we won't say why, that wouldn't be very nice, but it's probably the reason you're thinking of). A copy of the Greysheet as well as several other Numismatic publications, can always be found at our counter for customers to thumb through.
- Numismatic News publishes prices for all 3 levels (dealer buy. bid and retail ).
These publications are often available in libraries, bookstores, coin shops and online. See Clubs, Publications & On-line Resources for more information.
How Much Is My Coin Worth?
Coin Values Most Frequently Asked About
Circulated U.S. wheat cents (1958 and earlier) A.K.A "wheaties", "wheat stalks", & "wheat backs" or to some "the penny with the little curved branches or leaves on the back". Most wheat cents dated 1940 or later are purchased by dealers for less than 2 cents each. Some of the earlier dates are worth more (a few cents to several dollars or more), depending of course on mint mark & condition. 1943 "steel pennies" Zinc plated steel cents (someone who is less knowledgeable might refer to them as "silver pennies" although there is no silver content at all) were minted only in 1943 due to the need for copper & bronze (normally
used for pennies) during the war. Steel 1943 cents, with or without a mint mark, may be worth under 5 cents to about 50 cents if circulated, and up to a dollar or two if uncirculated. Steel cents that have been "re-processed" (given a new zinc coating) may appear to be uncirculated to a novice but they are not worth uncirculated prices. Almost any dealer & most experienced collectors should be able to tell the difference. Also, in 1999 the media incorrectly reported that 1943 steel pennies are rare and valuable. This is not true. In fact, more than one billion were minted. What is rare and valuable is a 1943 penny struck on a normal bronze planchet. Any 1943 penny that appears to be bronze can easily be tested to determine if it is in fact a rare 1943 bronze penny or a steel cent which has been copper plated (an "altered " coin) in a deliberate attempt to make it seem more valuable than it is. Very simply, if the penny sticks to a magnet it's a steel cent that has been copper plated. So if you have a bronze or copper colored 1943 penny don't quit your day job too soon. Sorry if we've burst anyone's bubble. On the other hand, if you find one that does not stick to a magnet you should take it to a dealer who may be able to assist you in determining if it's genuine. Once professionally authenticated, you may want to offer or consign the coin at auction to get the highest price. A word to the wise; as with any rare coin or collectable, if the item must leave your possession & sight in order to be authenticated, offered for consignment or placed in an auction it would be a good idea to have a clear, detailed color photo, photo copy or image of the item along with a receipt before trusting it to a stranger. Silver dimes, quarters and halves U.S. dimes, quarters and half dollars dated 1964 or earlier are 90% silver (U.S. half dollars dated 1965 through 1970 are 40% silver) and were made with 0.723 ounce of silver for each dollar in face value. Since most likely some metal has been worn away from circulation, 0.715 ounce/dollar is often used to estimate the amount of silver still present in 90% silver pieces. Even if the coin is a common date (and most dated 1934 or later are), it's still worth more than face value because of its silver content. The amount varies with the spot price of silver. To determine the silver value of a coin or group of coins multiply the current spot price of silver by 0.715 and by the total face value. For example, if spot is $4.00 per ounce, the bullion value for $100 face value is $4.00 x .715 x 100 = $286. Many uncirculated silver coins and some circulated ones may be worth a premium over the silver value. Check a price guide to see if you have any better dates. For information on how to obtain precious metals spot prices see Clubs, Publications & On-line Resources. Silver dollars U.S. silver dollars (1935 and earlier) were made with 0.77 ounce of silver each. These coins are popular with collectors and, unless damaged or severely worn, can usually be sold for more than their silver value. Less common dates and higher grades can be sold for considerably more. Check a price guide to see if you have any better date(s). Susan B. Anthony dollars If you received it as change, it's most likely worth one dollar. Proof SBA dollars (proof coins are rarely found in circulation) are worth more. Bicentennial quarters, halves and dollars Because billions of these coins were made, they're generally worth only face value. A few dealers pay about 10% over face for rolls of lightly circulated bicentennial coins and a bit more for uncirculated ones. Special 40% silver bicentennial coins were also minted for sale to collectors (they're easily detected by the absence of copper on the edge). They're worth more than face value but are unlikely to be found in circulation. Coin commemorating the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana Millions were made by several British Commonwealth nations. The current price range for most is $5-25. They may have gone up a bit in price since Princess Diana's death but there seems to be more sentimental value than Numismatic value with these coins. A coin with two heads, two tails or designs of two different coins With very few exceptions, these pieces are novelty items sometimes called magician's coins (sorry if we've given away any secrets - don't tell the kids unless they already know about Santa). They're created by hollowing out one coin and trimming down another to fit inside. A seam can be found along the inside edge of the rim on one side. Because they're altered coins, they have no value to the average coin collector although there are a few collectors that have an interest in altered & counterfeit coins. I guess at this point we should inform you that owning counterfeit coins is illegal in the United States so if this is where your interests lie. 'nuff said. The exceptions: A single Indian head cent struck by two obverse dies, both dated 1859, was recently authenticated. Also, a small number of legitimate error coins known as "mules" were discovered in 2000. A mule is produced when dies intended for different denominations are paired to strike the two sides of a coin. The recently discovered mules include at least one specimen of a1999 Lincoln cent with the reverse of a Roosevelt dime and at least six specimens of a Sacagawea "golden dollar" with the obverse (portraying George Washington) intended for a state quarter. If you have a coin like ones described and cannot find a seam even under magnification, a coin dealer in your area may be able to assist you in determining if it's genuine. Once professionally authenticated, you may want to offer or consign the coin at auction to get the highest price. As we stated earlier in this section, use caution. As with any rare coin or collectable, if the item must leave your possession & sight in order to be authenticated, offered for consignment or placed in an auction it would be a good idea to have a clear, detailed color photo, photo copy or image of the item along with a receipt before trusting it to a stranger. An unstruck coin Unstruck blanks or planchets of all denominations are relatively common, particularly in cents, nickels & dimes. Most retail for a couple dollars or less. A "misstruck" coin There are many types of striking errors. Keep in mind a lot of coins may look as if they've been misstruck because they have been altered after striking. Altered coins have no value to the average coin collector. Additionally, what looks like a striking error to the untrained eye may actually be a very common die strike for a particular coin. Prices for legitimate striking errors cover a broad range. Minor errors, such as a raised crack, will generally bring little or no premium. Incomplete planchets (known as clips) and off center strikes typically sell for a few dollars. Rare, dramatic errors may sell for several hundred dollars. The first step towards determining the value an unusual looking coin is to have it examined by one or more professionals. For books on this subject see Clubs, Publications & On-line Resources.
How Much Is My Coin Worth?