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Numismatic Technology and Markets – A Revolution in Rare Coin Price Guides

price guides

As technology makes information more accessible, including price guides and price discovery, the educated coin collector is the winner

By Jeff Garrett for Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) ……
Some of the oldest rare coin price guides for US coins began in the mid- to late 1800s. There was boom of collector interest in US coinage when the Mint stopped making Large Cents. A few of the great collections of the era were started at this time.

Jeff GarrettOver the generations, rare coin price guides changed very little. Slowly, conditions became more of a factor in pricing, but with only one or two grades listed for most coins.

In late 1946, the Guide Book of United States Coins (“Redbook”) was first published. This became the bible of numismatic pricing for the next 50 years or so. I remember times in the 1970s when dealers would not price coins in inventory until the latest edition of the Redbook was distributed. Most of my early knowledge of rare coins came from memorizing as much as possible of the Redbook.

A lot has changed in the last several years. There are a multitude of rare coin price guides to choose from. Instead of waiting for yearly pricing, collectors and dealers now demand up-to-the-minute information. Rare coin consumers want as much information as possible before making a purchase decision.

We now live in the information age, and coin collectors have been a huge beneficiary of this new trend. Because of the many price guides, auction records and population information, the hobby is now more transparent than ever before. In my opinion, this has been one of the biggest drivers for increased collector demand in the last 20 years.

Regardless of their budget, collectors want accurate pricing information before making a purchase. This may sound simple, but I can assure you it is not.

For one thing, rare coins are not commodities. Nearly every rare coin is different in appearance, even in the exact same grade. We have discussed this many times over the years. Eye appeal and general appearance can greatly impact the value of a coin. This is very hard to convey in price guides.

Most price guides list prices for the imaginary “average” coin for the grade. Therefore, actual coins can trade in a wide range based on appearance. This can be easily observed by attending any major rare coin auction.

There is also much discussion about what constitutes wholesale and retail prices for rare coins.

Many have a hard time defining exactly the term “retail” pricing. Because of the abundance of pricing information available to most retail collectors, the standard markups of times past are hard to sustain for most retail companies. I can safely state that there has been a huge blurring of the line between what is wholesale and what is retail in today’s marketplace.

Many consider price guides to be a big problem for the hobby. But in my opinion, it’s not much different than the pricing pressures nearly every retail company in the United States faces. Consumers can price-shop with a few clicks of their phone for everything from socks to automobiles. In the long run, this transparency will greatly increase volume for many players, but profit margins will continue to be squeezed. Rare coin consumers are the winner.

The landscape for rare coin price guides continues to evolve. NGC has maintained a price guide for years, and they continue to make improvements at a steady pace.

Recently, the long-running Coin Dealer Newsletter (Greysheet) has been going through a radical restructure and update. They have decided to eliminate the weekly sheets of years past, and publish a once-a-month newspaper, one for retail pricing and another with the standard wholesale prices they have published for decades. The new formats debuted last week during the Central States convention in Chicago. Reviews were mixed on the newspaper-style format, but in the long run I am confident they will produce a product the market will embrace.

Regardless of the price guides you use, understanding how coins are valued is very important to every dealer and collector. You can easily end up with coins that seem like incredible bargains in relation to price guides. If the coins are unattractive, you will be subject to steep price discounting when it comes time to liquidate.

I urge every collector to spend time learning to grade, and know for themselves how a coin should be valued in relation to its appearance.

There are now more tools than ever for the average or advanced collector. It is vital to understand how to use this deluge of information. Spend time studying the series you have chosen, and examine as many coins as possible before making a big decision.

Now is the best time in the history of the hobby for collectors to buy coins at the lowest possible markup. Use the information you have available to your fullest advantage.

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Jeff Garrett bio

Jeff Garrett
Jeff Garretthttps://rarecoingallery.com/
Jeff Garrett, founder of Mid-American Rare Coin Galleries, is considered one of the nation’s top experts in U.S. coinage — and knowledge lies at the foundation of Jeff’s numismatic career. With more than 35 years of experience, he is one of the top experts in numismatics. The “experts’ expert,” Jeff has personally bought and sold nearly every U.S. coin ever issued. Not a day goes by that someone doesn’t call on Jeff Garrett for numismatic advice. This includes many of the nation’s largest coin dealers, publishers, museums, and institutions. In addition to owning and operating Mid-American Rare Coin Galleries, Jeff Garrett is a major shareholder in Sarasota Rare Coin Galleries. His combined annual sales in rare coins and precious metals — between Mid-American in Kentucky and Sarasota Rare Coin Galleries in Florida — total more than $25 million. Jeff Garrett has authored many of today’s most popular numismatic books, including Encyclopedia of U.S. Gold Coins 1795–1933: Circulating, Proof, Commemorative, and Pattern Issues; 100 Greatest U.S. Coins; and United States Coinage: A Study By Type. He is also the price editor for The Official Redbook: A Guide Book of United States Coins. Jeff was also one of the original coin graders for the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS). He is today considered one of the country’s best coin graders and was the winner of the 2005 PCGS World Series of Grading. Today, he serves as a consultant to Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC), the world’s largest coin grading company. Jeff plays an important role at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Numismatic Department and serves as a consultant to the museum on funding, exhibits, conservation, and research. Thanks to the efforts of Jeff and many others, rare U.S. coins are once again on exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History. Jeff has been a member of the Professional Numismatic Guild (PNG) since 1982 and has recently served as president of the organization. He has also served as the ANA President and as a member of the ANA Board of Governors.

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