By Richard SchwaryCalifornia Numismatic Investments ……

My Dad had a coin collection and has since passed on giving the collection to the family. How can I be sure to get full value if we decide to sell?”

coin collectionIt is amazing how often I get this email so a general answer might help everyone: Most small family coin collections are not rare. The coins were either pulled from circulation or purchased from the local coin shops that were common 30 or 40 years ago.

Buying quality coins during that period was hit-or-miss, because there wasn’t any independent certification and grading standards were evolving so in some cases the quality of the coin collection and therefore its value is a matter of good fortune. It’s unlikely the coin collection will contain a true rarity but it is possible and there are a few pointers which allow you to make an informed decision:

(1) Do the coins indicate were they were purchased and what was paid? This information could come from original flips (the old coin holders) or receipts and notes. These records are important because if Dad were dealing with Harvey Stack of New York for example, a leading East Coast dealer and recognized numismatic figure of the time, the chances of having a valuable coin in your hand increases tremendously.

(2) Regardless of the seller, do the coins appear to have been purchased for a premium when Dad was building the collection? This is important because during this time there were few rarities still in circulation. So by inference if he did not pay a big premium he must have just saved what came his way so the chances of having the key dates are smaller. This is not to say the collection is not valuable, it could be, but chances are its value comes from the silver and gold content, not its collectable value.

(3) Purchase a copy of A Guide Book of United States Coins by R.S. Yeoman; it is available from any bookstore for about $15. Lay out the collection and see if you can match your coins to the examples shown in the book by date and mint mark. There is a lot more to it but this step will give you a sense of what is valuable and what is not.

coin collection in cans(4) Finally, take your treasure to more than one coin dealer and shop around before selling anything. This is important because while I believe there are more honest dealers than not, you could run into the wrong person and get killed (this is trade talk for selling your valuable coins for much less than they are worth).

While all of this may sound daunting it can be a lot of fun and if you need help call me for a fast answer (1-800-225-7531) or email a list of what you have and the prices offered and I can see if you are being treated fairly.

Good luck and let’s hope your old coffee can contains one of the missing 1894 S Barber Dimes. The Mint struck 24 at the time and only about half are accounted for…the price tag for one of these in excellent condition will be over a million dollars!

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  1. 5) do a search on ebay to see what the coins you have are actually worth. You can click on ‘completed listings’ to see sale prices. Don’t go by the ‘buy it now’ prices as sometimes the price is too high for what they are offering.
    I have yet to see a ‘dealer’ offer a ‘fair’ price for any coins, as they probably have enough coins sitting around at inflated prices and unless you have an extremely rare coin you know about they won’t give you more than 1/2 the spot price of the metal value. Why give it away when with a little work you can have people bidding dad’s old coins up to market price on ebay? Unless you need the money why not put them into a fireproof lock box and hoard them? Silver and gold prices are going up every year and you can always hand your kids the coins – tax free ;) – where if you sell them all at once the tax man will be knocking on your door (thanks to the new 1099 requirements of sales over $600) and that will leave you about 1/2 or less to pass onto your kids (then they pay taxes on that, who’s the real winner here?)!!!
    If all else fails I will take your old coins off your hands for free :).

    • I like your advice as it sounds more sensible than the sales pitches on line, I am going to sell some of my collection.Appreciate some advice

  2. Too many times an inherited collection might just turn out to be an accumulation – meaning less valuable coins in lower grades. My grandmothers collection she kept in a bank deposit box for over 50 years turned out to be such. It included 2 gold coins ( a $1 and $2.50 piece) a few large cents, and the rest a mixture of foreign copper and nickel pieces. The foreign coins probably came from things brought home from the wars, and it didn’t help that everything rolled around together without any 2X2’s or flips. An uncle and I divided everything up, he of course, getting the gold. Grandma always believed it was a treasure worthy enough to keep in a bank vault, and always feared she could “go to jail” for keeping the gold coins after 1933 (this was even in the late 1970’s). Wish she picked up a Red Book! But the coins sentimental value still remained.

  3. My wife inherited what I would call a huge coin collection from her father. We spent many hours going thru coins, grading and verifying his grading. We put each coin in a slip pocket and put them in notebooks. We also created spreadsheets. I submitted the list to a couple of local collectors and stated that we weren’t interested in making an occupation of selling these coins, but would rather sell the lot. No takers. If the collection is too large, we may have to reconsider. Any suggestions on how to process? Thanks.

  4. I have an old child’s coin collection kit from before 1960. It’s called “Swift’s Premium Coin Collection.” It’s a basic map of the world with cutouts for coins from various countries to be held in place. There are spots for 11 coins and they are all there. I can’t seem to find it on the net anywhere. The coins are dated from 1943 to 1958 and I’ve looked up a few. Some seem to be fairly collectible, but I’m thinking the whole thing may actually be a good find. I also have the original plastic display sleeve it came in. Any ideas on how I can research this further?

    • Hi Richard,

      It was probably a promotional item from Swift and Company, a beef and pork food product company that has been around for over 160 years ( From the timeline the company provides, they didn’t start using the “Premium” label until 1931. Your coin board is most likely a promotional item from this company, who produced a wide variety of promotional items over the years – many of which are collectible. I’ll pass your email on to David Lange of the Coin Board News for more information.


      Hubert Walker

  5. I have 56 peace nickles and over two hundred DDO and other mint error Penny’s dimes and nickles and a handful of war nickles and some star notes who’s serial numbers are readable front to back (one dollar star note serial number 00466400 for example ..) looking to sell everything and let go of coin collecting as it’s becoming to time consuming and even starting fights with the wife haha … seriously tho I think it’s time to let it all go now…. My email is for pictures …any offer would be considered …thanks