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How to Sell Your Coins and Work With Coin Dealers

By Louis Golino for CoinWeek …..
There is little doubt that, along with the U.S. Mint, coin dealers are probably the most frequently criticized players in the coin industry.

Many collectors seem to believe that dealers are unnecessary in the online age and many question their ethics.

The Coin Dealer Newsletter recently published a fascinating article on whether coin dealers even need to exist. The answer in brief is that if they did not exist, they would need to be invented.

coin dealersThat is mainly because they provide necessary liquidity to the coin market and are a critical source of information for collectors and investors.

Better dealers often develop close relations with their customers and impart information about coins and the market that collectors are not likely to obtain elsewhere. In these cases, you are benefiting from their wealth of experience.

There is no question that some dealers are dishonest.

We have all heard stories about dealers who paid pennies on the dollar to someone who was not well informed about what they were selling.

But that is really the exception to the rule.

Moreover, one definitely needs to choose a coin dealer carefully whether buying or selling.

I have had my share of bad experiences, especially with mail-order companies that often sell over graded coins. This is a learning process everyone needs to go through.

One frequently hears negative comments from collectors who sold their coins to dealers, who were disappointed by the amount they received and turned off by the experience.

The best way to avoid this kind of experience is to arm yourself with knowledge.

Learn as much as you can about your coins, study the market, try to find out what the wholesale buy and sell prices are for your items, and find out as much as possible about a dealer before selling to them.

Check how long they have been in business and what professional organizations they may belong to. Being an ANA member helps a lot and means they have agreed to the ANA’s code of ethics.

You can request binding arbitration through the ANA if you feel you have been wrong by a dealer who is a member. There are some interesting stories about this in past issues of The Numismatist, the ANA’s monthly magazine.

Dealers who are members of PNG, the Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG), are held to even higher standards of ethics.

When choosing a dealer to sell to, or to buy from, I would not necessarily shy away from the major players like Stack’s or Legend just because you are a modest collector.

Such companies do focus more on the higher end of the market, and have many wealthy customers, but most also sell items at a wide range of price points and will give the more modest collector better service than you might imagine.

The advantages of dealing with them are many from getting better quality coins that are likely to outperform lower-quality examples to the security that you know your items are authentic, or at least guaranteed to be.

Selling one’s coins is a complex challenge that should not be rushed.

The first thing one needs to do is to decide which route to take: auction, dealer, or retail it yourself on e-Bay, at a coin show, or another selling platform.

If you have higher-end and unique or rare items, an auction is probably the way to go, but remember you will pay a substantial seller’s fee in most cases.

Many people today sell their coins on e-Bay. That may indeed be a good avenue depending on lots of factors, but before choosing that as opposed to selling to a dealer, I would suggest doing some calculations.

Factor in listing fees, selling fees, which are generally 9%, insertion fees in certain cases, and the cost to ship and insure your item, which can be substantial for expensive coins.

There is also the time it takes to create a good listing and the need to wait and see if your item sells. If it does not, you are still out the listing and insertion fees.

This leaves the option many choose, selling to a dealer – either your local dealer, at a coin show, or via mail if you are dealing with a major dealer who buys a lot such as APMEX.

If you are careful to choose an honest dealer with lots of experience, you are more likely to get a fair price.

The buy-sell margins vary quite a bit depending on what kind of coins you are trying to sell.

If you have something that is likely to take time for the dealer to sell, and which he has plenty of, you will obviously receive less.

You may want to try someone else who specializes in that kind of coin, who may be able to pay more.

If you are selling a desirable precious metal coin that has a strong wholesale market, such as PCGS- and NGC-graded generic pre-1933 gold, or better modern U.S. Mint products with low mintages, you will probably get a price that is at least equal to what you would get if you retailed the coin yourself on an online platform.

Dealers buy and sell such coins on very small margins generally and make their money on volume, whereas they have to make a larger profit on lower-end items to compensate for the extra time it takes to sell them.

Keep in mind that in most cases, when selling such an item, you are selling to a dealer who is likely to wholesale your coin to another dealer for a small profit, rather than trying to sell it in their store or on their website.

One also needs to remember that dealers have many expenses from insurance to rent, personnel costs, taxes, and so forth.

If you are planning to sell your whole collection or a good number of your coins, I would not sell it all to just one dealer unless you have very rare items that you want to sell through an auction.

It is also a good idea to purchase the latest issue of the Greysheet, the Coin Dealer Newsletter, which will give you a good idea of the wholesale market.

In general, your dealer will pay either bid or a little below bid for better coins that sell easily, and less for coins that take more time to sell like lower-end collector coins.

Another way to determine how much dealers are paying for coins you want to sell is to check the websites of some of the major retailers, who sometimes post their buy prices for items they need.

Finally, keep in mind that many people fail to understand that market for coins is cyclical and that it takes time to make a profit.

One needs to be patient, study the market, and remember that if you are looking to maximize your return, you may want to wait for the market for your particular items to improve.

* * *

Lou GolinoLouis Golino is an award-winning numismatic journalist and writer, specializing primarily in modern U.S. and world coins. His work has appeared in CoinWeek since 2011. He also currently writes regular features for Coin World, The Numismatist, and CoinUpdate.com, and has been published in Numismatic News, COINage, and FUNTopics, among other coin publications. He has also been widely published on international political, military, and economic issues.

His columnThe Coin Analyst, special to CoinWeek, won the 2021 Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG) Award for Best Numismatic Column: United States Coins – Modern. In 2015, “The Coin Analyst” received an NLG award for Best Website Column. In 2017, he received an NLG award for Best Article in a Non-Numismatic Publication with his piece, “Liberty Centennial Designs”.

In October 2018, he received a literary award from the Pennsylvania Association of Numismatists (PAN) for his 2017 article, “Lady Liberty: America’s Enduring Numismatic Motif” that appeared in The Clarion.

Louis Golino
Louis Golino
Louis Golino is an award-winning numismatic journalist and writer specializing on modern U.S. and world coins. He has been writing a weekly column for CoinWeek since May 2011 called “The Coin Analyst,” which focuses primarily on modern numismatic issues and developments at major world mints. In August 2015 he received the Numismatic Literary Guild’s (NLG) award for Best Website Column for “The Coin Analyst.” He is also a contributor to Coin World, where he wrote a bimonthly feature and weekly blog, and The Numismatist, the American Numismatic Association’s (ANA) monthly publication, where he writes a monthly column on modern world coins. He is also a founding member of the Modern Coin Forum sponsored by Modern Coin Mart. He previously served as a congressional relations specialist and policy analyst at the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress and as a syndicated columnist and news analyst on international politics and national security for a wide variety of publications. He has been writing professionally since the early 1980s when he began writing op-ed articles and news analyses.

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  1. The greysheet prices are for dealer to dealer transactions. Dealers don’t pay individuals the same amount as they pay other dealers, with some exceptions. The greysheet gives you a rough idea of what to expect if you sell to a dealer. Many collectors think they will get Redbook prices, which is not realistic. If you shop carefully, you can often buy at the retail level and pay greysheet ask prices.

  2. Naz,
    Not sure on the Mandela, but I would suggest trying NGC’s online price guide for world coins. I know a dealer selling raw ones for $15 but the MS70 price should be much higher esp. if there are not a lot of MS70’s.

  3. will there be a 1099 involved with sale of coins above the 600 dollar mark? or is it up to the seller to report such sales after the new year? or should sales be done at coin shows on a cash exchange??

  4. Good, thorough writing. I sometimes leave a reputable, local dealer feeling like I got ripped a new one, but I remind myself about all his expenses and great deals on coins in general. Thanks

  5. Went to a coin show in Portland looking to sell. I approached table after table to find the dealers not even interested in giving me the time of day. One was reading a newspaper. I stood there awhile and then left. Another was preparing and eating a snack. Several were talking among themselves: “sixty four? There’s no way, I said! That’s a 62 on a good day!” Everyone laughed. The next guy piped up, “well, I had a guy bring in a Walker that looked like he’d put it in the washing machine. He wanted…” and it went on. Table after table, dealer after dealer, no one would even make eye contact. I finally found a dealer that would pay attention and look at what I had, and I sold to him without further checking the competition. In retrospect, he got a very good deal, but I was so frustrated that I just wanted to get out of there.

  6. Your best bet is to buy a Red Book, figure out what you have, and then a) take them to a local dealer, or b) sell them on eBay.

  7. I’m in possession of a 1965 quarter with double stamped eagle. I first saw what I thought was a extra leaf but under further review of it I discovered the whole back stamp. How much is something like that worth? It is circulated but not that bad. Any advice would be helpful.

  8. Thank you Sir for giving us more information about selling our coins. We hope Wi’ll follow Your advice thank so much.

  9. I have gone to many coins dealers and they have said that they are not worth nothing?
    But I have checked out the coins on u tube and they are worth a lot of money, I don’t know where to sell them to a honest dealer, and I live in San Diego

  10. Hi my mom just passed and going through the desk I found some Indian head coins. I would like to sell but need advise on how it should be done. I would like to have an honest opinion on what they are worth in the condition they are in. Thanks in advance.

  11. I’ve inherited a coin collection. Approximately 128 Wheat pennies from 1909-1957. They are in white coin holders and had info pertaining to the coin written on them. I picked 21 of those that I feel, after numerous hours and months of research, to be the most valuable. Out of those 21, three are 1922 no mint Mark. I’m moving soon and need to downsize. Like most, I desire a quick but profitable sale. Thank you in advance for any information you could help me with.

  12. Checking out a new dealer? Do what I do and have your wife contact them first looking to ‘value or sell x, y, z coins that she inherited’ that you already are well aware of their market value and see what each dealer says or offers.

  13. I feel it is necessary at this juncture to educate some of the public, should they aspire to greater knowledge in numismatics.

    1. Coins are not stamped they are struck, by dies almost exclusively with an incuse design (except for in the case of just two varieties one being the 1909 era two and a half dollar gold coins) which are made from hubs with a raised design which is impressed into a die in a process called hubbing.

    2. Doubled dies are coins struck from a die which bear an image that is doubled, due to issues during the hubbing process, and which leave that doubled image on the die.

    Every coin struck with that die will bear the doubled image identical to that which is on the die. There are a finite number of coins struck with the doubled die and this is what makes them valuable. Furthermore in the most extreme cases of doubling; the die is discovered early in it’s life and is removed from use.

    This is almost certainly the case with the 1958 F.S.101 Doubled Die Obverse and the 1969 S F.S 101 Doubled Die Obverse. Both varieties have very few known examples and they carry impressive premiums with the 1958 being exponentially more valuable than the ’69 S.

    Mechanically doubled coins are created when there is any number of issues in the striking process or occur due to the deterioration of a die over the course of it’s life. They carry little or no premium over face or the precious metal in the coin depending on the coin denomination and year of mintage.

    As for the 1965 quarter dollar in an earlier comment; it would probably be worth face value.

    Additionally Youtube houses videos which are full of deceptive information. Also coins that are worth the most (almost always) are of extremely high grades and are gem specimens. That being said, if your fingers have touched the faces of a coin, it is likely not a gem specimen any longer. The slightest bit of wear, even one rub of a finger from circulation will take any mint state coin to an about uncirculated one and that can mean the difference between several thousands of dollars and face value in the case of most modern coins.

  14. Mr. Going, with all due respect, seriously! I’m a United States citizen that pays taxes so the people at the mint( a very desired position, I might add, great benefits and 200 holidays a year) can produce a product that I’m n I t able to obtain because of the Bulk Bully Buyers. Please thats !*#!*^&*. We as citizens should have the opportunity to buy without infringement, period. PERIOD.

    • Hey RL,

      I Agree! I have been buying from the mint since the early 1970’s. Bulk/Greedy buyers have shut the average collector out of Mint purchases.
      To your point, many of those Mint Bulk Bully Buyers are from outside the USA.

  15. I agree R. L. Brockman it seems almost impossible to get your hands on a modern coin from the UNITED STATE’S mint especially those with small mintages because the wealthy man has endless cash to buy robot’s that you could never compute faster than so you end up getting nothing and then those types of people and dealers is what ruins it for the next generation of coin people who are looking to get established in the coin market and after they see how hard they tried to get that coin from the mint just to realize that it’s already sold out because of all of the mal-ware and every other kind of virus that can wreck your coin buying experiences!


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