HomeCollecting StrategiesYou Need THESE Books to Appraise Your Coin Collection

You Need THESE Books to Appraise Your Coin Collection

By Christopher Bulfinch for CoinWeek …..
People reach out to CoinWeek daily to ask for advice about selling coin collections.

After inheriting a collection, or finding coin boards filled decades ago, many people aren’t interested in expanding or keeping the collections. They go to Google and start trying different search terms in an effort to figure out how much their coins are worth. It’s a reasonable approach that can yield useful information, but… it’s the internet. “Mainstream” media stories tout the latest eye-catching auction result, dealers’ websites sometimes report different values for the same coin, and eBay prices can be all over the place. Many of the sites and auction listings across venues and platforms are jargon-laden and confusing.

Appraising a coin collection can be a daunting, confusing task.

Reputable coin dealers can help steer sellers in the right direction, but wary sellers may want to approach any possible sale armed with reliable information.

For more than half a century, Whitman Publishing has offered the “Red Book“, the standard reference for beginners on U.S. coins. Plaudits for the Red Book are easy to find in the numismatic press, and most seasoned numismatists recommend it to those just starting out.

First published in 1946 and updated annually (except in 1950), the Red Book (officially titled A Guide Book of United States Coins) established itself as the default numismatic reference for the experienced and the uninitiated alike. Red Books themselves are collectible, though for the purposes of disposing of a coin collection, vintage Red Books are probably best left to numismatic bibliophiles.

For most circulated U.S. coins, the Red Book’s pricing grid provides a realistic view of the retail price of the coins in their collections. It will also help a newbie understand when different coins were issued and how their metallic composition impacts value. It covers all major U.S. denominations and types, as well as a few major varieties for each series. Coin pricing is an inexact science, but the Red Book will get you in the neighborhood. Armed with that information, transactions will be easier and safer. Basic grading tips are included for each series.

The Red Book also includes a glossary of numismatic terms, a brief history of United States coinage, and basic information about all series. Updated yearly by experienced dealers and researchers, the Red Book will give anyone a sense of what their coins are and what they’re worth. The interesting historical information provided might make you think twice about selling the collection. If that’s the case, the Red Book will be an effective primer, a starting point for your numismatic journey.

CoinWeek Supplies offers the Red Book. 2021 marks the 75th edition Diamond Anniversary of the Red Book with a special edition. The 2022 Red Book is available for pre-order, with shipping to start April 6.

Another useful title for non-numismatists trying to sell coin collections is retired Coin World Editor Beth Deisher’s Cash In Your Coins: Selling the Rare Coins You’ve Inherited. Deisher’s book is more helpful for selling collections with more valuable coins.

The value of coin collections doesn’t always lie in the value of the coins. Many collectors hold onto coins for sentimental reasons. Others just enjoy holding onto coins that are old or have unusual designs. Rare coins and valuable coins have been rare and valuable for quite a long time. These are coins someone would have had to make an effort to find and, in many cases, pay a significant price to obtain. Deisher shows you how to deal with such a collection. Beyond identification, inventory, and valuation, she also guides you through the relevant estate and tax law – topics clearly outside the purview of the Red Book.


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  1. Whitman does a GREAT job but I hope they can give us an update on the 2004 Bowers DOUBLE EAGLE GUIDE BOOK.

    Alot has happened in 17 years, Chris !!

  2. While I agree the Red Book is a valuable resource for collectors, as it contains a lot of great information, the pricing is high and will leave an inexperienced seller feeling ripped off. It is not reasonable to expect Red Book money for your coins in most cases.


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