By Richard Schwary – California 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?”
It is amazing how often I get this Email so a general answer might help everyone: Most small family collections are not rare because the coins were either taken out of circulation or purchased from the local coin shops which were common 30 or 40 years ago.
Buying quality coins during that period was hit or miss because there was not any independent certification and grading standards were evolving so in some cases the quality of the collection and therefore its value is a matter of good fortune. It is unlikely the 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 reciepts and notes. These records are important because if Dad was dealing with Harvey Stack of New York for example, a leading East Coast dealer at the time and recognized numismatic figure, the chances of having a valuable coin in your hand increases tremendously.
(2) Regardless of the selling dealer 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 its 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 this but this step will give you a sense of what is valuable and what is not.
(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 RSchwary@aol.com 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!