There are many reasons to collect coins, from historical and educational pursuits to padding your retirement fund with investment-grade precious metals. But no matter why you amass coinage, you’re probably well-aware of the fact that acquiring the right ones can equal big returns. Numismatics know that a seemingly regular one-cent penny could have a million times the value—just think of the 1943 copper-alloy Lincoln penny that went for $1.7 million in 2010—and all it takes is just a little digging. But how do you know if you’ve got something special and rare for the coin folder or something destined to the change jar? Here’s the way to find out what your coin is worth.
1. Inspect Them Carefully—The first step to figuring out whether your coin is worth more than face value is to take the time to conduct a thorough inspection. There are a few important components that give a coin’s worth beyond the denomination inscribed on the obverse, including its year, mint mark, material, possible errors, condition and, of course, rarity. Make note of all of these factors before moving onto the next step.
2. Give it a Grade—The next thing you should do is to give your collectible coins a grade using the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS). The PCGS will happily grade your coins if you mail them in, bring them to a trade show or show them to a local PCGS dealer in your area. The cost of coin grading from this service varies widely based on the category, from $25 for basic coins all the way up to $300+ for rarities. You’ll also want to use this service to determine a coin’s value after grading. With over 43 million coin prices listed in the Price Guide, this is one of the collectors’ best resources for determining a coin’s worth.
3. Consult the Book—Many coin collectors prefer to find coin worth the old-fashioned way—with coin value books. One of the most popular hard-copy coin valuation resources is The Official Red Book of United States Coins (aka the Red Book), a 71-year-old coin worth reference guide that offers brand-new editions every year. This book contains over 32,500 prices for more than 7,600 coins, tokens and other collectibles, so it’s definitely a great option to have on hand if you’re looking to get an idea of coin value at home. There are several other reliable coin pricing guides out there, but this one is rated highly in the numismatics community.
4. Ask an Appraiser—Unfortunately, there are many scenarios where the books, price guides and grading systems conflict with one another and only confuse you more. Now’s the time to consult a local coin appraiser. It’s important that you spend the time looking for a good appraiser who is highly respected in the coin collecting community. Avoid online appraisers besides PCGS, as these companies may be auction houses looking to undercut value. Start with the Professional Numismatics Guild to find a trusted coin dealer who can help evaluate your collection.
5. Connect with Others—One of the coin collectors’ greatest resources is his or her fellow collectors. Those who have been in the hobby for a lifetime will be able to sift through your collection and quickly identify the ones that might be worth having graded or appraised. You can either join a local chapter of the American Numismatics Association or join groups online, like communities on Reddit and Facebook. Post your finds and watch how everyone reacts!
Finding the Value in Collecting
While it’s exciting to think about a coin being worth a big chunk of change (with which you could buy more coins), the interesting thing is that most coin connoisseurs talk less about selling and more about acquiring. The fun part is in inspecting your change at the grocery store, rifling through coin books at yard sales and uncovering lost currency in attics, basements and underground. Coin collecting is the modern-day version of the treasure hunt, and we can’t lose sight of the enjoyment that it brings.
Provident Metals is a great resource for a wide range of numismatic information, supplies and, of course, coins. Be sure to follow our blog and like us on social media to connect with fellow coin-lovers.