Valuation of Coins
What’s valuable in my collection? What isn’t? We can look at it two ways.
1. If you like it, it has value. It’s YOUR collection, after all.
I have a nickel that has some nice, violet toning. If I were to sell it, I would get about five cents for it. But, I like it. I love looking at the shiny toning. It’s value is just its value to me because I like it.
2. Otherwise, when you are selling coins, a coin is worth what someone else is willing to pay for it.
Factually, it doesn’t matter which coin it is. Any coin worth what someone else is willing to pay for it. That’s the acid test when it comes to sell value. Click here for a video on this subject.
Let’s take a look at the key points which can affect a coin’s value. I’m going to list them and then I will take them up in detail.
• Preservation of the Coin
• Precious Metals the coins are made of
• People just want it
Scarcity is the main factor which will affect the value of a coin. There are several factors included this category of scarcity. These factors are explained in detail below.
Sometimes the mint just doesn’t make many of a certain coin, so there is a low mintage. When there aren’t many of a coin, it becomes a real game to get them as there aren’t enough for everyone who wants one. People compete for those coins and this drives the price up.
Take note that the production at the U.S. Mint has been affected by the Covid-19 government shutdowns. Mintage of various 2020 coins may be reduced. Time will tell. Keep a close watch.
Special Dies Or Special Minting Process
The mint used special dies or a special process to produce the coins. There are two examples of this with the Sacagawea Dollar.
In the year 1999, there were 5,500 Sacagawea Dollars minted specifically for being put in Cheerios boxes as a special promotion. (They were minted in 1999, but distributed in the year 2000.) It was discovered later, a FEW of these dollar coins were slightly different than the common run. They used a special die. On the eagle’s feathers, there is additional detail. These are known as “Cheerios Dollars”. They are drastically more valuable than the common Sacagawea dollar of that year. Prices for these have typically ranged from $5,000.00 to $25,000.00.
Glenna Goodacre is the artist who won the competition to have her art on the Sacagawea dollar coin. She won a $5,000.00 cash prize. She requested to be paid in Sacagawea dollars. When her coins arrived, she was delighted to find that the run of dollars they made with great quality and were different than the common run. Those likewise are worth more than the common Sacagawea dollar and can have a price of over $700.00.
Sometimes the mint makes errors, although they have never admitted to doing so. Or, less commonly, they make a bunch of errors. Some of these will affect the value of a coin.
A good example of this is the 1955 Lincoln Wheat cent double die. It’s called a “double die” because you can see from the picture, part of the image is doubled. Look at the word “LIBERTY” and the date, “1955”.
People really loved these, and this cent is very valuable.
Not all errors make the coin more valuable. For example, when the U.S. Mint made the Presidential dollars, there was a new process of putting coin information on the rim of the coin. This, and other factors, introduced enough confusion into the process that an encyclopedia could be filled with the number of errors made with the Presidential dollars. SOME of the errors are valuable to find and many others add no value to the coin whatsoever. If you have a coin with an error, you have to do your homework and see if it is one of the valuable kind. You don’t have to agree with what you find. You can always try to sell it yourself and see what you can get for it. But, don’t assume it’s more valuable just because it has an error.
Many Of A Certain Kind Of Coin Were Destroyed
Sometimes coins get destroyed. In the U.S. at one time, millions of silver coins were melted down. In 1979 and 1980 the price of silver peaked at $50.00 per ounce. Their metal value was much greater than their coin value. Millions of silver coins were destroyed. The surviving coins, of course, are now scarcer.
There is an important coin term that goes along with this subject of scarcity. It is the term “Key Date”. Here it is, defined by the U.S. Mint:
Key Date: A scarce date required to complete a collection, usually more difficult to find and afford.
So, when you are researching coins, you can google the name of the coin and include the term Key Date. That will help you find the scarce ones. Or, help you determine if a coin you already have is one of the scarce ones.
PRESERVATION OF THE COIN
The condition of the coin, commonly known as the “Grade” is important in determining the value of a coin. “Grade” refers mostly to the wear and tear on the coin. There are other factors too. There is a whole profession built around the activity of grading coins.
We have written other articles on the subject. But for simplicity’s sake, we present to you here a tool you can use to help in grading your coins. This is from the Professional Coin Grading Service and it is called their “PCGS Photograde™ Online”. In this, you can look up the coin you are interested in and see photos of it in different grades.
The grade of the coin affects its value.
Bear in mind that not everyone will agree on the grading of a coin. Don’t be shocked if you see a discrepancy in grading between different professional coin graders.
Check eBay. Check the Red Book. Check coin mags. Diligent homework is key to putting a dollar value on your coins.
PRECIOUS METALS THE COIN IS MADE OF
In determining the value of a coin, you should consider the value of the metal it is made of. For example, the Silver Eagle Bullion coin is 1 ounce of silver. You would never sell a Silver Eagle for less than the price of the silver it is composed of. The value of silver can vary greatly. In the example above, the price of silver rose to $50.00 an ounce in 1980! If this happened again, you would definitely want to know the price of the silver before you sold your Silver Eagles!
PEOPLE JUST LIKE THEM
People are going to buy what they are going to buy and it isn’t going to follow a set pattern. Maybe the coin in question isn’t scarce at all. The answer to this is just to do your homework and keep a close eye on what people are actually paying for coins presently. On eBay, look at the SOLD listings more so than the FOR SALE coins.
So, in determining the value of your coins, you can use the information above. Also, we can’t stress enough that you must LOOK to see what is presently happening with the value of those coins in your possession.
US Mint – Coin Term Glossary
US Mint – Message from United States Mint Director David J. Ryder
The Spruce Crafts – Cheerios Dollar
The Spruce Crafts – Sacagawea Dollar Key Dates, Rarities and Varieties
The Spruce Crafts – 1955 Double Die Lincoln Penny
The Spruce Crafts – Types of Mint Error Coins
The Spruce Crafts – Washington Presidential Dollar Error Coin Gallery
Wikipedia – 1955 double die cent
PCGS – After the Melts What’s Left In Silver Coins
Professional Coin Grading Service – PCGS Photograde™ Online
Professional Coin Grading Service – Coin Price Guide
YouTube – American Numismatic Association, What Gives Coins Value?