Thursday, January 25, 2024

You Inherited A Coin Collection...Now What?

Inheriting a collection of coins should be a positive experience. After all, someone has taken the time to pull this collection together and thought highly enough of you to bequeath it. The truth is when you inherit a coin collection, it can often lead to a lot of confusion and stress – especially when it’s not your area of expertise.

What Are the Most Common Inherited Coins?

If you inherit a coin collection, the first thing to do is to determine what type of collection it is. Based on my years of answering calls about collections people have inherited, they fall into four or five distinctly different categories. The most common is for material inherited from someone who saved coins on trips abroad, especially World War II veterans. These types of coins are interesting, but generally very low in value. The exception would be gold coins of course. For this type of material, local coin shops can handle liquidation for such accumulations.

The next most common collection we encounter are those with Proof and Mint Sets. Coin collecting was hugely popular in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and the US Mint sold millions of these sets. They are very common and are relatively low in value. It is easy to establish values for Proof and Mint Sets. The annual Guide Book of United States Coins (Redbook) lists values for these. Wholesale value (what you could expect to get) is around 60% of the listed prices. Once again, your local coin shop can usually handle such a transaction. 

Another commonly encountered estate of coins inherited includes mostly beginner coins such as Lincoln wheat cents, common Morgan Silver dollars, Silver Eagles, and odd coins pulled from circulation over the years. The above-mentioned Redbook can be useful in establishing ballpark values. When deciding to liquidate the material, it is recommended that you obtain multiple offers from local coin shops, which can sometimes be very difficult if the accumulation is large. We have seen rooms full of this kind of collection. In this situation, you should select a small group of the coins you feel are the most valuable. Offer them to multiple shops, and this should give enough information to know who you should be dealing with.

How to prepare a coin collection for sale

You want to sell your family heirloom coin collection, but the coins don’t exactly look in tip-top condition. Before you launch into the kitchen cupboard to drag out the Lysol and an old toothbrush, make sure you’ve done your homework – or you’re at risk of significantly devaluing your inherited coin collection.

While you want your coins to be well presented when it comes to attracting buyers, cleaning them destroys what lays beneath that layer of dirt. This is something we sadly see happen time and again – where someone with the best of intentions wrecks their inheritance with cleaning products.

What you see on screen is not always what you have in your hand. It’s very easy to miss a tiny detail that could impact the value of your coin by thousands of dollars. Some minor flaws can easily be missed and make the difference between inheriting a rare coin that’s going to make you rich beyond your wildest dreams to having one that is actually worthless. 

Remember Precious Metal Pricing Affects Coin Values

If the collection contains large amounts of gold and silver bullion, it should be remembered that most offers will depend on the price of metal prices at the time.  Make sure the dealer clearly states the bullion prices the offers are based on, which will alleviate disappointment or problems if the price of gold and silver falls or rises sharply before the transaction occurs. 

Finding Expert, Reputable Coin Dealers

Finally, we come to the case of what to do when you inherit coins from someone who was a serious collector. Most serious collectors spent years or decades assembling their collection. You owe it to them to also be serious and careful about the disposal of their collection. Again, the most basic advice is to find someone with the expertise and skill to handle your collection. Finding experts you can trust will be very important. There are several good sources to find someone in your area or to find someone nationally who is an expert in the material you have inherited. The American Numismatic Association (ANA) and the Professional Numismatic Guild (PNG) both have lists of coin dealers you can contact when considering the sale of your collection. Both have databases to help you sort through dealers based on their location and specialties.

Continue reading about some ways to handle your inherited coin collection here...

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