People who are new to coin collecting may assume that because many of the coins in numismatists’ collections are old that age is what makes them valuable. This is not true at all. Here we will talk about this myth about old coins and what does affect the value of coins, old or new.
Old Coins Aren’t Valuable because They Are Old
Ultimately, supply and demand determine the value of a coin just as they determine the value of everything else in a free economy. Coin dealers consider a number of factors when they value coins, including availability, metal content, condition, and the current popularity of specific coins. However, if there is no great demand among coin collectors for a certain coin, its value is going to be low. You can have an incredibly rare item, but if no one wants it, it’s not worth anything.
It is true that as a coin ages, it tends to accrue more value. Brand new cents – or pennies as we colloquially refer to them – are worth only their face value because there are so many of that particular version. As time goes on, most cents will be lost to attrition, either misplaced, worn, or otherwise destroyed, making the ones still available more valuable because of their scarcity and, more importantly, because people like to collect cents.
There are many different types of cents, including small and large cents. One protip for getting a young coin collector more excited about the hobby is to have them collect cents. These coins are accessible through regular commerce, and it’s fun to track down all the different varieties. The fact that people like collecting cents and that acquiring a full collection of cents – whether Lincoln cents or Indian cents – is a satisfying end goal drives up the value of all cents and the value of rare cents considerably.
Condition makes a huge difference too. For example, a 1955-S Lincoln Wheat Cent in mint condition might be worth $25 while a circulated Indian head cent from a half century earlier might be worth $1 or less. Condition is an aspect of demand. Ultimately, any coin collector wants a coin in the best condition he can find it – preferably uncirculated and without any evidence of wear or aging.
Now compare both of those cents, that 1955-S Lincoln Wheat cent and, for example, a 1908-S Indian cent, to ancient coins from Rome or Greece. You would assume the older coins would, of course, be more valuable. They are relics of history, after all, and have survived for thousands of years. You would be wrong. Ancient coins are often in less demand than a penny you might find under the cushions of your couch. You can find Ancient Roman coins for sale for $2-$10 because they are not popular coins to collect. Once again, if you can’t find a buyer, your coin isn’t worth anything except its sentimental value to you.
If you would like to know what the coins you have are worth, have questions about coin values or coin collecting in general, or if you want to introduce coin collecting to a younger friend or family member, Grand Rapids Coins would be glad to help you. It’s our job to know coins, and we love connecting coins with collectors.