I urge you to occasionally sell some of your coins—you will become a wiser, more educated collector. [You may also avoid unpleasant surprises when you do decide to sell some or all of your collection.]
Learn from my own story…I started collecting coins as a child. Like most new collectors, my method was a trip to the bank to get rolls of Lincoln cents to search for better dates to put in my Whitman blue book. It was a really fun treasure hunt. I was buying valuable coins at face value! But I did not sell any.
As a teenager, I continued my pursuit of rare coins but, after years of searching rolls, realized that certain coins were simply elusive. I could not find a 1909-S VDB or 1914-D Lincoln Cent in circulation.
Those holes in my Whitman album remained unfilled. But, I now had a bit of money from summer jobs, and began a new chapter in my hobby as a coin collector… I began buying coins. At first, I bought a couple “semi-key” dates, including a 1931-S Lincoln cent. Not really understanding how to grade a coin, my primary objective was to “fill the hole.” So I bought coins, but I did not sell any.
As an adult, I began attending coin shows looking for semi-key and key-date coins that all came with a higher price tag than coins I already owned. I needed to sell some of my collection to free up cash to buy the coins I really wanted.
For the first time in my life, I tried to sell coins. I tried… with very little success. Why? My perception of value was based entirely upon prices posted in retail guides and national coin magazines and I had paid those prices or higher for what I now realized were “over-graded” or cleaned coins. While attempting to sell that VF 1931-S at a coin show, I had my first experience as a seller… and it was a wakeup call. Responses from dealers were varied; “Coin is at best a VG/F coin”, “Coin has been cleaned”, “I have three others in inventory and don’t need another”, and so on. I had one offer to purchase at far less than half of what I had paid years earlier. I did not sell any coins that day, and did not buy the key dates I wanted.
I still loved collecting coins but the tough lesson of trying to sell taught me that I lacked the knowledge necessary to make smart coin acquisitions. If I was going to spend hard-earned cash on coins, I needed to know far more about what made coins valuable and why collectors and dealers would be willing to pay for quality examples. My true coin education began. I learned how to grade coins, how to detect if a coin had been cleaned or otherwise altered, and the importance of eye appeal. I sold many of the “over-graded” coins I had purchased years earlier and began to seek out premium examples for my collection. With my new found knowledge, I even began buying nice coins with the intent of selling them to dealers who I knew specialized in that series. For the first time in my life I sold coins and began to understand the true value of coins.
If you see your purchase of coins as an “investment,” be a student of numismatics—study grading, cleaned vs. original condition, and eye appeal. Gain the knowledge necessary to acquire premium quality examples with good eye appeal. Chances are if it is a beautiful coin, the next buyer will be excited to own it. And, be a seller. The reality of the selling market will help you make better purchasing decisions when buying rare coins.