To Be a Better Coin Buyer, Be a Good Coin Seller


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.

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