How Can You Tell If a Coin Is Rare?

Could the coin you found be super rare and valuable? Here's how to tell.

Published July 21, 2020
Box with collectible coins

A rare coin is one that was not minted in mass production or now exists in very limited quantities, meaning there are less of these coins available. A rare coin in good condition may be worth a substantial amount of money or may be something you are interested in collecting.

How Do You Know If a Coin Is Valuable?

Coin values will depend on several factors. Some of which include:

  • The condition of the coin- mint or near mint condition hold the most value
  • How rare the coin is
  • The demand for the coin

A coin holds as much value as buyers are willing to spend on it. While there are general prices for certain rare coins, various factors can drive price up or down. For example, if one coin dealer doesn't have a certain coin in stock, like a buffalo nickel or a Canadian coin worth money, but another dealer has a few in stock, you are likely to get more money from the first coin dealer who wants to have one in stock versus the other who doesn't necessarily need another in stock.

Consult a Coin Guide Book

Using a coin guide book can help you figure out which coins of yours are rare and worth money. Using a guide book can also help you figure out which rare coins to look out for, how much they may be worth, and therefore how much you may end up spending on them if you end up purchasing said coins. Keep your coins organized, so it's easier and faster to look up certain coins in your guide book.

Examine the Coin

Look for errors, cracks, edge imperfections, and missing parts. Fake coins can be spotted if you notice that your coin looks as if two coins were joined together to create it. You can always consult with a guidebook if you are unsure if your coin is fake, or speak with a coin dealer. Keep in mind that coins tend to sell better and be worth more when they are in good condition, so it's a good idea to invest in a means of protecting your collection. Other errors to look for include:

  • Broadstrike: This occurs when the coin is struck without the collar (outer edge) and therefore expands in size overtime. Look for a coin slightly larger in size compared to its counterparts.
  • Mechanical doubling: Look for the coin having a flat and doubled appearance. This is due to the dies twisting and dragging a bit after coming into contact with the coin.
  • Cud or major die break: This looks like a large raised and blank area on the coin due to the loss of the edge of the die deteriorating.
  • Die caps: This is when the coin is shaped similarly to a bottle cap after the coin is struck and subsequently sticks to the die.
  • Die trial: When the strike is weak, it results in a very faint detail appearance on the coin.
  • Clipped planchet: Look for a curved or straight line chunk of the coin that is missing due to a planchet punching issue.
  • Double strike: When the coin is struck twice instead of once resulting in centered or off centered image, wording, and numerals, it's a double strike.
Box with collectible coins

How Do I Find the Value of Old Coins?

Whether you are looking for a coin value chart or are interested in speaking with a professional coin expert, PCGS (Professional Coin Grading Service) has great resources for those who are serious about collecting. PCGS, or another professional coin grading service, can authenticate your coin or coin collection, identify a value for your collection, as well as provide options when it comes to protecting your coins.

What Does it Mean When There Is No Mint Mark On a Coin?

Mint marks can give you great clues as to what your coin may be worth. For the majority of United States coins, the mint mark will be on the head side of the coin. Older coins may have the mint mark on the reverse side. Keep in mind that some coins that were minted in Philadelphia may lack the mint mark entirely because at one point this location was the only branch operating.

What Coins to Look for That Are Worth Money

Two of the rarest coins include the 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle, as well as the 1943 Copper Penny. To determine if your coin is rare and worth money consider:

  • How many coins were minted (for example, fewer Sacajawea dollars were minted than other coins, so they're almost always worth more than face value)
  • The demand for the particular coin
  • The condition of the coin

Coins that are worth money will depend on the demand for the coin, as well as the condition of the coin.

1943 Cooper Penny

How Do You Get Rare Coins?

Rare coins can be found in various ways. You can consider:

  • Register for a coin auction
  • Exchange cash for change at the bank- you never know what may be in the change rolls
  • Check out auction sites, but be sure to do your research before purchasing

Rare Coins

Rare coins can be a really exciting find. To check if your coin has value, do your research, consult with a coin specialist, and make sure to take good care of your collection. Next, find out what 2 dollar bills are really worth.

How Can You Tell If a Coin Is Rare?