How to Sell Your Collectible Coins Successfully

Published July 23, 2020
Two senior friends with coin album

Whether you've inherited a coin collection or simply want to sell a coin or two, knowing how to sell coins is important. In order to get a fair price for your collectible coins, you need to understand the value of the coins you're selling, market them appropriately, and find reputable places to conduct business online or locally.

1. Start by Knowing the Value

If you think you may have a rare coin, take some time to research its value. This will make you an informed seller and keep you from asking too little for the coin.

Consider an Appraisal

A full coin collection or an especially valuable rare coin may warrant a professional appraisal. Appraisers often charge $100 per hour or more, and the overall cost of the appraisal and the value of the coin will need to be factors in your decision. Do you suspect the coin or collection is worth a great deal of money? If so, the appraisal is worth it to make sure you know exactly what you're selling and how much to ask. Appraisals are also a good idea if you are planning to sell the coin or collection as part of an estate and need to know the legal value. If you have the coin or collection appraised, be sure to choose an appraiser who specializes in coins.

Get a Sense of the Value on Your Own

An appraisal isn't always worth the money. For coins you suspect are worth less than the cost of an appraisal, you can try some techniques for finding the value yourself:

  • Check United States rare coin price lists for your coin. If it's on there, you have a starting point.
  • Brush up on the factors affecting rare coin values, such as scarcity, condition, and demand.
  • Look up similar sold coins on eBay. Make sure you are checking sold listings only, since asking prices may not reflect the value of a coin.
  • Research your specific coin to see if it is rare. Look up the type of coin, the year, and the mint.
wide selection of coins collection

2. Prepare Your Coin for Sale

Before you sell a coin or group of coins, you should make sure they are ready for sale. This means presenting them beautifully and showing you know what you have. This will give buyers confidence and allow you to ask top dollar for the coins.

Check the Coin Holder or Slab

Collectible coins often have coin holders, sometimes called slabs, to protect them from handling. However, just as coins get scratched up from being in circulation, the holders themselves can begin to show significant wear. Take a look at the slab and make sure you can clearly see the coin through it. If not, you should clean it and consider replacing it.

Do Not Clean or Polish the Coins

As you're preparing to sell, it may be tempting to clean or polish the coins. Avoid doing this, since you may remove the patina or cause damage to the coin.

Consider a CAC Sticker

The CAC, or Certified Acceptance Corporation, specializes in evaluating the condition of a coin and giving it an official grade. If the coin is in "solid" condition or better, the CAC will apply a tamper-evident sticker to the coin holder. This grading system tells potential buyers that the coin has been inspected, and it can add to the sold value of a coin. If you suspect you have a coin in very good condition, it may be worth the fee to get the inspection and sticker. Prices range from $15 to $50 depending on the coin's value.

3. Choose the Right Time to Sell Coins

Valuable coins will sell at any time, but they can be worth more to buyers who are in the mood to purchase coins. The key is finding the right time to sell your coins. These tips can help:

  • Avoid selling during times when buyers might be busy or preoccupied, including holidays, summer vacations, and major political events like elections.
  • Try to sell when you know buyers might have a windfall, such as after tax season.
  • Look into coin collecting events and sell coins just before or just after these happen.

4. Decide Whether to Group or Split Up a Collection

If you're selling a coin collection, you should consider whether to split up the group. Never split up proof sets of coins, but you may want to divide a large collection in other ways. Many coin collectors do this naturally, but casual collectors may not. Often, it makes sense to divide a large collection into smaller groupings, to make it easier to sell. Likewise, several individual coins may be grouped to entice sellers. Consider these groupings:

  • Old pennies minted before 1909
  • Old nickels, such as Buffalo nickels
  • Other coins by denomination
  • Paper money from the United States
  • Paper money from other countries
Buffalo nickels

5. Choose Where You Will Sell the Coins

Next you need to choose where you will sell your coins. The best option depends on the amount of time you have to devote to the process and the value of the coins you'll be selling. It's never a good idea to sell a collectible coin or coin collection to a pawn shop or place that gives you cash for silver or gold. Instead, consider one of these options.

Coin Shop

The advantage of selling your coins at a coin shop is that the process is easy. You simply take the coins to the shop and get an offer from the owner or manager. Expect the offer to be well below the value of the coins, since the shop will need to mark them up to resell them at a profit. You can negotiate with the coin shop, but you may not have much room to increase the sales price. This is a good way to sell a lot of coins or quickly sell coins, but it is definitely not how to make the most money from the sale.

Online Auction

An online auction site like eBay is another way to sell your coins. The advantage of selling online is that you get to keep most of the profits. You'll pay a small commission fee to the auction site, but the rest is yours to keep. The main disadvantage is that you'll need to be very hands-on. You'll have to take great photos of the coins, write good descriptions, and then negotiate with potential buyers about the sale. This is a good way to sell coins if you are ready to put in some extra time.

In-Person Sales

You can also arrange to sell the coins in person at a collectors event or through a meeting. You won't pay any commissions or fees in this situation, and you can negotiate on the price. The key here is to protect your security. Coins are valuable, and if you are meeting someone you haven't met, make sure you meet in public. This is a good option if you already know the buyer.

Do Your Research

No matter how you choose to sell your coins, the most important tip to remember is to do your research. Find out as much as you can about collectible coins and your specific examples so you can negotiate knowledgably and ask a fair price.

How to Sell Your Collectible Coins Successfully