Coin collectors don’t make money by collecting coins – they make money when selling all or part of their coins; sometimes to profit, sometimes to liquidate part of a collection, sometimes to pay bills.
Collectible coins are an accumulated or acquired asset. You are in a position to make money with coins when you can sell them for more than what you paid.
Most collectors (myself included) have a fondness for coins and collect for fun. If you approach coin collecting as a business, You can make money, but you need to learn the market. Your coin collection becomes inventory, you need to manage it, track your costs, advertise, and buy and sell to build up your business. Some coins may have value but not sell well; a downturn in the market may cause a downturn in your business.
If you are truly interested in coins as a business (and you need to treat it as such) I would suggest educating yourself as to what coins can make a profit, which coins sell quickly vs. sit on a shelf, and what kind of investment you want to make in your coin business.
Making friends with a local coin dealer, and going to shows is also helpful – their experience and advice can be invaluable.
Decide whether you want to be a collector or coin dealer/trader
Treat coin collecting like a business, not a hobby
Learn as much as you can about grading and coin values
Track prices in the coins you want to inventory and sell
Make friends in the business, you will benefit by knowing them
Books that may help:
A Guide to Coin Collecting: A Guide to Buying, Selling and Finding Coins Online (Amazon)
Pleasure & Profit: 100 Lessons for Building and Selling a Collection of Rare Coins (Amazon)
If you have a substantial amount of coins, you should get them appraised. Some coin dealers routinely do this, for estates and insurance valuation/verification. since they are there to set the market value, and not purchase the coins, you should get a legitimate value.
Flips and coin collecting supplies are Available on Amazon and eBay.
Once you have an appraisal (or 2), you have to understand the market. Many people and dealers are looking to buy coins BELOW MARKET VALUE. Their business model is based on being able to sell their coins at a profit, and absorb minimal loss if the base metal prices drop or the market for specific coins changes. For example, if a coin dealer offers you $60 for a coin appraised at $100, he is factoring in the risk of losing money on the coin, if he cannot resell it at an attractive price between cost and appraised value. No coin dealer will give you market value for your coins; many may only be worth the base metal price, if they are silver or gold. Circulated and damaged coins are considered “culls”, and are worth base metal value, at best. They are usually too worn or damaged to have a premium to a collector. One caveat is if you have a unique or rare coin; a coin dealer may make a higher offer for it – especially if he wants to inventory it until it comes up in value.
Your fear is that you will be taken advantage of by a sharp dealer who will offer you a price that is (10–20%) of the actual value, based on your lack of knowledge. This is often done with Gold buyers, who often give very low valuations on gold to people who “just want to turn it into cash”.
Unless you have a collection of old and desirable coins, like Morgan Silver Dollars, Silver and Gold coins, and others – your collection may be a lot of circulated pocket change with some old or unique coins in the mix. Circulated coins do not carry the value of mint state or proof coins; Coins are graded based on wear, appearance, and overall condition. See How are coins graded? Graded coins have verifiable value and are usually sealed by the grading organization, PGS or NGC.
If you don’t want to be bothered, you could put the collection up for auction, but auctioneers take a portion of the profit to promote their auctions and get your coins sold. Same with eBay, etsy, and Craigslist sellers. The Auctioneers and other sellers need to appraise the coins as well; that cost is included in their fee, as they need to set the minimum value for auction or resale.
There are books on how to sell your coins, on Amazon and eBay.
If you have a teenager in the family, you could offer him/her a stipend or commission to sort and estimate the value of the coins, based on eBay and internet values, from sites like Coin Trackers. They will learn a valuable skill, and you will have a much better idea what the coins are actually worth. You will also keep the costs in the family.
Get an appraisal (especially if you have a lot of coins you suspect are valuable/collectible)
Determine actual price, as a negotiating tool with buyers or coin dealers making offers.
Consider engaging an auction house, eBay seller, or etsy coin shop to market your coins. Since they make a set commission, they are motivated to get you the maximum price
Thanks for the A2A! (this question originally appeared on Quora.
Disclaimer: I write about coins on my blog, Pocket Change Riches, and collect coins I find interesting. I am also an eBay top rated seller, although most of my sales are not coins or bullion.
In my opinion, collectible coins and bullion coins (Silver and Gold) can have a place in your retirement strategy, if you want physical wealth that has to be managed. The collectible value is frequently much more than just collecting bullion (bulk precious metal).
For example, I like US Morgan Dollars, each one is one ounce of silver, which is US Currency and (at a minimum) worth the value of the base metal, silver. If you have highly graded coins, they will be worth much more then the value of the the silver. and It can be fun collecting an entire set (years and mintages) of Morgans, or just a few for your modest collection.
Another personal favorite of mine to collect are Silver Strike casino coins, which are a $10 casino chips with a silver center (about .6 ounce of silver). Collecting casino memorabilia is fun to me, since I have been to many of the casinos and enjoy displaying the strikes I have won/collected.
Most casinos are not using Silver Strike slot machines, as they are mechanical machines, making them harder to find. I frequently buy them on ebay and Amazon. You can also visit the Silver Strikers Club, which has the latest news on Silver Strikes.
Some coins have no silver or gold (or any precious metal) in them; They may only have collectible value. Some may have no value at all, making them good for jewelry or as a memento of your visit to a foreign country. If you have some bona fide collectibles, WONDERFUL! If not, well, hold on to them if you enjoy owning them. Your kids may find pleasure in owning Great grandad’s coins from his trip to Havana.
Another favorite of mine is the Silver Eagle (and Gold Eagle) US Coins. Each are 1 ounce of the base metal and are beautifully minted coins! Here again, I frequently buy them on ebay and Amazon. You may also find them at swap meets, flea markets, and yard sales. Coin dealers usually have many in stock, although they buy at wholesale and sell to you at retail. Learn values and grades, and soon you will become a shrewd buyer!
2016 silver and Gold Eagle coins, are available online from eBay and Amazon.
If you enjoy collecting coins, You will need a safe place to keep them. Some people keep them in a safe deposit box at their bank, others in a gun safe, if they have one. Thieves don’t like to run around with hundreds of pounds of metal coins – unless you have rare or extremely valuable coins, crooks may pass them by (or just take the shiny ones).
As a hedge on retirement, coins can be readily converted into cash. You can easily sell most coins to a dealer or on Ebay. Pawn shops will give you a better value on gold coins (usually smelt or base metal value) than on most jewelry. This means you can use your coins like a retirement plan, cashing them out over your anticipated retirement, or saving them as a reserve fund for unexpected bills.
You can give your coins to your heirs while you are still alive, sharing in your enjoyment and teaching the next generation about coin collecting. Why wait until the end? You can even get your children (and Grandchildren) coin collecting sets, and get them in the habit of looking at their pocket change, and putting old and potentially valuable coins in “flips”. I bought my grandson this collecting set on Amazon.
Coins can be part of your retirement strategy. (if you don’t like coins, consider a collectible that you will like).
Consider the value of the coin, Base metal and collectible value.
You will need to track your purchases and store your coins securely. Anticipate taxes.
Coins can be readily exchanged for cash from multiple sources.
You can pass them to your heirs without being deceased (or paying taxes, up to $14,000 in the US). (talk to your accountant).
Most important – you can enjoy them while you are alive!
I can’t tell you what to do, but I can tell you what I do – a small portion of my retirement is in coins that I enjoy. some are listed above (Morgans, strikes, Silver Eagles, etc.) and some are pocket change and circulated coins that have a value – above face value – with the possibility of appreciation over time. I have a modest budget for my eclectic coin collection.
If you are seriously thinking about coin collecting as a retirement option, Talk to your financial advisor, attorney, and accountant – and guys like me – to determine if adding coins to your personal financial assets makes sense. Or you can just start collecting pocket change and the occasional coins you like. That is an easy way to start.
Consider all your options, and enjoy your retirement!
Several caveats; Don’t clean the coins, Keep them together in some boxes and handle them with white gloves or a sweat sock to keep finger oils off the coins. Take pictures of them to send to a remote appraiser and to establish that you had them (proof of ownership). If you are going to keep them, organize them into coin flips and tubes, and make notations on the contents, condition, and dates. Consider getting a safe, to keep them together and secure. (coins can weigh a lot, too – keep that in mind).
Selling to a reputable dealer, collector, (or pawn shop) is the fasted route to liquidating your collection for cash. Keep in mind that these buyers are looking for values below market, to reduce their risk and make a profit on the eventual sale; you may be offered between 10 and 70% of the retail value of your coins.
If you have the time and ambition, you can use the internet for valuing your coins, and sell them on your own. Craigslist, EBay, and some of the popular coin sites (forums and for sale sections) are your best options.
Many public libraries have books on coins and periodicals on prices, that you can access for free.
I buy and sell coins on EBay and from individuals, at estate and yard sales. It’s a fun hobby for me, especially when both parties feel they got a good price!
You will need to understand coin grading, as there are many valuations for coins based on condition (grade). Circulated coins (pocket change) are not worth as much as graded and certified “Mint-State” coins.