Secrets of Coin Collecting
Get a reference book such as Photograde or the ANA Grading Guide at your
local coin shop or bookstore. Compare the pictures and written description of a selected
coin in the book to one of your coins. Observe and compare as many coins as possible at a
coin shows or shops. Check the grade displayed on the coins and compare it to what you
have learned from the grading books. If you think the grade displayed on the coin is
different from what you read, ask (in a courteous manner) why the dealer graded the coin
the way he did. Explain that you are trying to learn how to grade. Most dealers will be
happy to share their knowledge if approached properly. Be sure to look at the whole coin.
Don't focus on just a part of the coin and base your grade only on that part. For example,
if the liberty on a given coin is weak indicating a Fine grade, and the rest of the coin
is strong indicating a VF or better grade, then do not base your opinion of the grade just
on the weak liberty. Overall, if the coin in question is a VF, then the grade should be
VF. Be sure to look for any faults on the coin that will impact on the price. Faults such
as cleaning, bad dings (not consistent with the grade), or scratches should cause the
price of any coin to be less. The rule of thumb is the more original the better. With
continued study, you will in no time at all be grading like a pro!
Examine the coin very carefully using good light and magnification. Wear will appear as
"criss-crossed" lines in an area where the original luster is absent when
compared to the surrounding area. This area of wear will appear gray on silver coins. A
coin that is weakly struck will still exhibit mint luster in the weakly struck area. The
area where the coin is weak in strike should appear as lusterous as the rest of the coin.
The distinction between wear and weak strike should only come into play on coins that
appear Uncirculated. An obviously circulated coin should have any weakness of strike
factored into the overall grade.
With so many different Price Guides around, it is no wonder that it is very difficult to find out what a coin is really worth. First of all, remember that no matter what source the information is from, it is only a Guide, a starting point for negotiation of value. The values listed are not "set in stone", and no person, collector or dealer is obligated to pay the price listed. It has always been assumed that the Redbook values are high. For the most part this is true. However, as always, there are exceptions to the rule.
The standard pricing guide for the Coin Industry is the Coin Dealer Newsletter, the graysheet. For those not familiar with the graysheet, it lists a bid and ask price for most U.S. single coins and major type coins. The problem is the bid and ask structure. This seems to imply that a dealer will pay the bid and sell at the ask. Remember, this is a guide only. If a dealer needs an item immediately, he may in fact pay the listed bid price. As a rule, however, dealer's buy offers are based on their current need, the general availability of the coin being offered, and their business overhead. With these factors considered, an offer of a percentage of the listed bid price is usually made by the dealer. Remember, it will pay to get several dealer's offers before selling anything. Only by doing this can the collector gain the knowledge of what his items are worth.
A reasonable price for the collector to pay for a particuliar coin is to again take into consideration the factors of availability and need. A price of graysheet bid to 30 percent over bid is acceptable, again depending on the particuliar coin. A common coin should be able to be purchased at or slightly under the bid price while a key date coin can be expected to be priced over bid.
All of this considered, the true worth of a coin is what someone is willing to pay. Be
sure to shop around!
Once the time comes to sell a Coin Collection or Accumulation, one has several options:
PVC, also known as green slime is the abbreviation for Polyvinylchloride. PVC is
present in many plastic items. Coin flips, 2X2 holders, and tubes have been known to
contain PVC. Over a period of time, the sticky green film that can migrate from the
container to the coin can cause severe damage. The only way to be safe is to store coins
in flips, 2X2's, or tubes that clearly state that they are PVC free. Most quality 2X2's
sold today are made from Mylar and are safe for the long term storage of coins. Minor PVC
contamination can sometimes be removed by swabbing with trichlorotrifluoroethane.
Unfortunately, this substance is now considered harmful to the environment and is
difficult to obtain.
The melt value of 90% silver coins can easily be determined. Take the spot price of
silver and multiply that number by .724. This will tell how much "pure" silver
is in $1.00 Face Value of 90% silver coins. The way this works is that two 90% silver Half
Dollars contain approximately .724 ounce of .999 fine silver. Example: Silver spot is $10
per ounce. .724 times $10 is 7.24 or another way 7.24 times face.
Take number of grams times . 643 and the result is number of pennyweight. Take number
of pennyweight times 1.55 to get the number of grams.
The best answer to this most often asked question is to not clean them at all.
Collectors today value the originality of a coin and any attempt to clean a coin will
alter this orginality and thereby lower it's value.
The question of toning is really one of personal preference. Some people love it, some
hate it. Attractive toning can add market value to a particular coin. By the same token,
ugly toning can lessen the market value. If one admires toning, always be on guard for
artificially toned coins. Some Coin Doctors are getting very adept at adding toning
to cover a blemish.
The Certified Coin Dealer Newsletter, commonly referred to as the Bluesheet
represents the most up to date price guide on Coins certifed by the major Coin Grading
Services on a sight-unseen basis. The major confusion arises as a result of the
term sight-unseen. The buyer must always be aware that the "bid" price in
the Bluesheet represents highest bid for a particular coin without the person who is
bidding actually seeing the coin. As a result, the sight-unseen bid price can be
very far below what a coin is worth to the same dealer on a sight-seen basis. The
bidding dealer must bid for the most unattractive, barely made the grade, coin in a
particular slab. He must "hedge" his bid in other words. This is why it is
common for a dealer to ask 10% to 100% over the Bluesheet bid for a specific coin. The
sale is taking place in a sight-seen environment where the buyer and the seller can
see the coin. The coin may be a very "high-end" coin for the grade on the slab,
for example a MS63.9, a barely missed MS64. Again, the dealer making a sight-unseen
bid on this coin will bid for a coin that "barely" makes the MS63 grade. This is
the only way the sight-unseen bidding dealer can protect himself, since he is
obligated to purchase the coin no matter how unattractive it is, as long as the coin is in
a particular slab and displays the required grade.