If you have been collecting rare coins for more than a few years, there is a good chance that you have "found money" in your holdings. What I mean by this is that there are a number of things that you can do--often with little or no cost--that can significantly improve the appearance and value of your coins. Here are five suggestions: 1. Send Your Coins to CAC. CAC is now well established as an important factor in the high-end segment of the market. In certain areas, CAC coins trade for a nice premium and there is no doubt in my mind that a CAC sticker makes a coin more marketable. Submitting a coin to CAC is very inexpensive; typically just $10 to $20 per item. Another thing that's nice about submitting coins to CAC is that you are getting an expert's opinion (in this case John Albanese) for next to nothing. You might try sending a sample of your five best coins to CAC. If you get CAC approval on all five coins, you know you are doing something right. If only one or two get the coveted "green bean" then you can assume that the dealer you are buying from needs to be replaced.
2. Attribute Your Coins. Let's say that you are a date collector of early half eagles. It makes sense to purchase the Bass-Dannreuther book on early gold to attribute all your coins to "BD" numbers. You might get lucky and find that one of the coins that you own is a very rare die variety. This isn't necessarily an immediate financial upgrade, as it would be in a series like Bust half dollars or Large cents which are avidly collected by variety. But wouldn't you rather keep the potential financial upgrade for yourself than to read on page three of Coin World how some lucky collector just cherry-picked an excessively rare variety of 1806 half eagle? Also, if PCGS or NGC attributes varieties in the series you collect and you find a good variety, have it marked on the slab.
3. Pedigree Your Coins. If you have a coin from a famous collection like Bass, Garrett, Eliasberg or Norweb, a pedigree can add value. Some coins from these collection are clearly marked on the PCGS or NGC insert. But there are hundreds of others that have "lost" their pedigree for one reason or another. I'd suggest that you purchase all of the major auction catalogs in the area that you specialize in and spend a few hours searching through them. Your coin(s) may have a different appearance than they did in an earlier sale, but if they have an obvious mark this will make it easy to trace them. If a great pedigree is easy to prove, send the coin along with a xerox of the catalog page to PCGS or NGC.
4. Reslab Your Coins. Please note that I didn't say "regrade" your coins. That's another subject entirely and one that, if you have coins in old green label or "fatty" holders, I do not necessarily think will add value to your coins. What I mean by "reslabbing" is that many coins are in holders that show severe scuffing, wear, or dullness. A great coin can look just so-so if the holder it's in doesn't present itself well. I know this sounds a little hokey but its no different than deep-cleaning your house when you get ready to sell it. If all of your coins are in pretty, fresh slabs it is going to make your coins look nicer.
5. Create a "Cult of Personality." For a number of reasons, there are many collectors who become larger than life because of what they collect. Some of these individuals become famous because they buy seven figure coins. Others become famous because they write books or articles about the area(s) that they specialize in. And others become famous because they are "mensches" who endear themselves to collectors and dealers alike. A collector who has worked hard to establish himself as a leading authority on Charlotte gold coins is probably going to have an easier time selling his coins than a collector who is totally unknown; even if the mensch has inferior coins, the belief that he has high quality will typically outweigh the reality. The same holds true for collectors on the PCGS and NGC Message Boards. Creating the illusion of collecting greatness is a lot easier today than it was in the pre-Internet era.
These are just five suggestions. There are many others that I can think of, and I'd be interested in hearing your suggestions as well.