Online Coin Sale Observations

In the last five years, my website has become a primary focus in my business. It has been interesting to observe which coins sell the most quickly and why, in my opinion, they do. I’d like to pass on some of the lessons I’ve learned as I believe it will help you make better decisions when it comes to your collection.ntage Adidas jackets and sporting event tickets. But when it comes to buying coins on Ebay, I think I’m pretty much done. 1. Photogenic coins sell. In this instance the term “photogenic” is interchangeable with the more numismatic term “eye appeal.” When I buy a coin which has really pretty color or which has great luster or which has a very sharp strike (or, better yet, a combination of all these attributes) I can be reasonably certain the coin will sell well. If a coin has a glaring negative attribute that is readily apparent in an image, it is likely to be a hard sell. As an example, an otherwise nice coin which has a large grease spot on Liberty’s cheek will be hard to sell, even if the coin is quite rare. When you are putting together a collection, buy coins that are pretty.

2. Coins in the right pricing “sweet spot” sell. For me, this pricing zone is in the $2,500 to $7,500 range. There are coin dealers who seem to be able to sell lots of $25,000+ coins. (I certainly sell my fair share of them). But once you get past $10,000 or so, the air gets pretty thin in most series and liquidity drops. That’s why I like interesting coins in the $2,500-7,500 range. They are generally quite liquid and I can turn over my inventory a lot more quickly when I’m selling coins in this price range then when I’m selling expensive coins. Let me add that I have no problem with buying expensive coins but that my resistance level increases based on the series. In other words, with early gold coins, there are virtually no decent pieces available in the $2,500-7,500 and I would expand this sweet spot to $10,000-20,000. But with Charlotte, Dahlonega and New Orleans issues, I feel that there is excellent value in the lower price range(s) and my focus shifts accordingly. I will certainly buy a $20,000 Charlotte or Dahlonega coin but it has to be pretty special to get me interested.

3. Interesting coins sell. People like coins which can be summarized in a few words or less. The 1838-C half eagle is popular because it’s a first year of issue and it’s the only Classic Head half eagle from the Charlotte mint. Even if you aren’t a specialist in Charlotte coinage, you are likely to quickly discern the appeal of this coin. In the same series, an 1844-C half eagle may not be an easy to sell. It is clearly a scarcer date than the 1838-C but its range of appeal is limited to collectors who specialize in Charlotte gold coinage; whereas the 1838-C might appeal to type collectors, date collectors and people who just like neat coins. There are other “neatness factors” that appeal to collectors: very low mintage figures, unusual designs, key date status, good pedigrees and large size are all positive attributes. If a coin which I am being offered for sale has one or more of these attributes, the chances are good that I will add it to my inventory. A collection that contains interesting coins is a collection that I would be very pleased to purchase from its owner.

4. Coins have to be properly priced. In this day and age, it is reasonably easy for a collector to determine how much the last four AU55 1840-0 quarter eagles have brought at auction. If I price a coin comparably to these four auction records (and it is a decent looking piece) the chances are good that it will sell. If I price my coin at 50% more than the last four records, it won’t sell. Now there are exceptions to this rule. Coins that do not trade regularly at auction (like the same 1840-O quarter eagle but in MS63) are much harder to price. And certain coins (like an 1880-O eagle in AU50 or better grades) are clearly undervalued and are worth more than most published pricing guides suggest.

5. Rare coins sell. This sounds obvious but it is a point that needs to be reiterated. Whenever I list a really rare coin for sale (like an 1861-D gold dollar, an 1847-O half eagle or an 1870-CC eagle) it sells quickly and receives multiple enquiries. People want to own rare coins, especially if they are attractive and fairly priced. If I had to chose between, say, an 1870-CC eagle in EF45 and an 1873-CC eagle in AU55 (an issue which is rarer than the 1870-CC in higher grade yet priced comparably) I would always choose the former. Unless you are putting together a date set, focus on the rare dates for each series.

So what doesn’t sell? Obviously, I don’t go out and try to purchase coins for my inventory that are going to sit around for months and stagnate. But there are patterns I see on my website and these are patterns which you should avoid when assembling your collection:

1. No matter how rare the coin, certain series are really hard to sell. An example of this would be Liberty Head San Francisco eagles. Even if I have a really attractive, fairly priced example of a very rare issue like an 1863-S this is a hard coin to sell unless I happen to be working with a specialist collector who needs this specific date. I try to avoid thin, highly specialized markets.

2. Even if they are cheap, I avoid ugly coins. On more than one occasion, I’ve bought a coin at auction because it’s been too cheap to resist. But it’s been cheap for a good reason: it has heavily abraded surfaces or it is obviously scrubbed or it is very poorly struck. You get what you pay for and if you are buying coins based solely on price, you are destined to have a collection full of duds.

3. Ubiquitous coins are hard to sell as well. If I listed a bunch of common and semi-common Liberty Head half eagles or had a long list of common Saint Gaudens double eagles, the chances are good that they wouldn’t sell, even if they were genuinely nice coins for the grade or if they were priced competitively. Buyers go on my website looking for rare gold coins. You are building a rare coin collection. Always keep the word “rare” in mind when you are considering adding a coin to your set.