Many retail dealers, myself included, welcome consignments from collectors. It's a great way to increase the size of a dealer's inventory without laying out cash and it is often an excellent source for dealers to place useful, fresh attractive coins to new or existing clients. As a potential consignor, what are some of the questions you should be asking a dealer and what are some of the expectations you should have? 1. What rate should you be paying a dealer? I can't speak for every dealer, so I'll share this from a DWN perspective. I generally charge between 5 and 10% to sell a coin on consignment. I've heard of dealers charging more than 10% and that seems a bit on the gouge-y side. On the other hand, to expect a dealer to sell your coins for less than 5% is unreasonable unless you are talking about a very low spread item like bullion or generics (which probably shouldn't be consigned to dealers in the first place).
2. What should my expectations be as a consignor? Obviously, your first expectation is for the coin to sell. But there should be other expectations as well. You should expect a dealer to work hard at selling your coins. This means listing them promptly on his website, imaging them, giving them good descriptions and offering them directly (via phone or email) to existing clients. You should expect clear, concise paperwork from the dealer including a receipt stating the terms and conditions of the consignment. You should expect prompt payment with good funds. And you should expect honesty and integrity. No games, no "funny stuff."
3. What sort of payment terms should I expect? There is no set answer to this so, once again, I'll share with you how I take care of payment. First of all, I am very careful to sell consigned coins to collectors or dealers who I know will pay me. There are certain dealers, for instance, whose check I absolutely will not take. I wouldn't sell these guys any of my own coins so why would I subject a collector to the risk of "will I or won't I get paid?" I generally pay clients for coins within a few days of being paid myself; a few days usually meaning two or three. In the case of having multiple coins on consignment from one collector, I pay them as they sell. I never wait until the end of a deal to pay the consignor and I don't think that's fair, unless that's what the consignor requests.
4. How long should the consigning process take? This depends on the coins that your are consigning. If you have very esoteric coins, the consignment process is going to take a while (in this case maybe three months or so). If you have very liquid coins, the process should be short (in this case just a few weeks). I would suggest that you ask the dealer how long that you think it will take him to sell each coin in the consignment. You don't want to let the consignment process go on forever. If your coins are appearing on a dealer's website they will be "stale" after a few months and will be very hard to sell in the near future should you decide to put them in auction or with another dealer.
5. How should I price the coins I am consigning? It is important to price your coins realistically or they are not likely to sell. Some dealers will take any coin that you offer them at any price. Other dealers, myself included, will probably pass on coins that are not priced in line with the current market. I would suggest you price your coins the same way that I do: look to see if there are recent comparables at auction and use these as a base line. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. An extremely rare coin, a coin in an old green label PCGS holder or something that is currently very "hot" might deserve premium pricing. As a seller, you need to ask yourself, how badly do you want to move your coin(s)? If you price a $5,000 coin at $8,000 it is likely to taint it and potential buyers may be skeptical when the price is suddenly--and dramatically--reduced.
6. What about consigning special collections? Over the years I have had a number of in-depth specialized collections consigned to me for sale. For these collections, I've created special "websites within my website" that feature these coins and they are not intermixed with my regular inventory. I would suggest that you request this when selling. It is smart marketing, it should help to sell your coins and it's a nice, lasting memorial for your collection that you can keep record of. If the dealer you are using to sell your coins is web-oriented and he is incapable of providing this service, I'd suggest you question whether he is the right person to sell the coins. If the dealer is just going to sell them wholesale, then this process is, of course, not needed.
7. What should you not expect? Just as you should have expectations of what to expect from the dealer you select, there are a few things you should not expect. One of these is for the dealer to have an obligation to tell you who your coins were sold to. You certainly have every right to tell the dealer not to sell your crusty original coins to an "upgrader" who is likely to strip and ruin them. You probably shouldn't expect daily updates on how your consignment is doing but it isn't asking too much of your dealer to hear, from time to time, how the consignment is faring.
8. How should I choose the dealer I consign to? If you've made it this far, you are probably waiting for the answers to this important question. I'd say the two most important things to consider are the relationship you already have with the dealer and his ability to understand (and get good prices) for your coins. If you have been dealing exclusively or semi-exclusively with a dealer for a few years and you like/trust this person it seems obvious to select him to sell your coins. The second point seems obvious but is worth reiterating. I think my firm is a great choice to sell branch mint gold or early gold but I'd be a poor person to sell a high grade set of Buffalo Nickels. I could probably do a decent job of presenting Buffalo Nickels but I don't know the series well and have zero clients for these coins. In this increasingly specialized market, it makes sense to choose someone who is a specialist himself, providing that you have a collection with a reasonably specific focus.
I think dealer consignments are a good way to sell your high quality, rare United States coins. Hopefully this short blog answered a few questions. If you have more, please feel free to contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org