"Why Can't I Find Coins to Buy at a Coin Show?"

"Why can't I find coins to buy at a coin show?"

That was the exact question Collector X asked me, in a somewhat whiny manner, at the recent Central States coin show.  But you know something?  I can understand his disappointment. He had taken three days off from work, spent thousands of dollars on a plane ticket, hotel and meals, only to come home from the show empty-handed. He's a coin junkie and I'm sure he won't be boycotting this summer's ANA convention but his question got me to thinking...

Why has it become so hard to find the coins you want to buy at coin shows?

As I told Collector X as we spoke at CSNS, he's not the only one who is having this problem. I've been going to coin shows for three decades and I've noticed them becoming more and more dry in the last few years. Here are some theories of mine as to why.

1. Heritage: The 900 Pound Gorilla In The Room

All you have to do to see the reach of Heritage is to look and the size and scope of their major auctions. With thousands and thousands of lots worth tens of millions of dollars, these auctions are like vacuums that pull a tremendous amount of material of the bourse floor. Some of the coins in the Central States sale(s) were dealer retreads and some of the coins were low end but there were hundreds and hundreds of choice, high end pieces. This includes many fresh coins that, in the past, might have wound up entering the market through dealer's inventories instead of through auction.

You know that zombie movie when an army of hungry, brain eatin' dudes keeps coming and coming at the heroes? That's sort of like Heritage. Last time I checked they employed just a few zombies but they are extremely formidable competition for small dealers like me and a lot of the coins that formerly would be offered directly to me show up in Heritage sales. And I don't think I'm the only small dealer who has this perspective.

As Heritage has grown and grown it has created a strange reality in the market. At this point, the coin market is essentially a duopoly (Heritage and the various Spectrum organizations) with a huge degree of separation between the Big Two and nearly everyone else. Since neither of these firms is retail friendly, they use auctions as a way to sell coins directly to collectors.

2. The Coin Show Circuit is Diluted

There are way too many coin shows. I go to between 15 and 20 per year and this is nothing compared to the really hardcore wholesale guys who go to 30 or 40. At this point in my life, I'd rather be going to fewer shows and doing the bulk of my work in my office where its more comfortable and I'm three times more productive.

But its a Catch-22 situation for me. If I don't go to all of these shows, I become less competitive with the five or six sharp guys who I know are going to be in on every single coin that I'm not going to get offered if I'm not going to be at a show.

But I'm not writing this to gain sympathy from you. You want to know how this dilution of shows affects your ability to buy. Here's one way which I bet you don't know.

3. The Shadow Coin Show

Collector X was one of the first hundred people through the door when Central States opened to the public. Yet, unknown to him, a "shadow coin show" had been going on for at least two days before where many of the nicest, freshest coins traded hands.

Not only is the coin show circuit diluted, it puts unrealistic expectations on dealers. Let's take my schedule at Central States as an example. I arrived on Tuesday and started a frantic search for coins literally as soon as I arrived. But this was already a day later than some dealers. So if I had arrived on Monday (ugghhh...) it meant a full-week commitment to Central States. I'm OK with this amount of time for FUN and Summer ANA when there are fresh coins available to buy, but it's impossible for me to commit this much time ten to twelve times per year.

Back to the Shadow Coin Show theory. There are now many dealers who arrive two days before a show opens to the public and leave Thursday morning; just when many collectors are arriving. With these two different schedules going on, everyone in the long run suffers.

4.  Many Dealers Don't Show New Coins at Shows

    Before I had an effective website, I would show many of my new purchases at a show. Today, I almost never show them. There are many reasons, good and bad, for this. I'm not alone in doing this.

  • I spend a lot of time and money on my site and I find it to be a good way for me to sell.
  • I have very limited amounts of time available at shows and it is more effective for me to use them to buy than it is to sell.
  • I like Collector X and I value his business. A lot. I feel better knowing that he was able to buy a few coins as soon as I listed my new purchases.

One more thought. Many of the dealers who had tables at CSNS are not really "retailers" per se. They may have some coins laid out in their cases but they are primarily wholesalers who lack: a) time b) couth c) desire to sell to people like Collector X. As I walked around the floor at CSNS, a thought hit me: there really aren't a lot of tables at the show with nice coins on display.

Which brings me to my final point...

5.  If You Don't have a Relationship With a Dealer You Might Be Wasting Your Time at a Show

I must have seen Collector X walk by my table ten times during his time at CSNS and he must have stopped by three or four times asking me if I had anything new to show him. I felt kind of sorry for him as making the endless shuffle up and down the concrete floors (the Coin Walk of Shame?) couldn't have been all that much fun. And he was there to have fun, right?

If you don't have a tight relationship with a few dealers, you aren't going to see squat in the way of good coins at a show. There. I said it.

1861-D $5.00 PCGS EF45 CAC

Let's say I buy an 1861-D half eagle in Extremely Fine. Unless Collector X is specifically looking for this coin (or it's one of the few shows in the year that I commit the time and resources to being able to invoice, process, and price my new coins) it's going to be hidden in a box in my safe or in my back case, and I'm not going to show it. To Collector X or Dealer Y. And I think this is the case with most other dealers.

Hopefully Central States wasn't a total waste for Collector X. He got to see the Newman coins (I told him to carefully study the patterns if only to see what true originality looked like), he schmoozed with a few of his numis-buddies, he got to breathe coins for a few days, and he probably learned that next year he'll skip Central States and keep his powder dry to the Summer ANA show. Or better yet, he'll let me do the heavy lifting and he'll find a few new items for his collection from my post-CSNS new purchase listings. (Shameless plug, I know...)


Eight Tips on Buying United States Gold Coins

As a specialist in the area of United States gold coins, I often find myself giving "tips" to buyers. Some of these seem pretty obvious to me while others are kind of clever and maybe not so obvious. Here are some of these tips along with a bot of pertinent commentary. 1. If you are a gold coin specialist who is worried about potential hoard coins hurting the value of pieces in your collection, there are a few things you can do as a safeguard. First, stick with coins struck prior to 1890. Most of the gold coins expatriated from overseas appear to be dated from 1890 onwards. Coins struck earlier, especially those before 1878, seem a lot "safer." Second, limit your exposure by not buying very high grade coins. The collectors who owned high grade 1857-S double eagles before the S.S. Central America was discovered got killed afterwards. But if you owned a nice AU example, your downside was limited. Third, you could stick with lower denomination coins. Hoards of gold dollars, quarter eagles and half eagles seem less frequent and dramatic than those with eagles and double eagles. But to those collectors who live in fear of hoards, I'd tell them to get over this and just buy what appeals to you.

2. By the grade before the big price jump. What I mean by this, if you have a choice between an MS64 double eagle priced at $3,500 and an MS65 priced at $25,000 I would always buy the lower priced example, especially if the population is high in the lower grades. As an example, if there are seventy five examples of the $3,500 MS64 with just five better doesn't it seem like that at least a few of the high end 64's could gradeflate to MS65?

3. Nearly every collector who works on a series builds it the wrong way. It seems to me that all collections should have the keys be the best coins in the series while the common dates should be nice but not overblown. Instead, most collections skimp on the keys but overdo it on the commons. Let me give you an example. If you are working on a set of Dahlonega quarter eagles the coins you should "overdo" are the legitimate rarities like the 1854-D, 1855-D and 1856-D. I would stretch on all three and buy the nicest ones I could find. On the other hand, I would be content to purchase nice, original AU55 or AU58 examples of the common dates like the 1843-D, 1844-D and 1847-D and sink maybe $5,000 per coin into these three issues.

4. Always use a 5x glass when you are making a buying decision. Just recently, I bought a Charlotte half eagle at a coin show. It was in an old green label PCGS holder and it looked great to the naked eye. I made an accepted offer and never used a glass to look at it. When I got home and was ready to break the coin out to regrade it I put a glass on the obverse and noticed a deep, detracting scratch that had naturally blended into the surfaces. Yes, you may have great vision and you may be a really macho guy but use a glass whenever possible.

5. Buy coins with good eye appeal. Unless we are talking about an amazingly rare issue like an 1854-S quarter eagle, there is no reason to buy an ugly coin. And I would include damaged coins when I am talking about coins that lack eye appeal. As time goes by, I am noticing that fewer and fewer 18th and 19th century United States gold coins have good eye appeal. By "eye appeal" I mean a coin that is pretty; one that makes you stop in your tracks, look at it carefully and maybe even take a deep sigh. I can pretty much assure you that when you go to sell your coins, the ones with good to great eye appeal are going to be the ones that cause the greatest commotion.

6. First impressions are usually correct. If you get a coin shipped to you by a dealer and your first reaction is "yuck" or "um...I don't really like that" you should pass. Nearly every major mistake that I have ever made as a buyer has been convincing myself that I "liked" a coin when, in fact, I really did not.

7. Price buyers wind up with mediocre collections. Really nice coins with good eye appeal are really hard to buy right now for a number of reasons. If you are a buyer whose is driven by price alone I'm guessing you either buy modern coins or you haven't had much luck lately buying. And if you are a cheap buyer who puts in low bids at auction, I'm guessing the only coins you are buying are the dark, ugly, low-end pieces that those of us who like nice coins wouldn't buy no matter how cheap they are. You aren't going to have fun when you go to sell your coins. But don't take it from me; as an experiment post a few of your "good deals" on a message board to try to sell them to the local dealer....

8. If you are buying coins as an investment and expect to turn them over quickly to make a profit, there are a few things you should know. Rare coins have a fairly sizable entry/exit fee. If you are buying from a typical retailer, you are probably paying at least a 15-20% markup. And when you go to sell your coins, whether it be to a dealer or through auction, you are probably paying in the area of 10-20%. So even if you are buying and selling through good sources, you are talking about values having to go up 25-40% just to break even. That's why I don't personally tout coins as an investment and when someone does ask me about coins in this regard, I stress that they really need to be held at least a full market cycle (or five to eight+ years).

Like these buying tips? Want to read another blog with more tips? Leave a comment at the end of this blog or drop me an email at dwn@ont.com

Five Things You Can Do to Make Your Coins Worth More

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.

Improving Your Collection Without Spending Alot

Someone recently asked me a question that I thought was interesting and that merited a detailed response. To paraphrase this question, they basically asked me this: can you tell me some ways that I can improve my collection while spending little or no money? Are there any actual ways that you can make your collection better without dropping a lot of coin (bad pun intended)? I believe that there are and here are a few that came to mind:

1. Bring Out Your Dead. Every collector has them. Duds. Bad deals. Low end duplicates. You know what I’m talking about: the Dead Zone of your collection. These coins may represent more value than you realize. As an example, I recently had a relatively expensive double eagle in stock that a collector wanted for his set but he had no extra money at the time. I had him send me a list of the dead coins he owned; bullion, generic Saints, Morgan dollar rolls, etc. The value of his “stuff” was considerably more than he realized and he was actually in a nice profit position on his bullion. The choice to trade spillage for one nice, rare coin was easy for him to make. And the good news was that he had enough money left over so that he can actively pursue another neat coin or two.

2. Attribute Your Coins. If you collect series like Bust half dollars or large cents you are probably already a die variety collector and all of your coins are properly attributed. But what if you are a collector of early half eagles and you have never bothered to attribute your coins to Bass-Dannreuther variety numbers? And what if one of your supposedly common half eagles turns out to be a very rare die variety that is worth a 30-50% premium? Seems like a no brainer to me. Even if you collect a series for which there is no standard reference work, it makes sense to examine your coins with a 10x glass and see if anything interesting is happening. Who knows, maybe you’ll discover a previously unknown mispunched date or a cool double date that has not been recorded.

3. Invest $500 to $1000 in improving your library. If you collect early gold coins you probably own the Bass Dannreuther book and a few other standard references. But do you own pertinent auction catalogs? It has long been my belief that one of the best uses of your money is a good library. You’ll get more enjoyment out of your coins if you know more about them and there is no better way to learn about a series, especially one that is somewhat obscure, than reading books and catalogs. If you don’t know which books or catalogs to pursue, ask a specialist dealer which ones he refers to or, better yet, contact a numismatic literature dealer and ask for some suggestions.

4. Improve your peripherals. If you are using an old, slow computer you are missing out on the “full experience” when it comes to coins. Not everyone has the luxury of owning a sporty, brand-new computer but with the price of monitors having dropped so considerably in the last few years treat yourself to a 16 inch or 18 inch flat screen monitor. It’s just a few hundred bucks and it sure beats viewing coin images on an old, low resolution screen. Spend some money on a good quality new magnifying glass and a high quality lamp to view your coins as well. You’re looking at $50-100 for a world-class loupe and around $100-150 for a professional quality halogen coin lamp.

5. Research the pedigrees of your coins. This area is not relevant if you a collect fairly common series. If you are working on a set of business strike Indian Head quarter eagles in MS60 to MS62, it will be virtually impossible to determine the pedigree of these coins. But if you specialize in an area like Dahlonega quarter eagles or Fat Head half eagles, it is quite possible that some of the coins in your collection come from famous collections. Not everyone reading this will agree with me, but I believe that the “right” pedigree adds value and collectability to a coin and to discover that your 1847-D quarter eagle is from the Norweb collection or the Green Pond sale is pretty darn exciting. And if you collect Colonials or early cents, there is a possibility that a coin you own could have a pedigree that goes back over 100 years.

6. Start a cheap secondary collection. I’ve mentioned before that there is nothing more frustrating than being a collector who is either cash-strapped or at a point in his collection where there are no easily available holes to fill. In a scenario such as this, I always recommend having a cheap but interesting secondary collection to fulfill your “need” to buy something and to keep out of trouble. How about 18th century British Condor tokens? They are fascinating, well-designed and you can buy lovely examples for less than $100. Start a “one country one coin” collection where you purchase one coin from every country that currently makes coins. Or, focus on a certain year (say 1899), figure out every country that existed at the time and buy one copper or silver coin from each of these nations.

7. Immortalize your collection. Let’s say you’ve worked on a neat specialized collection for a number of years but you are currently “out of gas” due to finances or unavailability of stopper dates in the series. Why not create a website that focuses on your coins and/or the series you collect. As an example, say that you are working on a set of No Motto Liberty Head eagles. There’s never been a book that has specifically focused on these coins; just works such as my New Orleans reference that has included them as specific issues within a larger context. You could buy the URL nomottoeagles.com and create a research site that lists the finest known pieces, varieties for each year, auction records, etc and which had photos of each of your coins. I have seen this done for a few specific types (as an example, a collector has done this for Trade and Seated Dollars and the results are extremely impressive). Doing this is a win-win for everyone involved. It gets people more interested in the series you already collect and it gets potential buyers more interested in your coins when you are ready to sell. Plus, it seems like a fun thing to do in your free time.

Coin Buying "Tricks"

As a dealer who has spent over $100 million on rare coins, what are some of the “tricks” that I have learned that can help you when you are buying coins? Read on to see some of the ones that I think you will benefit most from. When I buy a coin I am looking to sell it immediately for a profit. This makes my needs as a buyer slightly different than yours as a collector. But your ultimate goal, I would hope, is to sell your coins for a profit. What are a few of the most obvious but most important parameters to consider each and every time you buy a coin?

1. Buy Coins That Are Pretty

Numismatics has always been a highly visual hobby. But the advent of the Internet has made the visual aspects of numismatics more significant than ever before. When I look at coins now one of the first questions I ask myself is: will it image well on my website? Coins that are pretty are very easy to sell.

The term “pretty” is somewhat semantic. I tend to like gold coins that are dark and dirty and find these to be aesthetically appealing. Not everyone agrees me. Some people like gold coins that have bright, dazzling luster while others prefer coins that two-tone contrast between the devices and the fields. But I think most people can agree that a certain percentage of coins are, for lack of a better term, “special.” This does not necessarily mean “expensive.” I have seen circulated $100 Bust dimes that I thought were really pretty. The bottom line is that you should try and have as many pretty coins as possible in your collection.

2. Buy Coins That Are Popular

There are many coins that no matter how many examples I have purchased over the years, I have never lost money on them. As an example, I have probably owned twenty 1838-D half eagles in the past decade, ranging in grade from VF25 to MS62. Every time I’ve owned one, it has sold quickly to a happy collector and I’ve made a decent amount of money on each transaction. It’s obvious to me why this date sells quickly: it’s a first-year-of-issue, it’s a one-year type, it has a neat design, it’s a Dahlonega coin and it is relatively affordable.

In the last few years, key date coins in virtually every series have shown dramatic increases in value. There is a good reason for this: they are very popular and this creates a constant level of demand for these issues. In some cases (like 1901-S quarters or 1907 High Reliefs) prices are now probably too high and these key issues are currently overvalued. But I would personally rather have a collection (or inventory) that was full of popular coins than ones that were too esoteric and hard to sell.

3. Buy Coins That Are Problem-Free

I’m pretty staggered at how unappealing most coins are that I see these days. As I look through other dealer’s inventories at coin shows or at auction lots, nearly every coin I pull out has some sort of problem. It has been dipped. It has funky color. It has hairlines from an old cleaning. That’s why when I see something that I really like, I try and aggressively pursue it.

In certain 18th and 19th century series, it is likely that 90-95% of all the coins currently on the market have some sort of problem. If you can patiently and carefully assemble a collection that focuses on the remaining 5-10% of the coins that are what I would call high end and choice, you will have a truly significant coin collection.

4. Buy Coins That Pre-Sell Themselves Every time I’ve made a big mistake purchasing a coin for inventory, it’s been a coin that I had to give myself a hard sell on. I’ve found that my first impression regarding a coin is inevitably correct. If I see a coin and it makes me gasp because it’s so pretty or it’s so above-average an issue that usually comes with bad eye appeal, I’m inevitably going to buy this coin no matter what. If my first reaction is “I don’t really like this” or “It’s OK except that spot in the right obverse field sort of bothers me” that doesn’t strike me as the sort of coin that is going to go flying out of my inventory when it is imaged and described on my website. As a rule, if you don’t like a coin the first time you see it, don’t buy it.

5. Buy Coins That Have Been Pre-Screened

Never, never, never buy expensive coins sight-unseen or based solely on a mediocre quality image with no return privilege. It’s one thing if someone is trying to sell you a generic MS63 St. Gaudens double eagle sight-unseen; even if the coin is low-end it is essentially a commodity and what it looks like is not especially important. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had clients send me expensive coins that they have purchased sight-unseen out of an auction and how many times I’ve had to politely tell them that it is very low-end. If your dealer insists you buy coins sight-unseen, find another dealer. If you think you can buy nice coins sight-unseen out of auctions, swallow your pride and hire a trusted representative to view the coins in person for you.

Coin Collecting Questions & Answers

I recently spoke at length to a number of people who were strongly considering becoming coin collectors. They all asked me a number of great questions. I thought I’d share one from each of them along with my answers. Q. How do I find a reputable dealer?

A. I recently moved to a new city (Portland, Oregon) and had to find all new doctors, tradespeople and stores. I made my decisions two ways. For the big decisions I relied on recommendations from trusted friends and acquaintances. For the less significant decisions I went with my gut. Choosing the right coin dealer(s) is the same.

If you’ve decided to form a highly specialized collection (Middle Date Large Cents, Three Dollar gold pieces or Civil War Tokens, as examples) find out who wrote the standard reference works and who typically handles the greatest number of choice, high quality pieces within a specific specialization. If you are working on a more general collection, ask around. Post on the PCGS and NGC message boards and determine whether Dealer X has a good reputation or not. I’d also strongly recommend sticking with PNG dealers. These individuals tend to be more established and reputable and most of the leading dealers are members of this organization.

And, finally, trust your gut. If a dealer strikes you as being a blowhard or a sleaze, don’t deal with him. Remember: your first impression about a coin dealer (or just about anyone else, for that matter...) is usually correct.

Q. Can I teach myself to grade coins based on images on websites?

A. Not a chance. Coins are three dimensional objects and until images are capable of accurately representing three dimensional objects they will never show subtleties such as luster and surface preservation. A good photograph can give a new collector a decent impression of a coin’s appearance but a clever photographer can manipulate an image through lighting or digital enhancement(s). Not to mention the fact that most new collectors do not really even know what they are looking at when they view images.

So, how does a new collector teach himself to grade? I’m not sure I can provide an answer that most collectors want to hear. I think that many collectors will NEVER be able to learn how to grade really well because grading is an aptitude. It’s no different than being able to hit a baseball or not. A limited number of people can hit a baseball well and only a few hundred people in the world can do it well enough to play professionally. Same with coin grading.

What the collector CAN teach himself is how to determine of a coin is nice or not. You may never be able to consistently figure if an MS66 is a nicer coin than an MS65 but you can be taught that certain “looks” on a coins are preferable to others. And that, I think, is what the new collector should aspire to learn.

Q. Is it important to go to coin shows?

A. It depends. I personally think that going to third-rate coins shows is a complete waste of time. But for the new collector, a good show like FUN or Summer ANA or Baltimore can be a useful experience. I think shows are more important as fact-gathering sources for new collectors than as places to buy coins. At shows you have to make quick decisions in a setting that is less than optimal. If you establish a good relationship with a dealer or two, you can be sent coins on an approval basis, view them at home, study price and population data and generally feel a lot less pressured than if you have to make a snap decision at the dealer’s table.

Q. How important is price when it comes to buying coins?

A. Everyone likes to feel that they got a fair value when they buy something. The same holds true with coins. But collectors who are totally focused on price are probably going to wind-up with a mediocre collection. I’m not making this statement just because I’m a dealer and I’m trying to “convince” you to pay a price for my coins, or anyone else’s. I can tell you, however, that to buy nice coins you have to be willing to pay a strong price. Collectors who are primarily focused on price are probably going to do this at the exclusion of quality.

So how, then, do you establish what a fair price is for a coin? For items that trade with frequency, like a common date MS65 St. Gaudens double eagle, this is very easy. You can see what examples have sold for at auction and you can check various dealer websites and see what specific coins are being listed for. With rare, thinly traded coins it is harder to determine value. Auction prices realized are certainly a good source. Asking a trusted dealer what you would have to pay for a certain coin is good idea as well.

Do you have questions about rare coin collecting that you’d like answered? If so, please feel free to email them to me at dwn@ont.com. I make no guarantees that they will get featured in future blogs but if I like your question(s) there is a good chance that they will become a topic of discussion.