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How Do I Find the Value of Old Coins?

Published on 1/29/2020 by APMEX

Old gold coins
Most people have a couple of old coins lying around the house, maybe given to them by an older relative or friend. Sometimes an older relative dies, and they have some coins that they’ve been holding onto for some years, even if they’re not collectors.

But if you’re not a numismatist, you might not realize if there’s something valuable in that handful of pocket change. How do you find the value of old coins?

Commonly Found Collectible Coins

There are a wide variety of old coins you might find. Most of these will be American if you’re in the United States, though there is a possibility of other coins.

Morgan Silver dollars are very popular coins and have been regularly collected and given as gifts. These large Silver coins are distinctive for their size and design. They have a large Liberty head on the obverse and were struck from 1878 to 1921. High-quality examples will fetch a premium, as will the Carson City mint mark (CC on the reverse).

Lincoln cents minted from 1909 to 1958, also called “wheat pennies,” are another commonly collected coin. Lincolns and Morgans are the two most commonly collected United States coins. Lincolns are distinguished by the sheaves of wheat surrounding the “ONE CENT” inscription on the back of the coin and by their dates. Lincoln Cents minted from 1959 to 2008 are known as Memorial backs.

Buffalo nickels are another very popular collectible series that many people have. These coins have an Indian head on the obverse and a buffalo on the reverse. Dates run from 1913 to 1938. There are some well-known errors for this coin, including the “three-legged buffalo.”

Mercury dimes are also commonly collected worldwide. These coins have the famous “winged Liberty” head on the obverse and were struck from 1916 to 1945.

Finally, the Walking Liberty (1916-1947) and Franklin (1948-1963) half dollars are also coins from the early-mid 20th century that are commonly found in collections or old jars of change.

There are many other coins, including early Jefferson nickels, Eisenhower dollars, Susan B. Anthony dollars. Many proof sets are commonly found among non-collectors and casual collectors. But the early-to-mid 20th-century coins before the switch to base metal coins are the most common valuable old coins you’ll find.

Newer coins (post-1965) that do not have Precious Metal content are usually only worth their face value or slightly more. That includes collectible series like the 50 State quarters, America the Beautiful and other modern issues.

Finding Your Coin’s Value

You can get a general sense of a coin’s value by looking it up on PCGS or in the Red Book, but there are nuances that only a skilled numismatist will pick up. Some features that can raise or lower a coin’s value are hard to see with the naked eye and not well known to the average person.

Gather together all your coins and take them to someone who knows what they’re looking at. You can go through a local coin shop if you have one or send it to a company like APMEX, which will inventory, check and give a price on your collection.

There are a few things you need to do first.

    • Take inventory of what you have: At the very least, go through and figure out what each coin is. If you don’t know, note that you don’t know and write down the features. Take a picture of the whole collection laid out to make sure you know all of what’s there.
    • Handle with care: Carelessly handling coins can scratch or ding them, and if you have high-quality specimens can make a difference in the price. Don’t lose money and scuff up a nice coin.
    • DO NOT CLEAN YOUR COINS: Contrary to what you might think, cleaning a coin can take a considerable chunk of its value off. Even if it’s black and dirty and looks like it’s been sitting in a tar pit, don’t clean it. Let the expert take a look.
    • Find an expert you can trust: Do your due diligence. How long have they been in business? Do they have a good reputation in the coin collecting community? What is their specialty? Most coin dealers that you’ll talk to specialize in U.S. coins and may not have the same knowledge base with coins from other countries.

      Once you’ve got your coins in order, you can take them to an expert. Don’t try and come up with a valuation yourself. Rely on someone who does it for a living. If you have old coins that you want to get evaluated, send them to APMEX. We’ll help you figure out the value of your collection and give you an offer on what we’d buy it for.

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