Coin Collecting: Know Your End Game
By Liz Coggan

Many coin collectors go about collecting coins backwards. While it is fun to “jump into the deep end” and start buying, there are more pressing and important things to consider and do before spending your first dollar on a coin. Buy some books about the coin series that interests you. Learn how to grade coins so you don’t have to rely on a piece of plastic (IE third-party grading) to tell you what condition the coin is in. Become astute at identifying counterfeits. Attend seminars and conferences where you can meet fellow collectors and dealers. Make the opportunity to see and handle coins at shows in the series that intrigue you. If you do this, you will have a good base from which to spring forth into the coin hobby. But most important of all, answer this question first instead of last: “how do I sell my coins?”

But, why should you think about selling your coins before you even begin buying them?

Admittedly, no one wants to think about selling their coins before they have even put their collection together – or, for that matter, consider their mortality when starting a new hobby such as coin collecting. However, it is vital to think about how you will get the best price for your coin collection when it is sold someday. Many collectors find that their family members do not have the same passion and interest in coins they do, and they discover their children aren’t interested in coins as much as they are the money they represent.

So, here are some tips about selling to consider before you start collecting.

  1. Have an upfront conversation with your family and friends and see if anyone actually has a numismatic interest in coins. If so, get them involved in the hobby early on and learn together. Not only will you have a good time, but you will also have someone to enjoy this great hobby with you. You can attend coin club meetings and perhaps travel to coin shows together to buy pieces for your collection. Also, the more you learn about what you are collecting, the more passionate you will become about it, and the more fun you will have. Additionally, you will have a family member or friend who shares your interest and more importantly your knowledge about the subject when the time comes to sell. There is nothing worse than the untimely loss of a loved one, and no one in the family knows what to do with the coin collection. This is where huge mistakes are made, and coins are sold for a fraction of the price they should fetch, because people did not prepare properly ahead of time.
  2. When selecting a dealer(s) to work with to acquire coins for your collection, discuss with them some suggested sales options for the future. If they don’t have any good ideas, find a different dealer. Any coin dealer worth their salt should be able to have a good strategy for you based on the types of coins you choose to collect, the length of time you plan on collecting, and what your goals are. Not every deal is the same. Some coins should be sold outright, others on consignment, and some at public auction – or perhaps all at public auction. Find out your options and what makes the most sense for you and your situation. Working with a trustworthy dealer who has experience, knowledge of market conditions and valuations, integrity, and a good checkbook are the keys to a successful relationship and experience for you and your loved ones.
  3. With the coins in your safety deposit box, also insert a business card of the dealer(s) you want to have handle the sale of your collection, along with a letter outlining your wishes. That way your family has a start as to the direction they should proceed and a trusted name of someone you are confident will handle your collection with the utmost attention for the best possible outcome for you and your family. This is a good option if there is no family member interested in coin collecting.
  4. It is reasonable to expect that a dealer handling your collection will look to make a commission of somewhere between 10% to 20% on the transaction. Generally, the larger the value of the collection, the smaller percentage the fee. Find out what kind of contacts the dealer has with public auction houses as they may need to negotiate your contract for you, and you want someone with experience and expertise in this area.

Once you have hammered out an outline of how you would go about selling your coins, you are now ready for the fun part: buying the coins!

This article is in tribute to my good friend, best man at my wedding, and numismatic mentor and colleague, Dr. Richard A Bagg, Ph. D. He and I worked together for many years at Bowers & Merena Galleries where we would spend many lunch hours trading ideas, talking about coins, collectors, and the market in general. We planned to write this article together, but unfortunately Rick lost his battle with an advanced lung disease and passed away on December 31, 2018.