If you're not a coin collector yourself, suddenly inheriting a coin collection or discovering one that's been stuck in a trunk in the basement for a while can feel like more of an inconvenience than a windfall. Chances are, you're looking for the quickest way to get rid of the collection and make a little money on it while you're at it. You can save time by avoiding some time-consuming mistakes that people who aren't familiar with handling coins often make, and as a bonus, avoiding these mistakes may help you get a better return on the collection when you sell it.
Working Too Hard to Organize the Coins
If you've inherited a disorganized pile of coins, you're probably trying to figure out how to organize it in a way that will make it easy for a coin buyer to determine its value. You probably know that some of the most valuable coins are also the oldest coins, so it may make sense to you to organize them by date. However, the fact of the matter is that doing this can take an incredibly long time if you have a lot of coins, and it's not going to be as much help as you might think.
You might also be tempted to wrap loose coins in paper wraps or plastic tubes. And if you were taking them to a bank to trade in for dollars, that would be a smart move. However, a coin buyer is just going to have to unwrap them to examine them.
Instead of organizing them chronologically or wrapping them up neatly, your best bet is to simply sort them by the composition of metal in the coin. That is the first thing that the appraiser will do, so if you can separate them into piles of gold, silver, nickel, and copper, you'll be off to a good start. If you want to go a little further, you can separate wheat pennies from Lincoln Memorial pennies and Buffalo nickels from Jefferson nickels. It also helps if you can separate any foreign coins from the U.S. coins. Put each pile of coins into a separate container to take to the buyer, and that's it. Don't bother trying to catalogue the coins in a paper document or spreadsheet either – no buyer will be able to give you an accurate price without seeing the conditions of the coins, so it's best just to bring the coins.
Disassembling Coin Albums
If you've lucked into a coin collection that's already organized into albums, don't feel that you have to take them out to sort the coins. In fact, you're better off not doing so – you could accidentally scratch a coin and reduce its value. The chances are good that a coin collector who has taken the time to sort the coins and place them into protective albums was not just piling up pocket change. You're much more likely to find truly valuable coins in a collection like this than you are in a large pile of coins.
Since the original owner of the coin collection has already taken the trouble to put albums together, just gather them up and take them to a buyer, along with any sorted groups of coins that weren't in albums. The buyer will be able to easily appraise the coins in the album without any extra work on your part.
If there's one mistake that will definitely cost you more than just time, it's this one. Never clean any coins that you want to sell. Not only is it a waste of time, it's almost certain to decrease the value of the coin significantly.
If you've ever had to clean silverware made of real silver, you'll probably recognize what looks like tarnish on many of the older coins. And if you're not a coin collector, it's easy to think that it makes sense to clean the tarnish off. However, this is a big mistake. On coins, that tarnish is called patina. It looks brown on copper coins, gray to brownish gray on silver coins, and light or dark gray on nickel coins. On gold, it looks yellow. That patina is something that coin buyers look for, and your coin will be worth more with than without it.
What's more, cleaning the coin can take off more than just the patina – any abrasive cleanser or cleaning implement could remove small markings from the coin. Often it's those markings that make a rare coin valuable – remove them and it's worthless. Plus, you'll leave scratches on the surface of the metal. You may not see them, but your appraiser will spot them with a loupe (the small magnifying glass used by jewelers and coin appraisers). In rare cases, a coin may need to be cleaned – if, for example, it's caked with grime – but even if you have a coin like that, you're better off letting a professional decide whether cleaning is needed and how to do it.
Avoiding these three mistakes will get you to the buyer that much faster, and your coins will be worth more since you avoided damaging them by trying to clean them or remove them from albums. Don't be overwhelmed by a coin collection – it's easier than you think to cash it in. Contact a coin buyer like Desert Jewelry Mart & Coins for more information.