Coin Buying Advice

Mint Hint coin buying advice

Before you dive headfirst into coin buying, we advise you to get acquainted with some of the fundamentals of numismatics, if you haven't done so already.

Make use of the menu on the left hand side of this page to explore the basics. You really should have at least a rudimentary understanding of coin types, grading, mint marks, value trends, and key date analyses before you buy your first coin.

It's no coincidence that some of the most salient words of wisdom from well-versed collectors is "buy the book before the coin."

The first section below expounds upon some high level coin collecting guidelines and advice. Once you've abosrbed this information, you're ready to move on to subsequent sections outlining various places where coins are sold.

Most of us have limited funds, so it is important to find the right coin at a fair price.

Knowing a little bit about the venues where coins are put up for sale will give you a larger selection of coins to choose from and is bound to enhance the success and joy of building your collection.






Basic Guidelines

Pretty soon, we'll be covering options for buying coins, but first, let’s touch upon some basic guidelines to keep in mind as you embark on your coin buying career.

Learn to grade coins: Learning the basics about coin grading is essential to success. You don’t have to be an expert, but distinguishing the difference between a Good coin and another coin of the same type in Very Good, for example, is bedrock knowledge in this hobby. Perhaps more than anything else, buyers complain about paying too much for intentionally over graded coins. All too often, the seller is long gone before the victim catches on to the swindle. Get familiar with the concept of certified coins, known as “slabs” by hobby insiders. Buying certified coins from PCGS, NGC, ANACS, or ICG through a reputable dealer is a wise strategy as you write out that first big check.

Keep up with the latest news: There are millions of people who enjoy collecting coins. It is a very active hobby generating more than its share of news. Lots of buying and selling. Market trends. Growing collector demand. Big auctions and record prices. Counterfeits and forgeries. Gold and silver. Mint errors. Opinions. Packed coin shows. New coin releases. Collectors who get their money's worth when they buy coins seem to be those who follow current events related to numismatics.  That there is a correlation is no accident. An entertaining way to stay informed is to participate on some of the Internet coin forums. Subscribing to at least one of the leading coin periodicals is mandatory reading for the serious collector.

Know what coins are selling for: Obviously, if you're contemplating making a coin purchase, you should have an idea what its current value is on today's market. There are a couple of places on this site where you can obtain estimated retail values for United States coins. Our Numismatic Coin Values section is quite comprehensive and lists current prices of virtually all collectible US coins. We also have the Coin Value Tables, which illustrates long term historic price trends, leading up to recent years.

Become a student of the coin hobby: Become a knowledgeable collector and not just an accumulator of coins. Take some time to understand their history. What is the symbolism embodied on their designs? What are the key dates in numismatics and why?   How are coin varieties distinguished and why are they important? Learn these lessons plus more and graduate to the rank of numismatist. A numismatist has the insight to recognize a fair deal when it comes along and how to organize a collection that represents something of value to other hobbyists. You get there by reading, attending coin shows, and hanging out on good coin websites like this one!

Think long term. Don’t buy a coin today and expect to resell at a profit six months from now. Remember, if you’re buying and selling through dealers, you’ll pay retail and sell at wholesale. Even the most bullish of US coins may take a few years to break even under this scenario. On the bright side, with so many collectors selling to other collectors over the Internet, the break even point can be reached faster these days.

Buy the best coins you can afford. You’re better off buying one good coin as compared to ten mediocre specimens. Study the Coin Value Tables to find coins that always have been high demand coins, and will continue to be coveted by other coin collectors in the future. The key date recommendations in the US Coin Type pages, as well as the marquee selections spotlighted in the Bullish US Coins section, will also steer you into some fabulous choices. Making the commitment to buy the best you can afford is something you (or your heirs) will someday be thankful for.

Don’t rush into anything: If a good deal slips through your fingers, don’t fret. Better to wait until the next opportunity rather than make a bad decision.

Maintain records of all your purchases: What, When, Where, and How Much. If someday you sell your coins, these records are your best hope to minimize the tax man bite.

Final Note: Smart coin buying is not a haphazard proposition. It requires thought, discipline, planning, time, and determination. Review the information, follow the guidelines and you will become not just a person buying coins, but a proud owner of a handsome, meaningful coin collection.



eBay

Coin buying on eBay has become one of the most important transaction venues for coin enthusiasts. Coin collectors are today buying and selling coins through this immense website in unbelievable numbers.

It's not unusual to see 750,000 U.S. coins for sale on any given day on eBay. In a universe of this size, there is a lot more than just common date coins.  On eBay, you’ll find tons of interesting, tough-to-find coins, with a better overall selection than just about anywhere else on earth.



eBay is fast, convenient, and a powerful tool for the coin buying bargain hunter. You can bet collectors of generations past could never have dreamed of something like this! It is not a stretch to say that the Internet, in particular eBay, has in part fueled the rising popularity of coin collecting that we've seen over the last fifteen years.


Click HERE to register as an eBay buyer.

Since many of the eBay sellers are simply collectors like you, a lot of them are willing to sell coins at “below book” value because the coins are being offered without the assistance of numismatic professionals (i.e., the “middle man” is cut out). This bodes well for the coin buyer “looking for a good deal”.

As with anything else, there are some risks involved. Thankfully, the vast majority of people on eBay are honest, just like you. If this weren't so, eBay would have disappeared long ago, rather than an icon of modern day American culture, as it has.  Follow these simple precautions, and you can avoid most of the potential pitfalls:

Make sure you understand the bidding rules. We recommend you visit the eBay University Learning Center. There, you will discover a number of well designed free tutorials intended to illustrate how the eBay system operates. Before you wade into the eBay ocean as a buyer for the first time, you are wise to review the eBay tutorial on buying. There's really not that much to learn to get started, but you must understand the difference between bidding and Buy it Now, maximum bids, etc. Actions you take while on eBay are legally binding, so be sure to acquaint yourself with the rules and formats before hitting that CONFIRM BID button.

Know the shipping and return policy of the seller. Skip to the bottom of the sale item description to the section on shipping, payment details and return policy. Of the disputes that arise on eBay, many of them arise because of misunderstandings on these issues. eBay has some detailed advice to help buyers avoid problems. Be prepared to pay for insurance while your coins are in transit.

Study the Feedback Rating of the seller. Without the Feedback Rating, the eBay concept could not work. If a seller has more than just a little negative feedback, shy away from them. They'll soon be purged from eBay, and probably for good reason. On the other hand, a seller with 10,000 points and 99.9% positive feedback has a lot of happy customers. The eBay people explain how to evaluate a seller.

Don’t bother bidding on any coin without a good scanned image. A good seller with coins that deserve a place in your collection will always properly represent them through clear photos and descriptions. You should shy away from sellers that don't, otherwise you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

Pricey coins that are certified pose less risk to the buyer. This was mentioned in the Basic Guidelines above, but it's worth repeating. The most respected grading companies are PCGS and NGC, followed by ANACS and ICG. There are a few other companies that provide good service, but are not as well known. Then there are outfits showing up on eBay whose grading standards are so sub par that you will probably loose money if you place any trust in them.   

At first, eBay may be a bit intimidating, but after you get your feet wet, you'll realize how useful eBay can be to the coin collector.  Did we mention that eBay is also fun and easy, and for some folks, a bit addictive?


Because of the huge popularity of eBay, hundreds (or thousands?) of books have been written to help "eBayers" become more proficient buyers and sellers. True, it doesn't take long to get going on eBay, but there is a whole layer of sophistication beyond the amateur level.  Those who have gained this added experience naturally have an advantage over those who don't.  Best Selling author Jim Griffith has captured much of this wisdom in his authoritative guide called The Official eBay Bible. Jim gives tips to outwit your competition as you vie for that key date coin you've long been searching for.

Another book we can recommend with a clear conscience is eBay For Dummies, written by eBay veteran Marsha Collier. This is another one of those fast reading books from the "Dummies" series, which presumes the reader knows nothing about the subject matter to begin with. Understandably, it is one of the top eBay books of all time. These are not the only worthwhile books, of course. There are many other books about buying on eBay.

Small and medium budget buyers are advised to check out Quality Collectible Coins where there are hundreds of affordably priced collector coins to choose from. Both have set up shop through eBay Stores, where they have thousands of happy customers, earning feedback ratings of better than 99.9% (there are some folks who can never be pleased, no matter what). If you're interested in choosing coins that will grow in value, be sure to check out our Coin Value Tables.



Amazon Collectible Coins

As of May 2014, a very familiar name got into the arena of buying and selling coins online. We've all heard of them: Amazon. Their coin section is operating under the banner of Amazon Collectible Coins.

It didn't take them long to make a big splash. At any time, you can find about 60,000 United States coins for sale. Granted, this is a small number compared to eBay, but it is very significant nonetheless. The folks over at eBay may not be saying much, you can bet this development has their attention.

There are a couple of sub-sections collectors can explore to get into the meat of serious numismatic material: Rare Coins -- Classic to Modern, and Rare Coin Wholesalers (but you don't need to be a wholesaler to participate). Coin prices range to less than a dollar to over a million dollars. Certified rarities abound throughout Amazon Collectible Coins.

There is a section devoted exclusively to bullion coins -- gold, silver, and platinum. If you're in the market for bullion, there is a good chance you'll find something to satisfy your appetite... but don't overindulge, as in paying too much. Read more about Silver American Eagle buying guidelines to avoid this common mistake.



Other Internet Auctions

Most of the coin auction companies that organize major sales have established bidding websites of their own. Thus, you can participate in their live floor auctions via the Internet, but you can place bids in advance if you prefer.

A big auction with a global Internet audience is perhaps the most exciting approach to coin buying, especially if you fortunate enough to attend the auction in person. These events usually feature rare, beautiful coins, drawing large crowds and media attention. There are a few things to remember as you prepare to enter the bidding venue:

Make sure you understand the Terms and Conditions. Do you know how much the buyer's fee is? It may be as high as 18%, but knowing for sure will help you make good decisions later on. What credit is available to you? Does the auction company guarantee authenticity? How are returns handled? What about disputes? If you ever find yourself engaged in legal action with an auction house, the judge's verdict may depend heavily on the fine print in the Terms and Conditions.

Review the auction catalog: Study the auction catalog well in advance to see what coins are to be on the block and the sequence and schedule of the sale. Decide what you want to bid on, prioritize your choices, do your coin value trend research, set a ceiling on how much to spend overall and per item of interest, and know when to be on hand to cast your bids!

Beware of going overboard. Auctions usually are emotionally charged platforms, and with fast-paced bidding, its easy to let the spotlight cloud your judgment. Don't bid too high! Stick to your pre-determined limit. Its better for the other guy to suffer buyer's remorse. Keep track of how much you've spent in total. When this level is reached, experience tells us, it is better to gather up your belongings and head for the exit, or at least turn in your bidder card. The temptation to continue bidding is very strong, and you will probably end up spending more than you really want to.

There are some really good auction company websites. In the old days (i.e. pre-Internet) it was difficult for most of us collectors to participate in far away auctions. First of all, it was a very slow process to get an auction catalog. Today, PDF versions of the catalogs are readily available for your viewing with but a few simple keystrokes. Back then, you could phone in or fax your bid, but keeping up with real time bidding activity was difficult, if not impossible. With an Internet connection, you are in virtual reality attendance. As a service to our readers, the auction companies we are most impressed by are listed below. There are other good auction houses to be sure, but these guys are really good at what they do:

Another thing too about these companies that is good is that they closely review the coins consigned to them. Over graded coins discernible to expert eyes generally do not make it to the auction block. Coins that are cleaned, altered, or somehow compromised don't  make it either, unless they are described as such.  This gives you, the buyer, an added measure of security.

Coin periodicals have a calendar devoted to upcoming regional and national auctions. Coin World and Numismatic News are two of the very best publications you can subscribe to for staying informed. Every now and then, record high prices are set at these events, so if you choose to attend, be prepared, you might get to witness history in the making!



Community Coin Auctions

If you're looking to add some relatively inexpensive coins to your collection, an auctioneer in your community may have a sale of interest to you. It's very common to see auctioneers listed in your local phone book with coins to sell now and then. These guys accept all kinds of consignments, so you might have to wait hours until all the lawn and garden equipment has crossed the auction block to get to the numismatic material. If you live anywhere near a population center, you probably will have an opportunity to attend an auction several times a year where U.S. coins are sold.

Community coin auctions are usually publicized in local newspapers. Check the local newspaper about once a week to stay informed on upcoming sales. These days, even the smallest auctioneers have descriptive websites, so you may not even have to buy a newspaper to know what's coming up.

Carefully study the coins before the auction. Most auctioneers allow a viewing period prior to a sale. Take your coin value guide, a good magnifying lens, paper, and a pencil. Bring a flashlight just in case the lighting is poor. Give yourself plenty of time to study the coins and make notes. Too many coin buyers don't avail themselves seriously enough to the pre-bid review and later regret it.

Buyer Beware! You're really on your own. A big percentage of the coins sold at community auctions are raw, so you must determine the grade of coins you may want to bid on yourself. It is up to you to confirm the accuracy of a grade scribbled on a flip. Don't look to the auctioneer for any help, either. At best, he might guarantee the coins in the auction are genuine currency, so if you get stuck with a fake, you'll get your money back.  That's about all you can expect.

Develop a budget and stick to it. Whether you're in a swanky five-star hotel or a dilapidated back alley auction house, you must set a firm budget and stick to it. It's easy to get carried away in the excitement of the moment and spend too much on stuff you really don't want. Decide in advance 1) What you want to bid on, 2) What is the maximum you are willing to pay for each item you're interested in, and 3) What is the ceiling limit you can afford for the entire auction. Also, what are your highest priority lot numbers? Somewhere, this has to factor into the mix also. Have all this information written down and close by as the auction unfolds.  If you reach your ceiling limit before the sale ends, you must have the self control to throw away your bidder card.

There are some negative aspects to this coin buying option, but the truth is that if you have competent grading skills understand the market value of individual collectible coins, can formulate a buying strategy and exercise discipline, a community auction is a place where you can find some real bargains.



Local Coin Dealers

A local coin dealer might be a great place to start your quest for quality coins wanted for your coin collection. However, it is worth the effort to check out the background of any dealer you are considering working with because there is a small minority of unscrupulous dealers waiting to sell you over graded and overpriced coins. By carefully choosing a coin dealer with expertise and an unchallenged reputation, you will take a big step toward becoming a successful numismatist.

OK, so how do you find a good coin dealer? You’ll have to be inquisitive, but don’t worry about offending anyone. Legitimate dealers expect to field a lot of queries: for them, it’s how they build their business. Those with ulterior motives will be weeded out by asking the questions below. Here’s what you need to find out:

How long has the dealer been in business? Experienced coin dealers understand coin market conditions, and can use this knowledge to benefit you.  What's more, someone who has been in business a long time in the same occupation probably demonstrates a willingness to work hard and treat customers well, both leading to success.  On the other hand, anyone looking for "shortcuts" usually doesn't stay in one place very long.

What return privileges, if any, does the dealer offer? A buy-back/return period, in writing, of at least 7 days, gives you enough time to determine if you’ve made a satisfactory purchase. A good dealer stands behind the coins he sells, and the best dealers offer an unconditional guarantee. Also, if you decide to return a purchase, do you receive a cash refund or credit against future purchases? A cash refund is definitely preferred for the coin collector.

Does the dealer belong to any trade organizations such as the American Numismatic Association or the Professional Numismatist Guild? Professional affiliations are clues the dealer is willing to obey certain industry guidelines and accept responsibility, at least superficially. Any dealer who is a PNG member is almost certain to have outstanding credentials. There are only several hundred dealers worldwide accepted into this elite club. The average PNG dealer has over 25 years experience, must have numismatic assets totaling at least $100,000, and is committed to a binding arbitration process. Any PNG dealer is almost certainly going to “cut the mustard” in the arena of respectability.

Does the dealer participate in any electronic exchange service? If a dealer belongs to an electronic exchange program, they are in a position to potentially sell their coins at bargain prices to you or pay more for your coins.  The key is that with access to an external trading network, turnaround time can be reduced, resulting in a quicker profit for the dealer.  This can translate into benefits for you, too.

What kind of service does the dealer offer after the sale is made? Does he offer advice and updates on current market conditions? Will he call you if he has another customer interested in purchasing a coin you own? Any dealer willing to take time to expand your numismatic knowledge is head-and-shoulders above his competition. Mark that down as a BIG plus!

Does the dealer regularly attend coin shows? Coin shows are the heart beat of the coin hobby. That’s where dealers get the latest scoops on what’s really happening in the world of coins, and where they can obtain tough items for your “Want List”. Coin dealers who set up frequently at coin shows are much more likely to pass along important information to you, and overall, be better positioned to help you in numerous ways.

Does the dealer use ANA grading standards? If he says he does, look at a few of his coins to see for yourself. You’ll have to know a little about grading coins to verify if this is true.  If the “dealer” does not use ANA grading standards, or worse yet, claims he does but in reality does not, take your business and run!

Is the dealer a proven expert in some area of numismatics? Has he written books or magazine articles? This is not to say non-published dealers are unworthy of your consideration, but authors whose works are professionally published tend to be leaders in the coin business.

Does the dealer have a likeable personality? This may sound trivial, but it is not. If a certain dealer rubs you the wrong way every time you talk, it will be much more difficult to build a bridge of trust leading to a jointly advantageous association. It’s much better to work with a dealer with whom you can form a friendly acquaintance.

If, after all the above questions are asked, you still feel queasy about a dealer, you can obtain valuable feedback through coin clubs, the local Chamber of Commerce, credit bureaus, or possibly the Better Business Bureau. Bad reputations are hard to shake, and chances are good that if the dealer has been incompetent or dishonest, you’ll discover it, but only if you investigate. On the other hand, a good reputation is difficult to build, and is usually well deserved.

Coin dealers are at the center of the coin business. Unfortunately, some prospective coin collectors have been known to forsake the hobby because of a bad experience with a dealer. However, if you follow the advice outlined above, you can find a competent, honest dealer and establish a friendly, mutually beneficial relationship that will factor heavily in your enjoyment of coins for years to come.



Online Dealers

Type in the word “coins” in any search engine and you’ll be flooded with dozens of online coin dealers. For the coin buyer, this is Nirvana. He or she can easily compare prices for a similar coin from dealers located anywhere in the world. The selection is incredible, limited only by the amount of time available to surf the Net. What’s more, the World Wide Web is open for business 24/7, even on weekends and holidays.

Many of today's online coin dealers that have been around since before the ascendancy of the electronic age used to receive most of their orders through letters in the mail. They've expanded their service online and now use the Internet to attract customers and consummate business more quickly. After you place an online order and make instant payment, everyone still has to rely on snail mail to transport the coins to the buyer. That will probably never change.

As always, be certain to purchase only from honorable companies. Many of the same common sense approaches outlined in the Local Coin Dealer section directly above should be extended to online dealers.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you consider purchasing coins over the Internet from an online coin dealer:

Many online dealers advertise in coin periodicals. In addition to finding online coin dealers through Internet search engines, you can also find quite a few of them advertising their service in coin periodicals. Some of the same dealers have been running ads in the same magazines for decades. You can bet these particular outfits place a high value on customer satisfaction, otherwise they would not have stuck around so long. However, if you order from a online firm who you believe has acted improperly, be sure to inform the publisher of the magazine where they advertise. The reputation of the publisher could be on the line, so they won’t hesitate to exert pressure on the company to rectify the situation.

Online coin dealers generally have large coin inventories. One good aspect of online dealers is that they usually maintain a wide selection of coins to choose from. The dealers with heavy advertising obviously must sell in large volumes to cover their costs and cater to their expansive customer base. Furthermore, they're likely to have quite a few coins certified by the better known grading services, meaning you can shop with less concern of over graded coins.

You'll have to pay shipping charges. Naturally, the dealer will pass some, if not all the shipping charges to the customer.  However, this charge might be canceled out and then some if you're buying from an out of state dealer, meaning you escape paying state sales tax.

Understand the return privilege before ordering. You should have at least a seven day return privilege. To get your money back in full, there most likely are reasonable conditions you must comply with. Understand what these are, and if you seek a refund, follow the instructions to the final detail.

The Internet has permanently changed the face of coin collecting, for the better. Buyers and sellers instantly have access to worldwide audiences. The non-stop flow of information and the ease of communication are widely believed to at least be partly responsible for the strong coin market we’ve enjoyed since the mid-1990’s. Indeed, the Internet has proven to be a major benefit to nearly everyone involved in the hobby.



Mail Order Firms
Coin Mail Order
Before the coming of the Internet, coin buying by mail was the path used by many collectors to access wider choices. Mail order still remains popular today with quite a few coin collectors and retailers.

Ordering through the mail used to be one of the most important options to acquire coins available to collectors. The convenience and speed of the Internet has converted many erstwhile mail order shoppers to online surfers, but mail order is still the preferred method for a significant number of both buyers and sellers.

Several major coin dealers have purposely foregone a commercial site on the Web and still receive orders mainly through mail, telephone, or fax. Apparently, there remains a niche for doing business the old fashioned way.

Everything that has already been said about confirming the legitimacy of other types of coin dealers applies to mail order firms. In short, you should understand the company's grading standards, how long they've been in business, professional affiliations, shipping charges, and return privileges.

Mail order firms advertise their existence in coin publications. Pick up any copy of Coin World or Numismatic News and you'll see that about half of the publication is committed to advisements. Some of the biggest ad spaces are bought by mail order dealers, some of whom have been around for more than 40 years. Mail order firms that keep going and going are characterized by good selection, reasonable prices, fair treatment of customers, and reliable service. Anything less and they could not survive.



Coin Shows
Coin Show Dealer Table
Coin shows are a great place to see thousands of coins, meet other collectors, learn, and have a fun family outing! Image courtesy of American Numismatic Association.

Coin shows are great opportunities for coin buyers. Having dozens of coin merchants under one roof makes is easy to compare prices, grades, and eye appeal. You’ll also have the chance to visit with other collectors and dealers. If you’re looking for a dealer to work with, a coin show is ideal for the “interview” process to play out (see Coin Dealers section a little higher on this page).

Another benefit of coin shows, often overlooked, is that it is a entertaining way to get kids interested in coin collecting. Let them help you find a proof set minted the year they were born. As the search goes on, you’ll’ stumble onto all kinds of interesting coin-related subjects and historical topics to discuss.  For lunch, treat them to a Sloppy Joe at the concession stand. Most coin shows have door prize drawings, so make sure your kids sign themselves up. And doggone it, most coin show dealers are just downright tickled to have kids stop by, making your visit a pleasant experience for all. Even if it turns out your children don’t develop a love for coin collecting as you did, one thing they will always fondly remember as they grow up is the excursions with you to the coin show.

Information for upcoming coin shows is found online at many places, including Coinshows.com and Numismaster.com. Check out magazines such as Coin World or Numismatic News, as they too publish dates, times, and places for most coin shows held in the United States.



Coin Clubs

Coin clubs are great for buying coins in person from other collectors, often at attractive prices. Coin clubs, in general, seem to be enjoying a resurgence in popularity. This is not a surprise development, given the explosion of collectors in the United States over the last decade or so.

Coin clubs are great for buying or trading coins in person to other collectors. There's no middle man to siphon off finder's fees, so club members wheel and deal freely to help themselves and one another build collections. This is a primary benefit of belonging to a coin club.

Club members enjoy teaching and learning. The personality profile of the average coin club member includes being open to sharing and receiving knowledge. Stick around with this bunch and someday you will qualify as a numismatic expert.

To locate a coin club in your area, consult with a local coin dealer. He should certainly know of any active clubs in the vicinity. Also, the American Numismatic Association has good information on registered coin clubs. Also, www.coinclub.com has a few clubs registered there.

Some clubs are highly specialized. This is great if you specialize in a certain numismatic area and wish to associate with collectors of the same mindset. These days, thanks to the Internet, you can participate in a coin club from a remote distance. An example of a specialty club is Early American Coppers.

You will find some of the nicest, most decent people belonging to coin clubs. Because they share a common interest, friendships come by easily in this environment. So, if you're looking for an avenue to add to your collection at below "book" value, heighten your numismatic expertise while doing the same for others, and enjoy a cup of coffee in good company, then joining a coin club is something right down your alley.



Coin Brokers

Coin brokers look for extremely rare coins for their clients. They get paid when their search results in a sale. If you’re the type of collector with very expensive tastes but want help hunting down your numismatic selections, then maybe a broker service is for you. Google the phrase "coin brokers" and you'll find quite a few of them.



Estate and Garage Sales

We’ve all read “Letters to the Editor” in coin publications from collectors bragging about unbelievable bargains found at estate sales and garage sales. Will you be the next person to discover a 1909-S VDB Lincoln cent in a shoebox full of “old coins”? Probably not, but what the heck…. many people enjoy the pursuit regardless of the outcome.

Great coin finds at garage sales
Many collectors relish in the search for hidden treasures at estate and garage sales.

The main caveat here is that coins sold at these residential sales are about as likely to be overpriced as under priced. Don’t get suckered in when the sale host (who often knows very little about coins) marks his Good 1964-D dime at $4.00, and refuses to budge off this price because he is absolutely convinced since the dime is silver, he’s sitting on top of a great rarity. Ha! At any rate, estate and garage sales can be fun, and who knows, you might just get lucky!



United States Mint

The United States Mint is one of the best places to purchase modern issues of mint state and proof coins. The Mint accepts orders online and is one of the busiest sites on the Internet. Check out the Mint's current offerings at their online catalog. If you’re interested in Mint products no longer being sold through the government, you can still find what you’re looking for on eBay or any of the other coin selling outlets discussed above.



Mass Media Circulars

By mass media circulars, we're referring to widely distributed general interest publications. Individual issues are printed by the hundreds of thousands, if not millions. You might find them as inserts in the Sunday paper, on magazine racks in the bookstore, or in your dentist's waiting room. Inside these circulars, it's quite common to stumble upon advertisements promoting coins. Silver dollars and recently released products from the Mint are favorites.

It's obvious the people running these ads are trying to appeal to those with limited knowledge of numismatics. Most serious collectors skip past these ads because they realize the coins are usually (1) overpriced, (2)  of unconfirmed condition, (3) not key dates and posses a relatively minor collectible component.

This is not denigrate all the companies selling coins through mass media circulars. We recognize some of them as longtime members of the numismatic community in good standing. They attract new business by bringing novice collectors into the fold, many of whom later become educated numismatists.

If you've read this far down the page, you must be fairly interested in coin collecting. Trust us, mass media circulars are not the place for you to do you coin shopping.



TV Cable Networks

We’ve saved the worst for last: the “Shop at Home” TV cable networks. Our advice is to keep your wallets closed. They make money by preying upon the numismatic ignorance of their viewers. It’s disturbing to think how many would-be collectors spurn the hobby altogether after getting ripped off by these networks. Tune in to any one programs featuring coins and this is what you’ll likely see:

The true value of a coin is misrepresented. In order to make their sales appear to be a real bargain for the shop at home TV viewer, the “book value” of a coin is inflated. In one episode, the announcer claimed a VF 1923 Peace Dollar lists at $35-40 in most coin value guides, but he was willing to let it go for only $20. This approach apparently sells to gullible buyers wanting to get into coins.

The pitchmen don’t know much about coins. They only pretend to, which brings into question their true motives. It’s easy for experienced collectors to spot the miscues. When the announcer states “Walking Liberty half dollars were made every year from 1916 to 1947” is followed up a couple of minutes later by “the American Bald Eagle commemorative half dollar was minted in 2003, 2004, and 2005”, it becomes obvious that numismatic accuracy has taken a back seat to something else.

Shipping fees are outrageous. In truth, the prices they charge for the coins themselves aren’t too far out of line (but certainly not the bargains they claim, either). They make a killing on high shipping and handling fees.

If we dug deeper, we could probably find more reasons not to buy coins from the TV cable networks, but we've seen enough already. Are you seriously thinking about phoning in to get that last Peace Dollar before it is gone? In a word: DON'T! (well, okay, that's actually two words).



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