Could Your Old Coins be Worth a Mint?

May 7th 2016

Remember, not all coins in poor shape are worthless. If older coins have gold or silver in them, they are worth, at minimum, the going rate for either precious metal based on recent commodity prices. With some time and effort, you can determine what your collection is worth at retail value.

Identify Each Coin

Identify old coins by distinctive features such as a face on the obverse or a country name on the reverse. Some older pieces have coats of arms, country symbols or flags on the back. For American coins, search for a mint mark and year of mintage. Several online resources from Whitman, Professional Coin Grading Service and have guides to help you identify your coins.

Grade Individual Coins

Find a relevant grading guide for coins. Organizations and companies such as the American Numismatic Association, Whitman and Numismatic Guaranty Corporation can help you determine the basic grade of a coin. "Poor" represents the lowest grade, and coins with this designation show heavy wear and have few, if any, discernible details. A coin in "very good" condition has flattened details, but major features have distinct outlines. "Extremely fine" pieces contain light wear throughout, but detailed features are still well-defined. "Uncirculated" coins have no evidence of wear, as if they have never changed hands.

Find a Value

Once you ascertain a grade for each coin, find a value chart. Most resources list values by the type of coin across the top, followed by a year and mint mark down the left side in ascending order. Grades of coins appear across the top of columns that show the value of each piece based on its age, condition and rarity. Some value charts show how many pieces a run minted or how many pieces exist today.

Put Your Coins Up for Sale

You can sell your coins by yourself or use a dealer. If you want to go it alone, post classified advertisements on special coin websites, or sell your collection on general auction websites such as eBay or specialized sites such as Heritage Auctions. You could also set up your own booth at a coin show. When you go to a dealer, the price offered to you is less than retail because dealers have to mark up their prices to make money. Selling to private citizens means you make more money, but you might have to wait longer to see any profit. A dealer buys your stock at wholesale prices unless you have some rare gems or coins in great condition, but you get money in your wallet faster.


Whether you just cleaned out your relative's attic and discovered a hope chest full of old coins, or you have been collecting for years, this guide can help you determine if you have a rare find or a bunch of common cents. Use a strategic approach to assessing the worth of your coins, and then sell them in the appropriate marketplace. All it takes is a little extra work beyond cataloging what you have to discover the value of your coins.

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