Looking for Rare Dates - Appraising Your Coin Collection

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Copyright 2015 by Kevin Flynn, All Rights Reserved

The objective of determining coins with a significant premium requires an understanding of how to identify those coins that are rare, high grade, dramatic die variety, or some other factor that has high interest and demand.

For example, in a group of Peace Dollars I was appraising, there was a 1928 Peace Dollar that was worth $700 as compared to $30 for the other Peace Dollars in the group. Had the collector went to a show or store to sell the coins, it is possible that he might have received melt value for the Peace dollars. One of the primary goals of an appraisal is to identify and separate out those valuable coins which will realize a much greater premium.

When searching for valuable coins, it is easiest to focus on one series at a time. This way you only have to remember a short list for that series.

The method and detail used in examining coins depends on several factors such as the number of coins involved, amount of time, and condition of the coins. If there are only a few hundred coins in a collection, it does not take long to examine and process all of them. If the collection contains tens of thousands of Mercury dimes for example, then it would have taken weeks and a new pair of eyes to examine every one. If being appraised, it is normally a good idea for the appraiser to speak with the owner and tell them what the options are, how much time it might take, and what the objectives are. Another consideration is how original the collection is, an older collection has a higher probability of being unsearched and finding die varieties and original coins.

When there is a large number of coins, the goal is to separate out those coins that have a higher probability of being worth a premium. For example, for the Buffalo nickels, the rare dates are 1913-D Type II, 1913-S Type II, 1914-D, 1921-S, and 1926-S. The primary die varieties are the 1916 doubled die, 1918/7-D overdate, 1935 doubled die, 1936-D three leg, and 1937-D three legged buffalo.

When studying details of coins, a 10x power loupe should normally be used. For general examination, a 2x to 5x loupe is best. When examining a large number of coins, the 2x loupe is used to identify and separate those coins of the date and mint mark that might be a rare date or die variety. Holding each coin one at a time would be extremely time consuming. One method for processing a large number of coins is to take about 100 coins, spread them across a table, all heads up so as to see the date. Start on one side and go up and down the rows to view the coins quickly, using your fingers to push coins that have been examined to one side. For series such as Buffalo nickels, you might like to further separate coins by the decade. One pile will be 1913 through 1919, then another for 1920 through 1929, and finally one for 1930 through 1938. This makes it easier in the future if you wish to study further.

For coins that are believed to be a rare date or die variety, put each into a separate container, such as a cardboard bowel. Also put aside those coins that are higher grade in a separate container. When completed, use the 10x loupe the study each coin that was separated out to see if they are what you are searching for. If coins of value are discovered, they are placed is a flip and marked accordingly.

The second half of this book lists those rare dates and die varieties that are worth a significant premium. For many other series, there are other dates and die varieties that are also worth a premium. There are many books that identify these. Your method of evaluation should be based upon your level of comfort, most individuals will want to focus on those coins that will bring the most money. On of the principals of grading is that experience is the best teacher. The more coins you study, the more knowledge you will gain. Some series are more difficult to grade than others, such as for Buffalo nickels, some years are notorious for weak strikes, which can be confused with wear.

Searching through coins takes patience and focus. Some people get bored quickly and quit. It also takes a keen eye for studying details, but the reward can be significant when you find a "What If" treasure coin.

Previous: Organizing your Collection
Next: Modern Silver Coins
Copyright 2015 by Kevin Flynn, All Rights Reserved

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