Why Appraise Your Coins?

Ken Marich

Many SaddleBrooke residents probably have a box of coins tucked away that were either inherited or just collected over a lifetime. You might want to have your coins appraised to find out what they are and if they have value. You might have coins that are only worth face value or you might have a few coins that will fund your next vacation.

What Makes a Coin Valuable?

While there are many factors that can affect the value of coins, I would like to focus on three factors that are the major contributors to the market value of a coin: mintage (supply), grade (condition), and intrinsic metal value (bullion or melt value). While age is somewhat important, it is not a dominating factor. You can still buy ancient coins over 1,000-years-old for $15-40.

Mintage is the number of coins produced in a given year by the Federal Mints. In the U.S. there are three active primary mints: Philadelphia (no mint mark or “P” engraved on the coin), Denver (D), and San Francisco (S). The total number of coins produced at the various mints is public data and is published by the government.

Grade, or condition, plays a major role in the price of coins. This is the most subjective criteria and should be performed by an experienced numismatist. Coins are graded on a scale from good (G), very good (VG), fine (F), very fine (VF), extremely fine (EF), about uncirculated (AU) and uncirculated (UNC). The better the grade the higher the value.

Here is an example of how mintage and grade can affect the value of a coin. The 1931-P Lincoln penny in UNC condition (~19 million minted) has a value of $17, while its cousin the 1931-S in UNC (866,000 minted) is valued at $180. Another example is the 1932 Washington quarter. The 1932-P in very fine condition (5.4 million minted) has a value of $12 while the 1932-D (438,000 minted) is worth $160 in VF condition.

The intrinsic value of the base metal (called bullion or melt value) plays a major role in a coin’s value. In today’s financial market both silver and gold prices rise and fall, but many collectors are buying these precious metals in the form of coins and bars as a hedge against inflation. In 1965, the U.S. began changing the composition of the dime, quarter and half dollar to copper clad metal. To show this effect, all Kennedy half dollars minted in 1964 and earlier contain 90% silver and are currently worth about $9 each while the 1974 Kennedy half dollar (copper-clad composition) is worth only face value or 50 cents. Similarly, a one ounce twenty-dollar gold coin has a bullion value of $1900 based on the current market value. All gold coins, foreign or U.S., should be weighed to determine their current value. Therefore, as the price of silver and gold rises and falls, so can the prices and values of silver and gold coins rise and fall accordingly.

For information on a free appraisal contact Ken by email at kenwm77@gmail.com or Terry at sbcoinclub@gmail.com. The SaddleBrooke Coin Club meets the second Thursday of each month in the Sonoran Room in the Mt. View Clubhouse. (Currently cancelled due to COVID).