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How to Identify & Value Your Coin

Some advice about how to go about identifying and valuing that old coin you've found.
We assume that you are not already a coin collector, otherwise you will already have a suitable coin catalogue, or know some other collectors and dealers.

We feature a number of book reviews on this website. You could buy the books or ask at your local library.

What country are you in? What country is the coin from?
This site is a directory of British coin dealers!
If you are a US resident and you have found an American coin, you would be best to find your nearest dealer, museum or public library.
In fact, wherever you live, and whatever the coin you have found, the best starting point is always going to be the nearest one.

Your nearest museum can help you identify most coins. If you live in a country with public museums, make use of them. Museums will not usually value a coin for you.

Try your local public library, especially one with a reference section. They will have access to many good coin books, and other aids to identification. Don't expect the librarian to be able to identify and value your coin, but they can help you find the right books.

Identify First
It may sound obvious, but the first stage is to identify your coin, only after this will you be able to find its value.

Grade Second
The most important aspect affecting the value of a coin is often its condition, otherwise called its state of preservation, or its grade. Most collectors prefer their coins to be in mint condition, or at least as close as possible.
Even quite rare coins may be almost worthless in worn condition.

Value Third
Once you know what the coin is, you can start to work out its value.
Apart from its age, date, type and condition, supply and demand are what will dictate the price at which a coin is likely to change hands.

What Do You Mean By "Value"
Stop to think for a moment about what you mean by "value"!
Do you mean a buying price or a selling price. Don't forget a dealers selling price would be your buying price, and his buying price would be your selling price.
Prices quoted in most catalogues are dealers selling prices. Because dealers expect to make a profit, you should expect to get less than catalogue.

Valuation or Offer to Buy?
Do you want a valuation or an "offer to buy"?
Most professional numismatists (coin dealers) will make a charge for providing a professional service such as a valuation, and they will still need to know whether the valuation you desire is for insurance, replacement, probate, disposal, or some other purpose.
You would not expect an accountant or lawyer to provide his services free, so don't expect a coin dealer to give away free valuations either, unless you are prepared to call round and service his car free in return!
If you want a valuation, make it clear that you expect to pay for the service.
If want you need is an "offer to buy", then ask the dealer if he wishes to make an offer to purchase your coin. Most dealers specialise, and may not be interested in your coin.

Don't Expect a Fortune!
Coins are produced in vast quantities. During the reign of Ethelred II (The Unready), King of England during the first millennium, 1000 years ago, over 40 million silver pennies were issued. For most modern coins, mintage figures are frequently hundreds of millions each year.
Nobody ever throws coins away. So millions of old coins are lurking in old drawers, biscuit tins, under floorboards, mattresses, buildings.
This is good news for coin collectors, because they can buy even ancient coins for a few pounds, whereas a contemporary artefact which the coin would have bought may be worth 100 or 1000 times the value of the coin.
It's bad news for most people who find an old coin, and expect to receive a small (or large) fortune for it.
There are many more coins in existence than there are coin collectors.

Dealers Are Only Human Beings
Most coin dealers started out as collectors, and have a genuine interest in coins. They will often help those with a genuine interest in coins. However they are trying to make a living. Many of them receive dozens of phone calls every day from folk who haven't even tried to read the coin, or made the slighest effort of their own to identify or value it. The writer of this article knows from experience. It is perfectly understandable if not all dealers welcome all enquiries all the time!
Every dealer has had callers asking for free advice who turn out to know, or think they know, more than he does!
Please be nice to your dealer if you want him to be nice to you.

Want to Find Your Nearest British Dealer?
Simply select your region from the list at the top left of this page for a list of coin dealers in your area.

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