How to Determine Coin Value

Whether our clients collect coins or invest in bullion, the popular question is how much are my coins worth? While it’s obvious why this is on top of all investors’ and collectors’ minds, it’s a complicated question to answer because a coin’s value has many factors. But there are four common things that affect value so understanding those will give you a starting point to assess your own collection. 

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Mintage

The mintage of a coin is the total number of coins that have been issued. You can probably understand why this is critical to a coin’s value. The less coins made, the harder they are to find! Mintage can be complicated for older coins because in the early years of the United States, coin dies were used until they wore out. This resulted in coins that had a previous year minted on the coin, but a current production year. For modern coin collectors, mintage can be a desirable reason to collect a certain coin because once the year is completed, the coin will not be made anymore, unlike earlier coins. 

A great example of a coin that’s valued because of mintage is a type of wheat leaf penny! Even people who are not coin enthusiasts, probably tried to collect wheat leaf pennies as a kid. While millions of wheat leaf pennies were minted, there is a specific wheat leaf cent coin that’s very rare due to its limited mintage. The 1909 V.D.B cent is worth between $750 and $2,500 because only 484,000 were made! So, that’s a wheat leaf penny worth holding on to. 

Left: Front of V.D.B penny, Right: Back of V.D.B penny

Source: USA Coin Book

Surviving Population

While low mintage equates to a lower probability of being able to acquire a certain coin, this can also be the case for coins with a high mintage. Some coins just haven’t survived circulation. After coins are minted, they’re released to the public to be circulated until they are damaged or worn. Then, the U.S. Treasury reclaims them to be smelt for their metal content. Owners of coins can also smelt their collection because the metal value exceeds the face value. These are reasons coins can disappear from circulation, despite having a high mintage. 

Like the V.D.B cent, over 440,000 of 1933 Double Eagles coins were struck, but only 13-15 are known today. Two are in the U.S. National Numismatic Collection, ten are in the U.S. Bullion Depository and the last remaining coin was sold at auction in 2002 to a private owner for 7.59 million. This is the second highest price paid for a coin at an auction! Today, that would be over 11 million. 

While you can’t get your hands on a 1933 Double Eagle, previous years Double Eagles are sold and still a great collector coin! Here at Nationwide, we have pre-1933 Double Eagles available. Same beautiful design, but a little easier to find!

Melt Value

Before 1965, silver coins in the U.S. were 90% silver. That year, they switched to a composition that included copper and nickel, driving down the amount of silver in the coin. Coins that were made before 1965 are worth more smelted than their face value due to their high silver component. Investors are more driven to purchase a coin because of its melt value, while coin collectors are driven by a coin’s rarity. 

Grade

Along with mintage, coin grade is a very important component of determining value. Another word for a coin’s grade is its condition. In the 1980s, buyers and sellers of coins needed a way to agree on grading so from this emerged certification services. For fees, certification services will grade and authenticate coins to set a standard for buyers and sellers trying to determine value. There are numerous grading scales in existence today from 3rd party companies to numismatic groups. The most popular and trusted are Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) and Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC). 

Buyers are usually looking for a grade called uncirculated. This means they’ve rarely been used, with the collector removing them from circulation and storing them safely. Coins with this grade look like they have come right off the coining press, making them aesthetically desirable. 

Have Questions?

With over 100 years of combined experience in the precious metals industry, our account executives would love to help you find the perfect coin for your collection. We’re passionate about bullion investing and coin collecting so email or call us for any assistance! 

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