Current Coin Values versus Red Book Values

If you casually collect coins or recently obtained a collection of coins, you may have heard the Official Red Book is THE source to help you understand the value of your coins.

If you are a numismatist, you know the Official Red Book contains a wealth of information about US Coins, their history, their characteristics, their mintage populations, their varieties, their values by mint state grade along with pictures and details.  Plus, the 2010 version marks the 63rd edition of the Official Red Book .

Now, a lot of coin dealers buy a new Official Red Book each year for the wealth of information not only for the coins they like but also for the coins that perhaps they do not know as much about.

But, coin dealers do not use the Official Red Book’s coin values to price the coins they sell or buy.  Instead, they use the Official Red Book’s coin values across mint state grades to understand a coin’s rarity and value in comparison to similar coins. Remember, the Official Red Book is collated and printed prior to the year in question. (For example, the 2010 Official Red Book is already available.)

So, you ask, “What does determine current prices for coins?”

Well, Bunky, that’s a very good question.

Many factors determine the current market values for coins. Some seem logical, some illogical and some downright strange.

Supply and demand explain a lot of the reasons, but let’s look at a few.

Mintage population statistics help you understand supply and rarity. However, when the metals, gold and silver bullion, are in high demand and a strong price, some gold and silver coins disappear out of the population and are melted for bullion. But, does anyone track what is melted? Not really… Another way the market tracks scarcity is when dealers cannot readily find specific coins, those coins’ values increase.

Then people’s current buying interests impact demand. Sometimes people want specific coins to go into Individual Retirement Funds. Other times, people are just interested in certain types of coins because that’s what they collect. Then, again, people get concerned about the economy and buy coins or bullion made of silver, gold or platinum to hoard until the economy improves. When demand exceeds supply coin values increase.

Speaking of the economy… Generally when the economy is doing poorly, then the metals markets, in particular, and coins, in general, increase in value.  But, that is not always the case. Sometimes the stock markets and metals fluctuate strangely and don’t behave as expected.

Another impact can be seen on the TV’s shopping channels or via internet shopping. Again, this is demand related, but their promotions generate interest (demand) and increase those coins’ value as supply becomes scarce.

Of course, other variables can impact the increase and decrease in coin values too. The biggest lesson remains coin values change and change frequently.

In summary, you will find the Red Book a great resource about US coins but don’t take the listed values for the coins as their current market price.