This article from November 2008 in The Wall Street Journal, Cashing In a Coin Collection: Two Sides to Know …, discusses some points to consider if you want to sell coins.
Let’s explore a couple of their comments further.
First, the auction houses…
Unless the auction company is located near you, you will have to insure and ship your collection to them for their review and subsequent agreement to auction. People ship coins safely every day. However, some shipments do get damaged – either accidentally or by design, and some or all coins can disappear before their proper destination. If the shipment was insured, insurance companies can take weeks or months before payout and only if you give them sufficient documentation. This is not a show-stopper, but you should consider this in your decision.
Now, in the fine print of your auction agreement, what are the rules? Will there be minimum bids on each coin? What happens if a coin or multiple coins do not sell? In other words, make sure you understand the outcome of both positive and negative auction results.
As for selling to a coin dealer, the number of coins, the variety and the potential value all contribute in determining the overall offer for the coins. Those same characteristics play a role in determining whether the “appraisal” will be free or not.
Some dealers charge an appraisal fee that they refund if they buy the coins. Remember, time for both you and the dealer is valuable.
Some people want to dicker on each and every coin in their collection. Warning, this could reduce the overall offer due to the frustration factor.
On the other hand, some dealers want to cherry-pick and only buy the best parts of collections. This may yield the best price for those specific coins; however, in the long run, the overall value obtained for the collection will be less. Other dealers will not want to buy just the less desirable coins except at a heavy discount. Plus, it will cost you time and effort to shop the remaining coins to other dealers.
The Wall Street Journal article also mentions using the “Official Red Book: A Guide Book of United States Coins,” or the “Standard Catalog of World Coins.” In addition to their cautions about using these books, remember the books are published infrequently. The coin markets change many times between publishing dates due to the economy, due to buyers’ waxing and waning interests and due to a variety of other factors.
But, you should use the books and other resources to give yourself an idea of your collection’s value. Many times, dealers will ask, “What do you want for your coins?” If your number is in the ballpark of what they think the collection is worth less a profit margin, they will agree. But, if your number is significantly less than what they were willing to pay, they will also agree to your number.
Just remember that you cannot get retail prices for your coins unless you are willing to become a dealer yourself.