Danielle Arnet

Traveling gold buyers offered $60 for this $10,000 coin
Coin Collecting - Buying & Selling

Traveling gold buyers offered $60 for this $10,000 coin

Q: My brother has silver coins from the 16th to 18th centuries, but no idea where to go to have them appraised. What is value on these?


Q: I have old gold coins, but gold dealers minimize collector value and say they are only worth gold value. How do I determine fair value?


A: We get a lot of queries about buying and selling coins.

More than most areas of collecting, coins are no place for a novice. The field is full of sharks. Simply put: If you don't know what you're doing, you better know your seller or buyer. That means research. Never, never deal with anyone "cold."

On the positive side, coins, like stamps, are an engaging hobby. They make an ideal collection for kids, because each coin tells a story. A coin is a portable piece of art and old coins are history in the hand. Hold an ancient Roman or very early American coin and you hold the past. Best of all, a surprising number of very old coins are affordable.

Chicago's Harlan J. Berk (www.hjbltd.com) has sold ancient to old coins, antiquities, and more for decades. In the same location for 21 years, the company has done business for more than 40 years. That's what we mean by a trustable firm.

Berk rare coins specialist Robert Greenstein looked over images sent, and told us, "These coins are in very bad condition." Some are so worn the relief design is almost flat.

Coin value, he adds, depends on date, mint mark and condition. Here's how important condition is: A silver dollar seen in an image is so worn he'd pay only $11, and have it melted. The 1837 large one-cent piece would sell for $400 in new condition. This one is so worn it is $20, retail. The coin with a hole drilled into it is valueless.

"Everything has value," he said. The catch is "appropriate price." His M.O. is, "If I can sell it for more, I'll buy it." That's just good business.

"Collector value" is a meaningless term used on TV shopping channels and by hobby marketers. Coin dealers know how much a coin is worth as bullion (for the smelter), and they know current market value based on demand. When several quote only a bullion rate, there probably is little to no demand. Follow my suggestions to avoid a ripoff.

When selling, smart collectors know to ask friends and family for the name of a reliable coin dealer, preferably one they've successfully done business with. Stick to an established buyer/seller. An old hand in a bricks and mortar store is a good bet.

Traveling coin buyers -- we've all seen their full-page ads in local papers -- are a bad bet. Like traveling buyers of toys, dolls, antiques and other collectibles, they set up in local motels or hotels and flaunt a big come-on. The reality is they buy cheap -- really cheap. Some are downright dishonest. I've watched as one "consulted" with a partner in an adjacent room then quoted an outrageously lowball value. Most poor sellers, outnumbered, cave in.

In an independent foray into the world of traveling coin and gold buyers, reps from Beaumont, Texas gold and rare coins seller/dealer Universal Coin and Bullion, www.universalcoin.com , took a 1925 Denver Mint $2.50 denomination coin to a traveling buyer. The buyer offered only $60, significantly below bullion melt value, for the rare gold piece worth $10,000. Universal Coin has its detractors, but to be fair, that's true of many big outfits in the world of coins.

The safest way to sell and buy is to deal only with members of the Professional Numismatics Guild. Find one in your area on the Internet at www.pngdealers.com. The site also includes paper money dealers and seller specialties. Bound to a code of ethics, most PNG members offer appraisals as well as buy and sell.

Finally, don't clean coins before showing them. It could ruin value.

Q: What is my Weller vase worth? Perhaps I should wait to sell it when the economy is better.


A: From a description sent, I really cannot tell which vase you have. I'm thinking it could be "Cameo" or "Blossom." Each retails at under $100.

Waiting for a better market could take a very long time. And a rising market will not necessarily bring along that particular vase. A successful auctioneer recently told me there was no problem finding merchandise because "people figure the market is as good as it's going to get for awhile."

I suggest checking eBay for results on similar vases. Then you can weigh the pros and cons on when to sell. Online is the best way to reach Weller collectors.


Question: How does a smart collector spot a genuine vintage croc or alligator handbag?

a. It's usually stamped with the brand logo.

b. The handle is faux alligator or a chain.

c. Beaded or rhinestone decorations are prong set.

d. Fabric labels are sewn into an interior seam.

e. The skin used is caiman.

Answer: All but b. and e. are correct. Caiman looks like vintage croc but is recent. Beware of replaced handles. Source: "Exotic Skin Alligator and Crocodile Handbags" by Victoria Stowe (Schiffer, $49.99). A gorgeous, thorough reference.






Collecting - Selling Old Coins? Beware of Sharks!