It’s Come To This: Adults Dusting Off, Selling Childhood Coin Collections


You know you have one. It’s probably somewhere in your parents’ house. But it’s there. The question is how to sell it?

WSJ:  The short answer: It depends.

If you’re trying to unload a coin collection quickly and you’re willing to leave some (potential) profit on the table, a coin dealer is your best bet. But if you think your coins are worth at least several thousand dollars and you’re willing to work with an auction house to try to beat the wholesale price, you might get a larger return on your sale through an auction.

First, you need to pinpoint what you have. …Coin collectors often refer to coin books such as the “Official Red Book: A Guide Book of United States Coins,” or the “Standard catalogue of World Coins.” They can give you an approximate range of value. With those numbers in hand, you may want to visit at least two coin dealers, who can appraise your coins and may be willing to do so at no charge. There are directories of dealers at, the Web site for the Professional Numismatists Guild of Fallbrook, Calif., and at, the Web site for the American Numismatic Association in Colorado Springs, Colo.

…keep in mind that dealers are going to offer you a wholesale price for your collection, not the retail value you may see in books, he says.

If your collection meets the criteria of an auction house with a deep base of coin-collector customers, you may be able to get a higher price. Heritage Auction Galleries, in Dallas, which claims to be the largest rare-coin company in the world and the third-largest auction house, starts by providing a “conservative estimate” of a collection’s value. Then, it finds an auction — either live or online or both — in which to sell it, says Greg Rohan, Heritage’s president. The company will auction any collection it estimates to be worth at least $5,000.

There are fees: Heritage charges the seller as much as 10% of the selling price, he says, including marketing and promotions. “You shouldn’t pay any additional fees for insurance or photography,” Mr. Rohan says. So, “if the auctioneer hammers it down for $10,000, you’ll get $9,000.”

How do you find auctioneers to interview? They, too, are listed in the directory at