Since I have been writing this blog, readers have been sending one persistent question: how much is my coin worth? Collectors may not want to sell their coin, but there is a gratifying feeling that comes from knowing that our collection is worth more than what we paid—like knowing my 1909-S VDB Lincoln Cent, graded VF-30BN by Numismatic Guarantee Corporation (NGC), has been selling for $1,000 after it was bought (by my wife) for quite a bit less!
The value of a coin is determined by a combination of its state of preservation, population, and demand. The state of preservation is also called the coin’s grade. The current system is based on the 1948 writings of Dr. William Sheldon. The Sheldon Scale assigned grades from 1 through 70 on the theory that a coin graded 70 would be worth 70 times as much as a coin grading 1. Since grading is subjective, the American Numismatic Association started a certification service called ANACS in order to help protect the collecting community. Today, ANACS a private corporation and no longer associated with the ANA.
The population of a coins depends on its mintage and the number of coins known in that state of preservation. For those who want to look at this in economic terms, this is the supply of the coin that is in demand. Using the classic supply-and-demand curves, the population of Mint State (MS or uncirculated) 66 (MS-66) Morgan Dollars is smaller than for lower grade mint state Morgans. But since the demand is higher, the low supply but higher demand causes the prices to rise.
I consider myself a smart consumer. I will educate myself with the information I need, including price, before making a purchase. Buying collectible coins is no exception. If I am looking at a 1900 Morgan Dollar and have the choice between an really nice looking MS-63 coin and a coin graded MS-65, I want to know if the grade difference is worth it to me. In the past, many of us relied on the Guide Book of United States Coins, also called The Red Book. While a great source of information, The Red Book is static and cannot reflect the current price trends. What is a collector to do?
Dealers and investors subscribe to the Coin Dealer Newsletter (CDN), also known as The Greysheet. The Greysheet prices are the accepted standard that dealers use to determine the price of their inventory. Although anyone can subscribe to The Greysheet, subscription prices are a little expensive for the average collector. We average collectors need better sources.
My favorite on-line price guide is available from the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS). The PCGS Price Guide is their assessment of the market based on dealer-to-dealer sales. I suspect the prices are based on the activity on the Certified Coin Exchange Facts Network (CCE). Aside from being a free service, I have found the listed prices to be a little above The Greysheet “bid” price (the wholesale price which a dealer would buy the coin) and below the “buy” price (the price a dealer would sell the coin). It is a great guide for up to date prices.
By the way, both PCGS and CCE are owned by Collectors Universe.
The PCGS Price Guide tells me that the 1900 Morgan Dollar is worth $47 in MS-63 and $240 in MS-65. With that information, I negotiated a $45 purchase for a raw (ungraded) MS-63 coin that looks real nice in my album!
These thoughts on on-line price guides were triggered when I received my weekly email newsletter from Numismatic News. The newsletter and their home page announces the future launch of Krause Publications’ NumisMaster coin pricing service. Krause publishes many price guides for United States and world coins. This looks like Krause is bringing their expertise to the web. From their website:
And at the service’s core, you’ll find the information you’ve depended on for years from Krause’s Standard Catalog series of guides on coin prices and paper money prices… now searchable, infinitely sortable, and updated daily by our team of experts.
Read the NumisMaster media release and take the opportunity to sign-up for a free Premier Membership.