Where & How to Sell a Coin Collection for Real Money

Get top dollar for that dusty collection of coins with this simple how-to and a few pro tips.

Updated August 18, 2023
coins at a flea market

That jar of old coins you inherited from a relative or saved from childhood could actually be worth a pretty penny (sorry, we couldn't resist). The thing is, you need to know how to sell a coin collection properly if you want to get the most money for your coins.

It's not like selling other antiques or collectibles where you can just look at the values of similar items and ask for a fair price. There are a ton of factors that go into selling a coin collection, from knowing the value of the coins to figuring out the best place to sell them. These tips can help.

1. Know the Value of Your Coins

All coins are worth something (they're money, after all), but some are worth way more than their face value. If you think you may have a rare coin in your collection, take some time to research its value before you sell it.

There are several ways to figure out how much your coins are worth. Depending on what you guess for the value, one of these options will be your best bet.

Get Your Coin Appraised

A full coin collection or an especially valuable rare coin may warrant a professional appraisal. An appraisal can be worth it to make sure you know exactly what you're selling and how much to ask. Appraisals are also a good idea if you are planning to sell the coin or collection as part of an estate and need to know the legal value.

The thing is, appraisers often charge $100 per hour or more. This means the value of the coin or the whole collection will need to be way more than the overall cost of the appraisal. You need to have at least a sense of the value before you can know whether to invest in a professional evaluation.

Get a Sense of the Value on Your Own

Because an appraisal isn't always worth the money, it's totally worth it to try some techniques for finding the value yourself:

  • Check United States rare coin price lists for your coin. If it's on there, you have a starting point.
  • Brush up on the factors affecting rare coin values, such as scarcity, condition, and demand.
  • Look up similar sold coins on eBay. Make sure you are checking sold listings only, since asking prices may not reflect the value of a coin.
  • Research your specific coin to see if it's rare. Look up the type of coin, the year, and the mint.
  • Also check the value of any foreign coins you have, such as valuable British coins.
wide selection of coins collection
Quick Tip

There are a few clues that your coin or collection might be worth some money, but one really great way to tell is to look for mistakes. In the coin collecting world, minting errors are golden. Grab a magnifying glass and look things over carefully before selling your coin collection so you'll know if there are any cool mistakes.

Show Off Your Coin Collection to Sell It for Top Dollar

In order to sell a coin or group of coins, you need to show them off. Think about it like anything else you want to sell for the highest price (you clean a car really well before selling it, right?). In the case of coins, this means presenting them beautifully and showing you know what you have. This will give buyers confidence and allow you to ask top dollar for the coins.

Check the Coin Holder or Slab

Collectible coins often have coin holders, sometimes called slabs, to protect them from handling. However, just as coins get scratched up from being in circulation, the holders themselves can begin to show significant wear. Take a look at the slab and make sure you can clearly see the coin through it. If not, you should clean it and consider replacing it.

Need to Know

If you don't have a slab for the coin or need a new one, you can pick them up at a hobby store or online.

Don't Polish Coins Before You Sell

As you're preparing to sell, it may be tempting to clean or polish the coins. Put down the polishing cloth. Patina, or the finish that comes with age, can be part of the value of a coin, so polishing it can actually decrease the value in some cases.

Consider a CAC Sticker for Valuable Coins

The CAC, or Certified Acceptance Corporation, specializes in evaluating the condition of a coin and giving it an official grade. If the coin is in "solid" condition or better, the CAC will apply a tamper-evident sticker to the coin holder. This grading system tells potential buyers that the coin has been inspected, and it can add to the sold value of a coin.

If you suspect you have a coin in very good condition that could be fairly valuable, it may be worth the fee to get the inspection and sticker. Prices range from $15 to $50, depending on the coin's value.

3. Choose the Right Time to Sell a Coin Collection

Valuable coins will sell at any time, but they can be worth more to buyers who are in the mood to purchase coins. The key is finding the right time to sell your coins. These tips can help:

  • Avoid selling during times when buyers might be busy or preoccupied, including holidays, summer vacations, and major political events like elections.
  • Try to sell when you know buyers might have a windfall, such as after tax season.
  • Look into coin collecting events and sell coins just before or just after these happen.

4. Decide Whether to Group or Split Up a Collection

magnifying glass & coin collection

If you're selling a coin collection, you should consider whether to split up the group. This isn't like breaking up the Beatles or splitting up a set of antique silverware. Some coins just have way more value on their own.

Many coin collectors do this naturally, but casual collectors may not. Often, it makes sense to divide a large collection into smaller groupings, to make it easier to sell. On the opposite side of the, well, coin, it might actually benefit you to group several individual coins that would sell better together.

Quick Tip

Never split up proof sets of coins. These are almost always more valuable when sold as a set.

Consider these groupings:

  • Old pennies minted before 1909
  • Old nickels, such as Buffalo nickels
  • Other coins by denomination
  • Paper money from the United States
  • Paper money from other countries

5. Choose Where to Sell a Coin Collection or Individual Coins

Next, you need to choose where you will sell your coins. The best option depends on the amount of time you have to devote to the process and the value of the coins you'll be selling. It's never a good idea to sell a collectible coin or coin collection to a pawnshop or place that gives you cash for silver or gold. Instead, consider one of these options.

Coin Shop

The advantage of selling your coins at a coin shop is that the process is super easy, so if you want minimal involvement, this could be your best choice. This is a good way to sell a lot of coins or quickly sell coins, but it is definitely not how to make the most money from the sale.

You simply take the coins to the shop and get an offer from the owner or manager. Expect the offer to be well below the value of the coins, since the shop will need to mark them up to resell them at a profit. You can negotiate with the coin shop, but you may not have much room to increase the sales price.

Online Auction

An online auction site like eBay is another way to sell your coins. The advantage of selling online is that you get to keep most of the profits. You'll pay a small commission fee to the auction site, but the rest is yours to keep.

The main disadvantage is that you'll need to be very hands on. You'll have to take great photos of the coins, write good descriptions, and then negotiate with potential buyers about the sale. This is a good way to sell a coin collection if you are ready to put in some extra time.

In-Person Sales

You can also arrange to sell the coins in person at a collector's event or through a meeting. On the upside, you won't pay any commissions or fees in this situation, and you can negotiate on the price.

The key here is to protect your security. Coins are valuable, and if you are meeting someone you haven't met, make sure you meet in public. This is a good option if you already know the buyer.

Do Your Research Before You Sell

No matter how you choose to sell a coin collection, the most important tip to remember is to do your research. Find out as much as you can about collectible coins and your specific examples so you can negotiate knowledgeably and ask a fair price. With a little extra homework, you might just find that you're in the money.

Where & How to Sell a Coin Collection for Real Money