Inherited a coin collection what do you do now?

June 19, 2010

You've typed some of the above words into google and you've found us. Congratulations you're already doing the right thing.

Inheriting a collection or a accumulation of coins and the realisation of 'what to do now?' can be very daunting indeed. Where do you start?

May I suggest the best way to start would be don't be tempted to clean them. They might look a bit dirty or grubby from poor storage or from sitting in the attic or shed but a quick wash and scrub is absolutely the wrong thing to do. May I just say again, the first thing to do is NOT pretty them up for sale. A quick bath or wipe will do more harm than good. A common misconception by the non-collector is that a coin will appear more valuable if it has that wow factor or shine similar to a coin just struck at the mint. The fact is though if you attempt any sort of clean on a coin you will leave a trace and the coin will lose some of it's value. In some cases it will be rendered worthless.

The next thing you need to do is determine if you have an interest in them and will keep them or sell them and move on with your life. Either way you should pick up a copy of Greg McDonald's Pocket Guide to Australian Coins and Banknotes (Macca's) a copy of which sits here permanently on my desk for reference purposes. I'm not saying this is the be all and end all of Australian Coin pricing but it's a place to start and it will give you an idea of the scarcity of a coin, mintage, and a dollar value.

The internet is also a great place to see how much coins are selling for and past sales. Informative information can also be found on this site as well as The Sandpit or Triton .

So you have this box or album of coins in front of you and you really don't know what to do next. Did I mention not to clean them? OK, let's move on.

Picking up a pair of cotton gloves from the supermarket is a great idea and make yourself comfortable at the kitchen table. A piece of felt layed down or a thick table cloth is a great idea so you don't damage the coins any further. Have you heard of "verdigris"? It is a type of copper cancer and once it has taken hold of your coins it's almost impossible to remove and it will spread through the collection. So for starters it's best to remove these affected coins and make a "quarantine area". Now unless any of these are a key date or a high grade they are only worth bullion value -that's the intrinsic value of the metal only. Another form of green that occurs more commonly on silver coins is a film of sticky residue that results from poor storage. This is pvc residue and any pvc in the vicinity of the coins should be quickly discarded.

If your grandfather or great uncle had them sorted in an album then they may be labelled and this chore for you will be just that much easier. Otherwise it's up to you to have a sort through and see if there are any key date years in amongst them. By referring back to your "Macca's" you'll get an idea that if you come across a 1925 penny or a 1932 Florin then you shouldn't let the kids play with Poppy's coins anymore.

If you just don't have an interest in doing this then I would suggest you visit your local coin dealer and get their advice. They'll browse the coins for the key dates or anything special and possibly offer to buy them from you at an agreed price. If you visit one of the larger dealers in your capital city they may hold public auctions every few months and your chance at achieving a higher price for your inheritance might be to consign the coins to their next auction. There are fees associated with this so check with the dealer exactly what these might be. If you dabble with selling on eBay then listing the coins up with a well researched description and great images is the key to selling this way.

I any case I believe education is the key and if you don't know, ask someone who does.

Posted by harrisk at June 19, 2010 11:58 AM
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