One of “those” letters arrived on my desk this week. It came from a reader who is 83 years old.
He said he decided a month or so ago to sell his holdings “with proceeds to go as a college fund or two for our two grandchildren.”
This pleasant mental picture changes quickly as you already know it must if it is in a letter sent to me. The reader writes:
“I had thought I had an all-around beautiful collection, a lot of old stuff and totally current. I kept receipts of everything I purchased over the years plus older coins (no receipts) of which I thought extremely valuable – to reproduce this collection I suspect upward of $100,000.
“I had my collection inventoried by a professional and with his recommendations finding several buyers plus two I contacted from numismatic publications. I received the shock of my life – $32,000.
“What a disappointing experience.”
The writer is not asking me for any kind of response. He simply signs off, “Thank you for listening.”
It is a sad story that tugs at my heart strings. Who could want to deny grandchildren college funds? I sure don’t.
But there is precious little information in the letter that would allow me to make an independent judgment. There are no specific coins identified nor even original cost figures cited even as it was stated that there are some receipts.
All ordinary silver coins that could have been taken out of circulation for face value when the writer was young are worth 16 times face value at today’s $22.50 silver price. Any gold coin would have risen by large multiples with gold having gone from $35 an ounce in his adult collecting life to $1,400.
There have to be some large profits embedded somewhere in that $32,000 figure if there are any precious metal coins at all. What factors would push a collection from $100,000 to just $32,000?
If the reader is thinking in terms of retail prices, which are what usually appear in standard price guides in Numismatic News and elsewhere, just adjusting them to wholesale levels would knock off 40 percent.
Were the coins circulated Lincoln cents, or other pieces whose retail prices almost solely are dealer service charges for keeping the specific dates in stock? Many coins, say an XF-45 1963-D Lincoln, are worth face value on the wholesale level.
Again, I do not know.
Were they recent purchases from late night television programs that regularly offer very high priced coins?
I don’t know.
This letter motivates me once again to advise that if you have not tried to sell something from your collection, you must do so. It is the only way you can get your sense of value anchored to market reality.
It is better to find out now and not wait until you are 83, or 73, or 63. Build your dreams on reality.