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We're all Gonna Die

Thinking ahead to the future of your collection.

Isn't that a catchy title? It certainly caught my eye at the top of a CoinTalk (CT) thread I joined recently. The original poster (OP) began by recounting the story of a recent COVID-19 victim, a physician, who willed his $20 million sports card collection to his family. The collection is going to be or has been auctioned.

The OP's question? "I'm curious to know if you already [have] some arrangements' about your coin collection in the event of your death. Or maybe you just want your family to liquidate it in a big yard sale?"

The first answer came from a collector of ancient coins. He wrote, "Bury me somewhere in Gaul in Roman legionnaire clothing with all my coins. Hope I'm not found for a while. Future historians [will] think I'm Roman. Win!"

After this bit of humor, the answers took a more serious turn. The next response came from a collector who wrote, "My daughters (2) are not collectors, so I have started to try and document any coins I have that are worth more than face or melt value, and to sell off some of them. My only outlet for selling was a bid board' at a local shop. With the pandemic, this is off for a while, but I look forward to continuing hopefully in the near future." I didn't think of it at the time, but someone should tell him about eBay as a selling venue. Or Coin Talk.

The next poster had an enormous family, with at least 6 children and at least 34 grandchildren and great grandchildren. "They have all been indoctrinated in minimum coin and stamp collecting values." Further, "each of the grandchildren and great grandchildren have nice collections started by me," with regular additions to these collections. He closed, "I hope the entire family will have enough knowledge of the value of my collection when I go that they will treat it with respect somehow."

An ANA Young Numismatist (YN) wrote, "When I get older, I would want my future kids interested in collecting so they could enjoy them and not just sell them to a dealer. If they don't seem interested, I'd find someone really enthusiastic about coins and give it to them." I thought this was a nice answer from someone who probably has a long time ahead of him to ponder the question.

Someone who probably doesn't have as long wrote, "This is a question I've been pondering more and more of late. My one son has no interest, and the other plans to retire in Europe, but might have some interest. I'm afraid that much of my collection could be confiscated once he removed it from the U.S.

I don't need the money, but I would hate to see my collection sold at some estate or garage sale. And probably the majority of my collection wouldn't garner a second look from auction houses or the larger sales venues. I tried selling off a few coins a couple of years ago, but it was too much to keep up with and it broke my heart to sell many of the coins. So, to answer your question, I don't know!"

This responder probably spoke for many of us long-time collectors. Another responder wrote, "Mine will probably go back into circulation. Anyone I talk to about coins, has zero interest."

He promptly got a response from the YN: "[D]on't let them go back in circulation! I'll buy them from whoever you give them to."

Another responder took a more fatalistic approach: [E]veryone should have a strategy plan for whoever inherits the collection. . . now if that party chooses to do it is another question and one we really won't be worrying about then."

Yet another responder recommended Beth Deisher's Cash in Your Coins: Selling the Rare Coins You've Inherited." Although it's not perfect, it's a fine book and one I would heartedly recommend. You can find it on eBay or Amazon or from other online booksellers.

A responder with a more proactive approach wrote, "Along with my will, I have written instructions for financial matters to my family which includes information about my collection, like my records, who to contact about disposing of it and especially not to just call a coin shop or a ‘we buy gold and coins' ad. I felt so prepared when I reviewed the instructions with them one Thanksgiving. But they were strangely somber and quiet as I finished. I realized I had forgotten to start the discussion by saying I was fine but just wanted to review this with them!"

A really optimistic collector wrote, "[M]y wife keeps asking me ‘What are you going to do with all your coins, after all?' I chose the most expensive 20 coins and artifacts in my collection and put them in one big box. Others were also saved in other boxes, depending on categories. I made it easy for them to deal only with 20 items at first.

But that's just the worst possibility. I believe I shall survive and collect coins and attractive items till the end of the world." Which, if you believe in man-made climate change, may be sooner rather than later.

Another collector, speaking for many, ended the thread with, "My collection will probably wind up at auction. Lots of junk that only I appreciate. I've already sold off some, the tip of the iceberg."

My plans center around my inventory, which I have on the Heritage Auction site. Virtually all of my coins are listed there, with such information as their current values, when and from whom I bought them, how much I paid (if known), complete with pictures of the obverse and reverse of each certified coin.

In addition, I'm a big advocate of third-party certification, and this even extends to hammered British coins my wife and I have collected. The only coins that are raw are either junk silver or common-date uncirculated coins in rolls.

Along with the coins, I have a recent copy of my inventory, instructions on how to access my Heritage inventory, and a letter I received from Heritage Auctions. A couple of the lines I find most meaningful: "We need to buy more coins and we suspect you may own the ones we can pay the most aggressively for! I'm still surprised so many people only think of Heritage's reputation in the auction world. . . . [W]e are also spending over $10 million each month on rare coins offered to us by other dealers and collectors."

I take this to mean that Heritage will buy the whole collection, not just coins they think should be auctioned. As such, I feel assured that my heirs, if they need the money or just want to monetize my coins, will have a business they can offer the coins to without fear that they will be taken advantage of.

I hope that you find this column thought-provoking if you've not considered the topic or have been deliberately avoiding it. If you don't already have a plan, the time to start is now!