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Viewpoint: Look at options for selling coins

Four years ago I saw an ad in our paper that an auction firm was bringing in experts to a local hotel to appraise various types of holdings.
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2014 U.S. Coin Digest

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By Dan Sowards

Four years ago I saw an ad in our paper that an auction firm was bringing in experts to a local hotel to appraise various types of holdings. I was about ready to sell off my collection (I’ve since rebuilt), so I took most of my holdings to the hotel for appraisal.

The coin expert was impressed enough that he asked me to assign all of my coins to them for auction. If I signed on at the time, they would reduce their commission to 7.5 percent. Well, they did have a good reputation, so I took them up on their offer. What happened next was a nightmare.

The auction house took the cream of the crop, which were either already certified or were certification quality, took those in this category that were not certified and had them certified (at my expense, although I didn’t know it at the time because it was buried in the small print); then worst of all threw everything else into a lumped sight-unseen auction for coin dealers.

This included all of my coins valued from around $2 to several hundred dollars (my purchase cost). They ended up “auctioning” all of these coins, for which I had paid in excess of $20,000 over the years, for a mere $1,800 or so. I nearly died.

After numerous letter exchanges, they reduced their commission to 4 percent – a small token for the loss I incurred. Keep in mind that I purchased these coins over many years, so many of them had significantly increased in value, not high enough for the auction house to list them in their catalog, but still high enough that any other venue would have paid a handsome price for them directly to me.

So, a fair warning to your readers. If all of your coins are not valued at $300 plus each, be aware that the same thing can happen to you with the remainder of your collection if you do not pick your venues correctly. I have an email from one of my major suppliers, advising that he would buy back any of the coins he has sold me over the years at anywhere from 60-90 percent of what I paid for them, at a minimum.

If the coin values rose, he would of course pay more. So, my advice is to check around with several sources. You may do quite well having an auction house sell your better coins. Then again you may do quite well by selling your lesser valued coins to a reputable coin dealer instead.

This “Viewpoint” was written by Dan Sowards, a collector in Austin, Texas.

Viewpoint is a forum for the expression of opinion on a variety of numismatic subjects. To have your opinion considered for Viewpoint, write to David C. Harper, Editor, Numismatic News, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990. Send email to

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