How to Judge a Coin's Value

By Arthur Gamble

So your grandfather was a coin collector. He had a bog cigar box of coins from all over the world. You know this, because he used to show you his little treasures when you were a child. Now you are an adult, and your grandfather has long ago passed on, but you still have the old cigar box of coins you inherited from him. Money’s tight and now you wonder if any of those old coins have any real value beyond the fact that your grandfather thought they were cool. Here are some tips for judging a coin’s value:

Look at the date of the coin’s issue. If you think your coin is very old or significant, then look closer. The date of issuance can usually be found on the head side of a coin. If you suspect the age of the coin or the date of issue has special significance, the best way to know its value is to bring it to a reputable coin appraiser.

Check the condition of the coin. To be considered more valuable than the face value, most coins should be in great physical condition. Those made of silver or gold are generally worth more than coins made of nickel, zinc, or copper. There are, of course exceptions. In fact, some copper coins are valued more precious than silver or gold coins.

Learn to spot a rare coin on sight. The absolute, hands-down decider for the value of a coin is rarity. Sometimes, for example, a mint will make a mistake on the coin. The may print it backwards or upside down, among a host of other possible glitches in the creation process.

Coins with mistakes fetch big money. So do coins designed and minted, but never issued. The world’s most expensive rare coin was sold at auction for $7.5 million and was never issued, the 1933 Double Eagle. Over 445,000 of the gold coins were issued, but then ordered destroyed after changes in the currency laws. Two dozen of the coins escaped.

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