As we write this in late 2021, we are getting an incredible amount of phone calls, and emails with people asking us about virtually valueless coins they have in their possession...because they “saw it online and it is worth a fortune”
Of course we are always actively looking for rare coins to buy and sell, but unfortunately, many of the folks who contact us with certain coins are usually innocently mistaken, and have nothing of value. We wrote this article to help clear up some misconceptions, and provide explanations on why some of these items are not likely what they have. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- A common scenario...someone inherits a small group of coins...not saved by an advanced collector who was a member of coin clubs, not by someone with a library of coin books...just a small jar or container of coins that were “saved” They go online and do some Google searches, and discover they have something amazingly expensive...and excitingly call us to cash in on their discovery…. “I was doing some RESEARCH online” the conversation usually begins. “And from my RESEARCH my coin is worth $50,000”. Then, we politely explain that the coin is very common to collectors and worth less than a dollar. Quickly we get told that we do not know what we are talking about, because they did RESEARCH. Here is what most of this RESEARCH online usually includes;
Youtube videos made by a teenager in a basement...who is not a coin expert, but is really good at making sensational videos to get a lot of views, and therefore advertising revenue.
Websites made by ANYONE (you can make one too saying anything you want), usually containing erroneous information.
Listings on Etsy, eBay, FB Marketplace, Craigslist, etc, etc, where nothing is actually being sold...just a really silly asking price that no one is ever going to pay. These people are “fishing” hoping somebody who doesnt know what they are doing will buy what they have at a crazy inflated price.
Facebook or other social media articles saying “Your XYZ could be worth up to this much!”. Again, written as “click bait” to generate advertising revenue.
Here is what most of their RESEARCH usually does not include;
Finding out what ARE the actual standard reference books (yes old school books) are on the subject, and READING them fully to understand what they have.
Going to CREDIBLE websites like those of national coin organizations, or of well known and respected dealers and experts.
Understanding how coin grading works, and how certification works on pieces of merit.
Once they understand what EXACTLY they have, then viewing what it ACTUALLY TRANSACTS FOR, by seeing actual recent sales of the exact item.
When researching anything, coins, or otherwise, the source of the information is important!
Of course, asking an expert...such as ourselves, is a great place as well...but just remember…”Rare Coins are Rare….because they are Rare”...most of our clients who bring us valuable stuff had someone in the past pay something substantial for them.
To help you even more, with further research, here is a list of the most common coins people are misinformed about…we will add to this list periodically as different items come to light.
Cent 1859 Brass. Almost 10 Million copper cents were issued and the copper we buy for about $2-$3 in used condition. For it to be truely accepted as a Brass variety it needs to be certified and have had an XRF test to validate the metal content.
Cent 1936 Dot. You do not have this coin...unless you purchased one of the 5 issued examples at auction for hundreds of thousands of dollars. The dot was only on special specimen strikes sold in sets at the mint for a short time in 1936. No dot cents were made for circulation...so even if you bought every 1936 cent from every bank in 1936 you would not have one.
VERY High Grade older cents. Everybody has old pennies at home...they cost virtually nothing to save. Billions exist! However...pennies 1936 and before are scarce as BRAND NEW FULL RED coins...coins in the condition like the day they were minted. They are rare like that because very few people saved them NEW….but a lot of them were saved used. For example we buy a 1932 cent for $500 in MS65 full red (practically perfect)…$30 in MS63 RED (would look almost perfect to naked eye but slight mark or two under 10x magnification), and 5 cents in nice lightly used condition!
5 Cents 1944 Tombac. The regular 1944 5 Cents in Steel (white or grey in color) is VERY common! Over 11 million were made and a great amount were saved because of the V for Victory design. We do not pay a premium for these. There is an extremely rare variety that was struck in brass and is clearly yellow in color. There is so far only one known...we had it in our store for sale in 1965. We were in business when this coin was made in 1944...and have been active coin dealers since then...not one other piece has ever turned up...either at our business or any other that we know of.
5 Cents 1951 High Relief. This is actually a coin that is possible to find in old change...but a 1 in a million kind of find. It is only on the variety with the beaver reverse, and the last A in GRATIA on the head side clearly points to the denticle. 99.999% of these have the A pointing in between the denticles. In nice circulated condition we buy the high relief for $200-$500 but most are found scratched or damaged and can be worth less...condition is important. The much more common low relief is something we do not buy at a premium to face value.
5 Cents 1953 Mules. Again, these are findable...but most people get confused and do not actually have the mules. Please consult photos from Charlton Canadian Coins Volume 1 to understand this variety. The regular 1953’s are not worth more than face value to us.
VERY High Grade Older 5 Cents 1936 and before. Please refer to the above High Grade older cents...same rules apply.
10 Cents 1936 Dot. Please see comments for Cent 1936 Dot.
25 Cents 1973 Large Bust. Over 135 Million 25 Cent pieces were minted in 1973 with a beautiful image of a mountie on a horse….millions were saved. Most of these are just worth 25 cents. There is a variety where on the head side the beads look like they are touching the rim...not just close to the rim but touching. To see the difference the best way to have both types in hand. In absence of that, find a 1974-1978 25 Cent or a good image of the head side...the beads will also be similarly close to the edge like on the 1973 Large Bust.
Dollar 1966 Small Beads. From our records (we were in business in 1966), no 1966 small beads dollars ever were in circulation. Also, every real 1966 small beads silver dollar offered to us since 1966 has only been from a collection when the person paid dealers or auction houses significant money for this coin...not stuff saved from change or the bank. So basically what we are saying is we know this is impossible to find in any collection except from those who went to coin shops or auction and bought it at a big price. This makes sense since we were selling this coin for $100 even in the 1960’s...at a time when we were selling the Large beads for $1.50. The much more common large beads had a production of about 10 million coins, was highly saved, and is purchased based on the silver value.
Cent 1943 Bronze. Only a dozen bronze 1943 cents are known vs almost a billion steel cents minted...so the steel one is practically worthless. Many steel one are plated to make them look bronze. Since 1943 we have not seen one in Canada.
Buffalo Nickels. Very few buffalo nickels are actually very valuable. Be careful to check if the one you see online as valuable is a rare variety or is in impossibly nice condition.
1794-1850’s Silver Dollars. Be careful as many counterfeits exist, usually of poor quality, and not even made of silver. We think many of these were/are sold in China to tourists, and possibly now online. A simple way to start your check is to look at weights. Real silver dollars from that period usually weigh about 27 grams.
1922 High Relief Peace Dollars. The low relief is a VERY common coin with a mintage of over 80 million from all mints. We usually buy these in the $15-$25 range depending on quality and the current price of silver. Looking “online” however some people find the very rare High Relief...which we have never seen in person and not sure if it is a pattern. It is almost impossible that you have this coin.
Post 1964 Coins. For some odd reason, people post modern USA change on sites like Etsy and eBay, saying they have some rare variety (usually it is very minor and no one really cares, and no one buys it) at high prices hoping unwise people will give them a free payday. We have no interest in any circulating USA coins after 1964.