Coin dealers are a crucial resource for coin collectors and coin investors. While many people prefer to visit their local coin dealers, there are also online coin dealers. Online coin dealers are ideal for collectors and investors who don’t live near a coin shop or who want coins that the local dealer doesn’t typically offer.
What’s wonderful about coin dealers of any sort is that they’re generally very courteous and highly knowledgeable about the coins they buy and sell. Most are willing to answer any questions you may have about the coins you’re curious about, and they will do whatever they can to fulfill any coin wish lists that you have.
What follows here is a list of things you can do to help make choosing a coin dealer and shopping at his or her store more enjoyable and successful. To start, let’s look at the determining what kinds of coin dealers you may be looking for.
Know About the Different Types of Coin Dealers
There are many kinds of coin dealers to choose from. In general, coin professionals tend to be categorized by the types of coins they sell. Commonly, coin dealers specialize in any of the following areas:
U.S. silver coins
U.S. gold coins
U.S. copper coins
Early U.S. type coins
19th-century U.S. coins
20th-century U.S. coins
Modern U.S. coins (1950-present)
Silver and gold bullion coins
World coins (both Canadian and non-Canadian)
Within those common categories, it’s quite typical for a coin dealer to focus even more specifically on certain coin series. For example, a U.S. silver coin dealer might only buy or sell U.S. silver dollars while a 20th-century U.S. coin dealer may favor Standing Liberty quarters and Walking Liberty half dollars. Some dealers primarily buy or sell ancient coins. Others focus on silver and gold coins purchased and sold by investors. There are many other dealers who handle low- to-moderately priced, "common" United States and foreign coins. And so on.
Learn How to Find Coin Dealers
You should be able to easily locate a coin dealer near you by using Google to type in your city name and the phrase “coin dealers” or by referring to your telephone directory. If you’re visiting a local coin dealer, it might be a good idea to refer to the shop’s website to check for hours of business and to determine whether or not they accept walk-in visitors (most, but not all, do). If the shop doesn’t have a website, a phone call to gather this information should work just as well. If you’re shopping around for online coin dealers, a simple web search for “coin dealers” and the type of coin you want will easily guide you to a list of coin professionals who can help you.
Whether you’re shopping in person or online, there are a few basic things you should look for to make sure that you’ve chosen a good coin dealer. Signs of reputable coin dealers include:
A good rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) – A high letter grade from the BBB is usually a good sign that the coin dealer follows fair and ethical business practices; an A+ rating is the highest grade the BBB awards. Bear in mind that not all reputable coin dealers have a BBB rating, and that’s OK. It’s just one sign of several that may indicate a good coin dealer.
Solid return policies – If a coin dealer seems hesitant to accept returns, you should be hesitant to shop there. Most coin dealers allow returns within 7 to 10 days, assuming the returned item is accompanied with a receipt and in its original, untampered holder.
Acceptance of many payment types – Some businesses today accept only cash, but if a coin dealer turns up his or nose at your plastic, you might want to zip up your purse strings. Using a credit card allows you to have recourse in the case of being victimized by fraudulent business practices. However, you’ll have little chance of recouping a loss if you pay with cash.
Use of recent price guides to set sales prices – Want to make sure you’re not overpaying for your coins? Some coin dealers use the constantly updated guides, such as Coin Dealer Newsletter – a publication widely called the “greysheet” that lists standard coin prices.
Declares a grading standard – Let’s face it, not all coin dealers go by the same coin grading standards. But they normally won’t mind saying what standard they’re using. Some coin dealers swear by the ANA grading standards, whereas others prefer Photograde. There are many other standards out there, but before you buy any coins from a coin dealer, find out what type of grading guidelines he or she uses.
Know the Etiquette for Shopping at Coin Dealers
If you’re about to go on your first trip to a coin dealer, there are some basic etiquette rules you should be aware of. First, when inspecting the coins you wish to purchase, be sure that you handle them properly. Most dealers' coins are protected in small, clear envelopes called “flips” or mounted within two-inch-square cardboard holders with small, round cellophane windows – these types of holders are called “2 by 2s.” Be sure to hold those coins over a small pad, which you can request one from the coin dealer. Holding coins over a pad cushions their fall should one accidently drop. Even with the protection a soft pad may provide though, it is important to never drop coins. Dropped coins usually suffer some type of damage, lowering the value of the coin.
Always remember the proper way to hold a coin – Hold a coin by grasping its edge, not its obverse (“heads side”) or reverse (“tails”). The coin should be held between the tips of your thumb and forefinger. Don’t allow a sharp or hard object to come into contact with the coin. Also, avoid breathing on or talking near the coin, as this can spew saliva droplets onto the surface, potentially leaving behind unsightly spots that will darken and cause the coin to lose its value. Never move quickly around coins, as this may heighten the risk of dropping or damaging the coins, and could be frowned upon as reckless – even suspicious – behavior by the coin dealer and may result in your being asked to leave the store.
When looking at coins in a coin shop, be very careful around any display cases, especially those made of glass. Don’t lean very heavily on any of these cases as they can easily become marred, scratched, or even break. Instead of leaning on a display, sit down at a chair or on a stool; this is a more relaxing way to look at coins, and it will help you focus more on the purchase you’re making.
When you think you’ve found coins that you’d like to buy, it’s OK to haggle a little bit on the matter of price. But don’t berate the coin dealer because you think the asking price is too high. There’s no need to make a point of telling him or her off. If you don’t like the price of a coin and there doesn’t seem to be any chance of negotiating the coin down to a level you like, you as the customer have the right to thank the dealer for his or her time and try buying the coin elsewhere if you wish.
Be Informed Before Shopping at Coin Dealers
Before you use the services of any coin dealers, pick up a copy of the latest coin price guide, or check out the values of the coins you want by perusing any of the data right here at Coin Values. Remember, price guides are merely an indication as to the market averages for certain coins and don’t necessarily serve to tell you exactly how much you should pay for coins.
Every coin is unique, and often the prices of coins will vary based on their individual conditions – especially common in the case of buying older, scarcer coins. The coin values listed here and elsewhere refer to pieces that are generally problem free and are in a typical grade for its age.
When it comes to pricing, don’t get too excited if you see a coin you want at an exceptionally low price. Chances are, it may have an issue with it that has suppressed its value. Common problems include light cleanings, rim dings, tiny scratches, and discoloration. For the most part, you get what you pay for when it comes to buying coins.
If you have any dreamy-eyed visions of walking into a coin dealer’s shop and slapping down a $5 bill to walk out with a $100 coin, you might want to think again. The only way that may happen is if you purchase a coin with an obscure – but valuable – die variety. To increase your odds of finding such coins, you should check out Cherrypickers’ Guide to Die Varieties, by Bill Fivaz and J.T. Stanton. This is a great book that provides details on a wide range of attributed die varieties, many of which are scarce and valuable.
Have Fun When Shopping at Coin Dealers
Ultimately, your visit to any coin dealer should be pleasant – not stressful. Sure, there are a lot of things here in this article that you’re being asked to abide by or remember, but a lot of it is “common sense” stuff that will become second nature to you as you get more used to shopping at coin dealers. So, visit your nearest coin dealer, get to know him or her, and enjoy the visit.
Ask any questions you may have, because most coin dealers are more than glad to explain things to their customers or teach them something new. The vast majority of coin dealers aren’t in business to rip people off. They’re doing what they do because they love what they do and wish to serve the coin collecting and coin investing communities as best they can. So, have fun – and buy the coins that you love.