More than face value
What raises a coin’s value on the secondary market? That’s one of the most frequently asked questions.
The short answer is, if someone somewhere wants a coin, then that coin has a re-sale value. While most collectors would love to see their newest purchase instantly double in value, gauging a coin’s future worth isn’t an exact science. However, there are a few factors that can help predict whether some coins in your collection could see a significant increase in value with time.
As a general rule, a hard-to-find coin will fetch a higher price than one that’s more common. That’s why a lot of collectors pay attention to each coin’s mintage, or maximum number of coins that can be produced.
But mintage isn’t the only consideration—you also need to take into account how many of those coins are actually available in order to determine true rarity, especially with older coins. Take, for example, our famous 1936 Dot 10-cent coin, which has been reproduced in 99.99% pure gold. A total of 191,237 dotted dimes were struck in 1937 but most were melted down, and today, only three exist outside of museum collections. That extreme rarity is key to understanding why a 10-cent coin bearing a tiny dot is worth upwards of $144,000.
… and Demand
It’s not just economics—the law of supply and demand also applies to numismatics. In fact, demand is the single biggest factor that can drive up a coin’s value, and it can have a significant impact on even the rarest coins.
Say 1,000 collectors are looking for a specific coin, but there are only five known in existence: the price for those coins will continue to rise as collectors vie for them on the secondary market. On the other hand, if there are 1,000 coins but only five people are interested, that limited demand means the coin may not see much of a bump in value.
Dealers have to anticipate the market’s interest and stock accordingly, but they also know that tastes and interests change over time. Ultimately, you, the collector, are key to driving demand and determining a coin’s value.
An old coin must be worth more, right? Surprisingly, age doesn’t guarantee a higher value. Need proof? Some ancient coins can be purchased for less than modern ones.
Instead, collectors tend to place more importance on things we associate with age; for example, older coins are generally harder to find, and when you do find them, they’re not always in pristine (“mint”) condition.
Still, time is your ally. A coin’s past performance is usually an indicator of its future potential: if the value has already increased, there’s probably still a demand for it. Keep in mind there may also be renewed interest in a coin 10 or 20 years from now, especially if its theme or design is back in the spotlight. And in that time, a new generation of collectors may be interested in acquiring that piece.
The better the condition, the higher the value. A coin’s condition (grade) indicates how much wear has occurred and if it shows any physical damages (scratches, dents, corrosion, etc) or changes in colour or tone. Those in mint condition will have a higher value than those with even the slightest flaw. However, as the years go by, it gets harder to find perfectly preserved pieces, and that’s where supply and demand come in to drive up the price.
Coins are pieces of collectible art, and like a painting or sculpture, many collectors place a higher value on collectibles with eye-catching or unique designs, like some of our special shaped offerings.
Obviously, buyers want the best specimen—one with plenty of eye appeal and a sharp, crisply struck design. If a coin looks good to you, it will probably appeal to others too.
Metal content (bullion value)
Investment-minded collectors will seek out coins that command higher prices and net them a profit when re-selling. Since gold, silver and platinum are worth a lot on the commodities market, coins crafted from these precious metals are often viewed as having a proven investment value that is based solely on what the metal is worth (“intrinsic value”).
But don’t turn your back on coins made with less-expensive metals! For example, tombac (a brass alloy) nickels are popular among collectors because they represent a special variation, and that makes them worth a lot more than five cents.
A few other considerations can bump up a coin’s value, such as rare variations and subtleties (like the “No LCW” variety of the 1870 50-cent coin), historical significance, or even (gasp!) errors.
But there’s something to be said about a coin’s value in the eyes of its owner. The true gems are the collectibles that speak to you personally, whether it’s the gift set that marked a special occasion, the glow-in-the-dark coin that speaks to your love of dinosaurs, or a theme that’s dear to your heart. Collecting should be fun, wherever your interests lie, so let that guide you on your coin-collecting journey.
This post was prepared with input from Mr. Benoit Doyon, founder of Quebec-based Imaginaire boutiques. Mr. Doyon has been in the business of buying/selling coins and stamps since 1986. Today, Imaginaire’s five locations employ more than 70 passionate experts and offer a wide variety of collectibles—coins, bank notes, stamps, comic books, figurines, trading cards, and more.