How to Find The Value Of Old Coins

Look at the date on the coin. In general, the older the coin is, the more it will be worth.

  • Not all coins have dates on them. Modern dating for European coins dates back only to the early 17th century.
  • Among coins that display dates, not all those dates are according to the Gregorian calendar. Israel and India each follow different calendars, and much of the Arab world uses the Islamic calendar. If your coin comes from a country that uses a calendar other than the Gregorian calendar, you’ll need to use a date converter such as that at to find the equivalent Gregorian year.
  • Also, be aware that not all coins are minted during the years they display. American silver dollars showing an 1804 date were actually minted in 1834 and 1835 as proof coins, while silver dollars minted in 1804 actually show an 1803 date because the dies were still good.


Know the country of issue. Which country issued the coin can have an impact on the coin’s value, depending on how prominent the country was historically or how able it was to mint coins. Many countries display the name of the country on either the obverse (heads) or reverse (tails), although it may be in the country’s native language or in Latin, or using an alphabet other than the Roman alphabet.

  • You can look up a country’s local name at Nations Online to find the name it’s known by in English. (The site displays names only in the Roman alphabet, however.)

Note how rare the coin is. How many of a particular type of coin exists also determines the coin’s collector value, in many cases more than the age of the coin itself. A coin’s rarity depends on several related factors:

  • How many of the coins were produced to begin with. The 1914D (“D” for Denver Mint) Lincoln penny is a sought-after coin because only 1,193,000 of them were minted. Proof coins are similarly rare because only a small quantity of them need to be made to test the dies. Only 6 examples of the 1930 Australian proof penny exist today; the total number produced was probably not much greater.
  • Where the coin was minted. While certain mints produce coins for general circulation, other mints may produce only commemorative coins or be in existence for convenience. The Carson City, Nevada mint was established in 1870 to be near the silver produced in Nevada’s mines and ceased operation in 1893, when the mines stopped producing silver in quantity. It produced fewer coins than the other U.S. mints, reaching a maximum of 2,212,000 Morgan silver dollars in 1878.
  • If the coin’s design has changed. In its first year of production, 1913, the design on the reverse of the Indian Head (Buffalo) nickel changed from showing the buffalo on a raised mound to depicting it on a recessed line of prairie grass. Fewer of the recessed line coin were produced that year, and so they are more valuable than those with the raised mound, even though the recessed line design was used during the rest of the coin’s 25-year production run.
  • If the coin’s composition changes. The 1943 Lincoln penny was minted with steel because copper was in short supply due to World War II; the pennies of the following 2 years were made from spent shell casings. (A few 1944 pennies were supposedly minted from steel but never placed into circulation.) The United States abandoned silver coinage in 1965 because of the rise in the price of silver, replacing silver dimes, quarters, and half-dollars with copper-nickel clad coins, although some silver-clad half-dollar and dollar coins were produced in the 1960s and 1970s.
  • If the coin has been recalled. A coin may be recalled if it was produced in error, as was the 1913 Liberty Head nickel; only 5 are known to exist. It may also have been recalled for other reasons, such as when the United States recalled gold coins from circulation and melted them down; only a single 1933 $20 double-eagle is known to exist.
  • If the coin displays minting errors. Generally, coins with striking errors, such as the die striking the coin planchet off-center or incompletely transferring the coin design, are weeded out by inspectors and destroyed, but some are released into circulation anyway. These error coins are prized by some collectors.
Observe the demand for the coin. Related to a coin’s rarity is how interested collectors are in the coin. As noted above for the 1913 Indian Head nickel, even though such nickels produced from 1914 to 1938 bear the recessed line design, making the raised mound design rarer overall, collectors are more interested in the 1913 recessed line nickel because fewer nickels of that design were produced in that year.

  • Demand for a given coin can also vary according to where in the world a given coin collector lives or vary over time as the coin’s popularity with collectors varies.
Examine the coin’s condition. The shape a coin is in affects its value; the better it looks, the more a collector is willing to pay for it. Coin condition is graded in one of two ways, by the Sheldon Scale or by standard descriptive adjectives.

  • The Sheldon Scale grades coins from one to 70, with one being the lowest grade and 70 the highest. Although it is used worldwide, some coin experts prefer the use of descriptive adjectives.
  • Descriptive adjectives range from the lowest grade of “Poor” to the highest grade of “Mint State,” with intermediate grades ascending from “Fair” to “About Good,” “Good,” “Very Good,” “Fine,” “Very Fine,” “Extremely Fine,” and “About/Almost Uncirculated.” The step from Poor to Fair on the Sheldon Scale is small, one to two, while Good ranks no higher than six, Fine no higher than 15, and Very Fine no higher than 35.
Consult a coin catalog. In addition to helping you identify old coins, many coin catalogs list values for the coins they display. You will need to consult as current a catalog as you can find, as the values will change from year to year.

  • A good reference for U.S. coins is R.S. Yeoman’s “A Guide Book of United States Coins,” popularly known as the “Red Book” for its cover.
  • A good reference for world coins is Krause’s Standard Catalog of World Coins.
Have the coin appraised by a certified appraiser like us. Certain numismatists (coin collectors) have been formally trained in how to evaluate coins to determine their conditions and values. You can find these appraisers by contacting a local coin dealer, using the directories of the Professional Numismatist’s Guild or the Professional Currency Dealer Association, or using the websites of the American Society of Appraisers (ASA) or the International Society of Appraisers (ISA).

  • Familiarize yourself with the terms an appraisers’ group uses for its membership. The ISA divides its membership into members, who are credentialed appraisers, and associate members, who are not. Members are further subdivided by their level of training and experience, with certified members ranking higher than accredited members.
  • You can expect to pay a fee for an appraiser’s services.

Starting Your Coin Collection

You can start your own coin collection with the coins you receive in change on a daily basis while you are learning all the ins and outs of the hobby at the same time.collectors-kit

That way, you can actually get a taste of coin collecting without worrying about spending a lot of money or taking a chance of actually losing money.

First Step – Start Your Own Coin Collection

If you are just starting a coin collection the best place to start is with coins from circulation.

When you start a coin collection with coins from your pocket or purse, you don’t have any risk. For instance, after a while, if you find that coin collecting is not for you, you can just spend the coins.

State Quarters are the most frequently chosen coin series for people starting a coin collection. In fact, this particular series is responsible for bringing thousands of new coin collectors into the hobby.

The series has lots of interesting coins since each state’s coin has a unique design and they are perfect for someone just starting a coin collection.

Another great series for starting a coin collection is the Presidential Dollar Series. Although, in my experience, this series of coins is not as widely available in circulation as the state quarters. If you are interested in collecting Presidential Dollars, you can check with your bank to see which coins they have available, or you can search eBay or Amazon. Presidential Dollar coins for the current year can be found on the U.S. Mint’s site.

You may also decide that you want to start your collecting hobby with Lincoln Cents, Jefferson Nickels, or Roosevelt Dimes.
So, here is how you start your own coin collection:

Start saving coins from the change you receive for everyday purchases. It could be State Quarters, Presidential dollars, or whatever series of coins you decide to start with.

It is best to narrow your focus when just starting a coin collection however. If you try to collect too many different series at once, you may get overwhelmed.

After you get a few coins together, you might want to purchase an inexpensive album to keep the coins organized. They are available with a slot for each coin that you will need to complete the set, and they will work fine for circulated coins.

Find a good reference book, search the Internet or subscribe to some weekly and monthly publications about the area of coin collecting that you are most interested in. You might want to start with a book about state quarters or presidential dollars, or just US coins in general and begin studying.
Book of Knowledge

Knowledge is the Key to Success in coin collecting as it is in just about any other hobby or area of interest that you pursue.

If you don’t take the time to educate yourself, you run the risk of wasting a lot of money on coins that are either over-graded, counterfeit or have some other problem.

So, please take the time to educate yourself while you are enjoying your first taste of coin collecting with a fun collection of coins from circulation.
If your collection is not growing as fast as you would like for it to, you can purchase rolls of coins from your local bank. Sort through the coins and find the ones that you need to complete your set, then take the ones you don’t need back to the bank and start the process all over again.

As your collection is growing, continue to learn all you can about coins and coin collecting so that when you are ready to increase your collection to include more rare and valuable coins you will have the knowledge and confidence to know that you are also making a good investment.

Start small when you are starting a coin collection and then work your way up to more valuable coins as your knowledge increases. Learn all about modern coins and their history, then work your way back to older and more rare coins.

Get a solid foundation before you spend much money.

How to Handle & Clean Your Coins

At first you may be skeptical of the information in this section, but it’s important advice that will stay with you as long as you collect.

We all are used to touching and holding coins. You pull out a handful and spend them, or pay for something and put the rest back in your pocket or purse. How did you hold the coins you used?

Most likely you made one of the most common of mistakes in handling coins for a collection. You held the coin between your thumb and finger, pressed on the front and back of the coin, what collectors call the obverse and reverse of the coin.

If you touch a coin like that, it is generally not a problem, since most circulated coins show obvious wear when you look at them. However, for an uncirculated or proof coin, you just damaged the coin. The natural oils in your skin will etch a fingerprint or a thumbprint into the surface of the coin in a matter of minutes. Once the fingerprint is on the coin it’s impossible to remove without further damaging the coin.

Always hold a coin by the edge, never the faces.holding-coin-proper

It’s a good habit to get into, even with common, circulated coins. To prevent damage to a coin you are examining, hold the coin by its edges with your thumb and forefinger. Handling coins this way is good practice for when you hold rare of valuable coins.

If you are working with upper-grade, uncirculated or proof coins, a pair of lintless cotton gloves is strongly recommended. Latex or plastic gloves are not recommended because they often have powder or lubricants on them that may damage the coin. Also, consider placing a thick, soft cloth under the coin as you are holding it, just in case you slip or drop the coin. This will prevent damage to the coin that might come from it impacting a hard surface.

Family or friends may want to touch the coins in your collection. You can either warn them not to touch the coins, or show them how to properly handle them.

Another possibility would be to put the coins in holders that protect the surface of the coin. This allows for easier handling, and can provide protection from damage that might be caused by an accidental drop.

Many an old-time coin collector (or coin dealer) will use the “ring” test to determine if a coin is silver. Not only is this a negative test, it will also cause damage to the coin, since the test involves dropping the coin on a hard surface. This is a negative test, because the slightest fissure or internal crack in the coin will make it sound like a lead washer. Weighing the coin will tell you as much, or more, about the coin, and weighing is a non-destructive test. To prevent damage to your coins, don’t let someone else “ring” your coins, ever.

Don’t scratch, cut, clean, rub or polish a coin for any reason.

It’s nearly impossible to cut through copper plating, the metal curls around the blade, giving you the false impression that the coin is solid copper. Stop anyone else from “testing” your coin in this fashion. The damage done will often cut the collector value of the coin in half, or worse. Weighing the coin will tell you a lot more, and as previously noted, it’s a non-destructive test.

The whole idea behind proper coin handling techniques is to prevent damage to the coin’s surface, mint-produced or otherwise. The more wear or damage there is to the coin’s surface, the less will be the coin’s worth. The whole basis of collecting coins revolves around protecting and preserving that mint surface. I’ll expand on this theme in the next chapter.

Doing Research for Coin Collecting

Doing Research for Coin Collecting

Research for coin collecting is a very important aspect of the hobby. Without it you would not be able to identify and ascertain the value of a coin or coins you have in your possession or any that you may consider adding to your collection.

The first piece of research for coin collecting is to identify the coin. This is usually easy to do.

Most coins, especially US coins, are clearly marked with the information you will need, such as: What country issued the coin? When was it issued? What is the face value? Does it have a mint mark? Was there more than one design used that year, if so which one is it?

If your coin is in a language that is foreign to you, your research may take a little more digging. Typing the wording from the coins into a search engine such as google should get you started.

Most of the other information that you will need to know when doing your research for coin collecting can be found right here on this site.