Cleaning Up Your Collection
By Doug Winter
write this, there is a real disconnect in the
coin market. Simply put, despite what is very
probably the worst economic year since the
height of the Depression, the coin market
remains comparatively vibrant. I think this
represents something that many collectors are
overlooking: this could be a great opportunity
to clean up some of the messes in your
collection and come out without taking a nasty
This statement is making a big assumption: that
the financial mess we are in now will impact the
coin market more intensely than it has so far.
Who knows; maybe it won’t. But my guess is that
we will see a further drop in prices on coins
that aren’t really exciting, either off-quality,
not rare or a combination of the two.
If you are like most collectors, you’ve probably
made some mistakes over the years. And if you
are like most collectors you may have hidden
your mistakes in the back of your safety deposit
box and figured “out of sight, out of mind.” As
I mentioned above, this might be a really good
time to consider trimming the fat.
I have long been an advocate of the “quality
trumps quantity” school of numismatics. In my
experience, most collectors own too many coins.
Some collectors own way too many coins and they
have a considerable amount of money tied-up in
“stuff” that has little relevance to their
current collection. I think it’s a great idea
every few years to weed out some of the stuff
that has accumulated in your collection.
The coins that are most likely to lose value in
the coming year are coins that have either gone
up too much in value in the last few years to
sustain their market or coins that have a
limited amount of demand. You might want to
include these along with the “what was I
thinking when I bought that…” coins.
When you look through your collection, you
should use what I called the “ahhh…. test.”
Coins that you like are going to make you go
“ahhh…” when you view them and you can probably
remember the exact circumstances in which you
purchased them. Coins that don’t speak to you or
which don’t tweak your memory haven’t passed
this test and they might be candidates for a
You might own coins that you don’t really care
much about but which are still strong. A great
example of this is generic gold. Many collectors
have salted away a few St. Gaudens double eagles
or Liberty Head eagles over the years. They
might not care at all about these but they might
also be able to make a nice profit if they sell
them at the currently-high premiums in the
market. If I had a decent position of generics
in my collection, I’d seriously consider taking
a few and selling them right now.
I’d be even more interested in selling these
Misfit Coins in my collection if I had an
alternative coin coming down the pike that
seemed like it was too good a deal to pass
up…and I didn’t necessarily have the ready cash
to make this deal happen.
Here’s another circumstance where you might have
coins that are no longer useful to your
collection. Let’s say you started a collection
but lost interest and now you have a 50%
complete set lying around. If the coins are nice
quality and price levels aren’t way off on the
series in question, it might not be a bad idea
to sell the coins you have and use the money on
coins in the set(s) you are actively collecting.
What is the best way to clean up your
collection? You have a number of options and
these options depend, at least in part, on the
type(s) of coins that you own. If you live in a
town with a reputable brick and mortar coin shop
and you have pounds and pounds of “stuff” then
selling this material outright or on consignment
might be a good idea.
If what you have fits more into the specialist
category, choose a specialist dealer to make an
outright offer or to take the coin(s) on
And, of course, you can always go the auction
route if you are thinking of selling very
high-powered or highly specialized material.
In conclusion, this might be a good time to get
rid of some of your less-exciting material at
levels that aren’t going to insult your
sensibilities. For what’s its worth, this is
exactly what I’ve been doing with my own
inventory for the last four to six months and
even though I’ve had to make a few decisions
that were painful at first, I’m very glad that I
sold some of the coins I did at the prices they
went away at.