U.S. Coin Price Guide

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Understanding Coin Price Guides
By Robert L Taylor, JD

There are many coin price guides published; weekly, bi-weekly, monthly and annually. They come in the form of magazines, newsprint, “hot sheets”, and books. All of us have referred to one of these from time to time to ascertain what a particular coin might be worth. Yet, few of us stop to think about what we are getting from any one of these Price Guides, beyond the price or Value of a coin. After all, don’t price guides, just give you the price? What else is there?

Basic to an understanding of price guides are two things: 1) the Grade of the Coin; and 2) the Foundation of the price guide. Knowing the Grade of the Coin is required before one can begin. Saying so seems to be obvious, but what more does it mean?

Unless the coin is Graded by an appropriate Professional Grading Company, which has designated what Grade and Identity has been assigned to the coin, most of us are making an assumption about the actual Grade. This assumption we make can be very dangerous because of: a) the difficulty in Grading a coin; and, b) the different possible outcomes or results that occur. One Grade “point” or level can make the difference in hundreds or thousands of dollars in the Value of a Coin.

Price Guides assume that YOU already Know the Grade of the Coin. This is why we have the First Rule of Coin Collecting: Know the Grade of Your Coin.

Secondly, ALL Price Guides are founded on the same Principle, which is that the Coin, whose price you are looking up, has been Graded using one Grading Standard. That Grading Standard is set by the ANA – American Numismatic Association – and is entitled the Official Grading Standards For US Coins.

Therefore, ALL Price Guides have a “silent assumption” built in to their guide; which is that the Grade that YOU decide upon, is True or Accurate, and that such Grade is based on the ANA Standards.

The first difficulty that arises is that most people never know if the Grade that they have decided upon is Accurate. Of course, this difficulty never comes into question, if the coin is Professionally Graded by an appropriate company. There are only four (4) reputable Professional Grading companies that strictly follow the Guidelines set by the ANA, and they are: PCGS, NCG, ICG, and ANACS.

The second difficulty arises because of this “silent assumption” or Foundation of all price guides is whether or not the Grade has been decided upon using the Guidelines or Standards established by the ANA. If you don’t have the skills and training of a professional coin grader, the decision is probably questionable.

Even if you do have the skills and training of a professional coin grader, the decision is still probably questionable. Why? Because even professional coin graders have differing opinions. This is why the reputable professional coin Grading companies require the opinions of three (3) professional coin graders to arrive at the “Grade” designation to be placed on every coin.

The obvious conclusion is that a Serious Coin Collector is going to invest in rare and modern coins that are graded by one of the Top Four reputable Grading companies. It is the only certain way to eliminate the disagreements and arguments about the Grade of Any coin being Bought or Sold! It is the only certain way one can Value their coin collection. It also eliminates “getting taken” or cheated buying raw coins.

Have fun collecting your Perfect Coins!

Robert L Taylor, JD
Robert Taylor is a 59 year old retired Lawyer, from Denver, CO, who spent most of his career representing people who has had a passion for collecting US coins. Wanting to share his Passion, he created http://www.ThePerfect-Coin.Com which features US Rare and Modern Dollars (from 1878) and Coins (from 1960), all Certified and Graded by NGC or PCGS.

Additional Notes from www.bestcoin.com

When Coin Collecting many collectors have come across a particular coin from time to time and wondered whether they had something of great value in their possession. This feature describes the main factors influencing a coin's value and provides some guidance in obtaining an estimate of such value. Remember, however, that the mere fact that a coin does not have significant monetary value does not mean that it is not interesting or that it should not form part of your collection.

There are at least three values of a coin, the Price the owner thinks his coin is worth, the Price the Red Book or a Pricing Guide lists it at and then most importantly, the Actual Price that you can sell it for to a dealer, private buyer, on eBay or at auction.

Remember, assigning a grade to a coin is an art, not a science. It is often highly subjective, especially when working with Mint State coins where small differences in grade make big differences in price. Even so, grading can be studied, learned and applied with known and predictable results that ultimately rest on judgment, rather than "feeling."

Like any science, language, sport, or field of study, it is best to break grading down to its basic components, and master them one at a time. Learning how to grade coins is much the same as learning how to speak English; so do not try to learn it all at once, instead learn through experience and study.

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