Selling your coins and banknotes
(Going once, going twice … SOLD!)
There are many options for disposing of coins and banknotes, each with advantages and disadvantages. The best one depends on how urgently you need to sell, your location, access to the internet and, most importantly, what you have for sale.
Eight options are evaluated
here. Please note that this is written for Australian collectors. However, the
basic priciples apply in most other countries.
One. Coin shops
Take your items in to coin dealers in your nearest capital city or regional centre. You will find most of these listed in the Yellow Pages as well as online.
You will usually be offered a price between one quarter and one half of full retail, sometimes more, sometimes less. This is because shop keepers need to cover their overheads and then make a profit. Plus coin dealers often find themselves holding stock for long periods. Hence this may not be the best option for disposing of a portfolio in which you have invested your hard-earned savings.
But it may suit where you have a wide range of numismatic items which would take far too long to list and sell separately, especially where several countries are represented, and where they did not cost anything to buy.
We would recommend retail shops also for gold and silver bullion coins, where normal dealer margins do not apply. Prices of these precious metals are determined daily by international markets.
As always, try to get more than one offer.
Two. Coin fairs and markets
These are held regularly in all Australian capital cities and many regional centres. Details available online and via numismatic magazines.
These provide opportunities for both buying and selling. But also have traps for the unwary.
Debate has raged in several online numismatic forums around the world on the responsibility of dealers at coin fairs. Some claim it is the solemn duty of stall holders to advise all inquirers of fair buy and sell prices of any item and only to make reasonable buy offers. Others insist that coin fairs are the best place for hard-pressed dealers to buy valuable items at a tiny fraction of their real worth from unsuspecting victims. There is no consensus on this.
We recall a collector approaching dealers at a fair to sell an uncirculated penny which he had bought five years earlier for $100. One dealer said, “We will buy it for $20. There is no way that coin is uncirculated and no way it was ever worth $100. Whoever sold it to you ripped you off!”
The collector replied, “But I bought it from you.”
Three. Online dealers
Simply send an email to online dealers – such as us – either offering your items for sale at your asking price or inviting best offers. You will find a large list of dealers by googling whatever key words apply - ‘Australian pennies’, ‘gold sovereigns’ or whatever.
You will need to list the actual items for sale by country, date, condition and quantity. Info on grading is available on this site. If possible, include good quality scans of some or all items.
You can send as many emails as you like as it costs nothing for you to write or for dealers to reply. Many, like us, will have pro forma replies on file which do not take long to tweak and send back.
Reputable online dealers will usually offer you more than shops and fairs but less than some of the other options, following.
Four. Numismatic auction houses
You may choose to put your items up for auction with a numismatic auction house such as Downies in Melbourne, Nobles or Status in Sydney, Roxbury's Auction House or Colonial Coins and Medals in Brisbane. Commission charges vary, but are detailed online.
We recommend this for rare numismatic items such as brilliant uncirculated Australian pre-decimal coins and rare pre-decimal banknotes. Generally, these high-priced items are keenly sought after by dealers, investors and collectors who haunt the live auction houses.
There is no guarantee that any item will sell, but there is a good chance of achieving a return well above the likely offer from online dealers or shops, after commission.
Five. eBay auction
We recommend this for popular items such as Royal Australian Mint (RAM) issues and general collectables in the price range $5 to $250. eBay now has a huge following among coin and banknote collectors and investors. Dealers are active here also these days, both buying and selling.
This is fast, safe and almost always guarantees a prompt return.
Six. Fixed price online trading sites
Sites such as www.gumtree.com.au and www.tradingpost.com.au also have regular users seeking to buy and sell numismatic items. There are others. We recommend these where you are not in any hurry to sell and want to achieve a set price. This will be the case where you have purchased coins or banknotes at a certain cost and now wish to bank a capital gain.
An advantage here is that you are not strictly obliged to sell the item to those who reply to your ad, and you can adjust the asking price as required.
Seven. On consignment
Where you have established an ongoing relationship with a dealer, particularly where you have been a regular or repeat buyer, it may be possible to sell your coins or banknotes on consignment - that is, by leaving them with the dealer who will pay you when they are eventually sold. Usually both you and the dealer agree on the asking price. And usually a commission of between 5 and 20 per cent is payable to the dealer, although this is negotiable.
This may be possible with online dealers as well as shops. With online dealers, it is not necessary for the goods physically to change hands. But you will need to provide good quality images. See below.
Eight. Take to the bank or just spend
There is virtually no demand for Australian decimal coins or banknotes which are in less than strictly uncirculated condition. Exceptions are some of the early banknote signature combinations, such as Coombs Randall, or star notes, which may achieve a premium in lesser grades. But generally, circulated decimals can be spent.
Similarly, most pre-decimal copper pennies and halfpennies have very little value if they are well-used.
Should you find a stash of early decimal notes or coins, it is always well worth sorting through them to find any rare dates or uncirculated items. These are always worth storing carefully and will sell at a premium.
When to sell, when to keep
As with most areas of investment, the numismatic market is influenced by supply and demand. So there will be times when certain items will be keenly sought after and prices will move higher, and times of slackening demand and falling prices.
In our experience 2009 to 2012 have been years of very low demand for rare Australian pre-decimal banknotes but steady demand for high grade pre-decimal copper and silver. Gold has boomed from 2009 through to 2011, although has slipped back slightly in 2012.
Hence this is not a good time to sell rare early banknotes. Our advice is to keep these until the demand improves and, if possible, buy as opportunities present.
Many cheap items, such as souvenir coins or notes from travels abroad, are often best to keep just as family heirlooms or for kids to play with.
You will gain helpful information on supply and demand by chatting with dealers and other collectors, watching eBay and other auction results and by reading numismatic websites or magazines.
You will definitely need to provide good quality jpg images if you are selling anywhere online. So you will need access to a scanner or camera or both.
This applies to options 3, 5 and 6, above. With option 4, the auction houses will do this for you.
Again, when selling online you will need to include precise details of the coins you have. A “1989 coin set”, for example, could be RAM uncirculated coins, proof coins, gold nuggets or various other coins – just from Australia. So you must specify country of origin and all other relevant details.
Numismatic items must always be stored carefully to protect both the item and any original packaging. Royal Australian Mint or similar issues will always be much more valuable when kept in their original inner and outer packaging and with these completely clean and undamaged.
You may find further helpful info in our paper on valuing your collection - http://www.aussiecoins.com/Valuation.htm
Breaking up your collection
If you have a substantial portfolio, it may be best to sell some through eBay or an auction house and some online, then offer the rest to a coin dealer. We would recommend this where certain items are particularly valuable.
Cleaning your coins
Refer to our paper: http://www.aussiecoins.com/Cleaning.htm
You are welcome to contact
us for further information.
Written June 2010, updated January 2013