Coins are unique amongst collectibles due to them already having spendable value. To wit, a “coin collection” made up of a lifetime’s pocket change is worth at least face value. But what makes a particular coin worth more than the number stamped on it? Let your pals at Back to the Past tell you!
Silver and Gold Content Makes Coins Worth Money
American quarters and dimes used to be made entirely of 90% silver. Unfortunately, rising silver prices in the 50s & 60s lead to coin shortages as folks hoarded them for their melt value (I.E, the price of the metal). In response, the Coinage Act of 1965 removed precious metals from most common American coins. Today, “silver” coins are colored with nickel and “gold” coins with brass. This means that older coins have value above face for their precious metal content alone!
A pre-1965 quarter contains roughly 0.18 troy oz of silver. It is therefore worth 18% of the going troy oz price of silver. The price of silver has risen sharply since 2020, often hovering in the $25/troy oz range. That means a pre-1965 quarter is worth around $4.50 in melt value alone (and likely to continue upward as soon as we press “post”). While a single silver coin is not likely to secure your retirement based on melt value, a collection of them can add up to a nice payday. Gold coins, even more so.
Rarity Makes Coins Worth Money
Coins are, by their nature, produced in unfathomable quantities. The treasury minted 13.6 BILLION more coins last year. This means any kind of coin struck in smaller quantities has at least a chance of attaining collectible value. Small differences – such as being minted at facility that struck fewer coins, being struck before a minor design revision, even errors in the minting process such as a double die-strike – set a coin apart from the pack and confer collectible value.
The best, and most extreme, example of this phenomenon is the 1913 Liberty Head Nickel. In 1913, the official U.S five-cent piece was carrying a buffalo design. When five 1913 nickels carrying the outdated liberty design debuted on the numismatics circuit in 1919, they rightfully made a splash. It is believed that their original owner – an ex-mint employee – struck them himself and sat on them until he could plausibly deny it. Regardless of their origins, the five nickels immediately became highly sought after specimens. They have rest in the hands of either wealthy collectors or museums to this day, ranking among the most valuable collectible coins on Earth.
Any Number of Factors Can Make Coins Worth Money
Numismatics is one of the oldest fields of collecting in modern society. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that Caesar Augustus practiced the hobby when he ruled Rome. Humanity has been minting coinage for most of its history, with coins being in use in almost every country to have ever existed. While the factors above are the most common reasons for a coin to be valuable, the reality is that there are dozens of ways for a coin to achieve collectible value.
Which is why the disposition of a coin collection is best handled by the experts. One small mint mark can mean the difference between face value and hundreds of dollars. Unless you’re a numismatist yourself and willing to enter the wild world of evaluating, we recommend calling Back to the Past when you’re ready to sell a coin collection.
If you’ve got a question about this article, or anything related to collectibles, you can always reach us on social media @b2pcollect!