Guide to Rare Coins
Customers often call and tell us they have coins they’d like to sell, and they “have no idea what they’re worth”. At Nashville Coin Gallery, we can help with that!
Here are some tips to help you sort your coins before you bring them in for us to buy — using these tips and sorting your coins accordingly will help the transaction go much more smoothly and efficiently, saving time for everyone. First though, before we get into the sorting tips, let’s establish a few rules and clear up a few common misconceptions:
RULE NUMBER ONE: NEVER (Did I say NEVER?) NEVER, EVER, EVER try to clean a coin, no matter how dirty or ugly it looks — leave it alone! Here’s why that’s so important — if you inherited a chest of drawers that came out of George Washington’s White House, and it was dirty and scuffed up, would you strip it and paint it yellow? I certainly hope not!! You’d destroy much of the value if you did that, because it wouldn’t be original any more. It’s no different with coins. Several years ago, a young lady brought a VERY rare coin into our store and wanted to sell it. It was quite valuable, but it had been scrubbed with a Brillo pad — so it was nice and shiny — but it was badly damaged from all of the fine scratches from the scrubbing. I still ended up paying her almost $6,000 for it, but I had to tell her that if the coin hadn’t been scrubbed, it would have been worth literally $26,000!! Most coins won’t be affected to that degree by cleaning, because most coins don’t start off being worth $26,000, but you get the idea — never clean a coin, “just in case”!
RULE NUMBER TWO: Just about everything is common. That’s right, just about everything is common. If you think about it, that’s what makes rare stuff rare — the definition of “rare” is… “most things aren’t”. Just because you don’t see Buffalo nickels in your pocket change every day, that doesn’t make them rare — every coin dealer in the country probably has tons of them. However, that being said, for most of the older types of coins, there are usually at least a few “key dates”, while all the rest will be common dates for that type of coin.
RULE NUMBER THREE: Age does NOT make something rare or valuable! If that were true, rocks and trees would be worth a fortune, and we’d all be rich. However, while that’s generally a true statement, there’s always an exception — if a coin is extremely old, even if it’s a common date for the kind of coin that it is, the value can rise significantly if it’s in mint or near-mint condition. For example, an 1844 Large Cent isn’t rare — 1844 is a common date for Large Cents. But if you have one in mint condition, it’ll be worth a pretty good bit — not because of the date, since it’s common, but because of the condition. This would be an example of what we call “condition rarity”, where the coin itself isn’t rare, but it’s scarce in that condition. Just remember that for most coins, especially the more modern stuff, they’ll still be very common even in brand new, mint condition.
Ok, now let’s have some fun!
These suggestions are for United States coins only — please keep all foreign coins separate from the US coins.
Please separate any Half Cents, Large Cents, Flying Eagle or Indian Head pennies from the Lincoln pennies. Once all Flying Eagles and Indians are together, pull all Indians dated 1880 or later out and put them in a separate bag, since they’re usually not worth as much as the pennies dated before 1880. The exception is if they’re in mint or near-mint condition, or if they’re dated 1908 or 1909 AND have a San Francisco “S” mint mark on the reverse. I can check for that when you bring them in though, so just separating them using the 1879 cutoff will be helpful.
Please separate by type —
Liberty, or “V” Nickels: The three “key” dates here are 1885, 1886 and 1912-S (all Liberty Nickels were struck in Philadelphia except in 1912, when they were also struck in Denver and San Francisco. None of the Philadelphia coins were struck wtih a mint mark, but the Denver and San Francisco coins will have a “D” or “S” mint mark on the reverse. The placement of the mint mark is below the dot to the left of the word CENTS, between the dot and the rim of the coin). A few other dates of Liberty Nickel are woth a decent amount if they’re in good enough condition, such as 1888 and 1894, but the 1885, 1886 and 1912-S are special dates in any condition, as long as they’re not damaged and are easily identifiable.
Buffalo Nickels and Jefferson Nickels: For the Jeffersons, the only dates we can use (in most cases) are the 1950-D (the “D” mint mark, if it’s there, will be on the reverse, to the right of Monticello) and any “War” nickels. “War” nickels contain about 35% silver, and they will have a large “P”, “D” or “S” directly above the dome of Monticello. These “War” nickels will only be dated 1942 thru 1945, although only some of the 1942 nickels contain silver (only those with the large mint mark above the dome). This is because the US Mint changed the composition of nickels to contain 35% silver part-way through the year in 1942, so not all 1942 nickels contain silver, but all 1943 thru 1945 nickels do. Please separate any “War” nickels from any 1950-D nickels.
The first rule with United States dimes is that ANY dime dated 1964 or earlier is a good dime! Up through (and including) 1964, United States dimes were made from 90% silver and 10% copper, so they’re worth at least their silver value.
If you have any dimes dated BEFORE 1892, please separate those coins. Dimes dated 1892 thru 1964 can all go in one bag together, even if they’re different designs, unless you have any of the dates listed below. If you do, please separate those as well, as they’ll be worth more than the common dates:
Barber Dimes: 1892-S, 1893-O, 1894, 1894-O, ANY Barber Dime dated 1895 or 1896, 1897-O, 1897-S, 1901-S, 1903-S, 1904-S and 1913-S. The mint mark, if one is present, will be on the reverse of the coin, in the space between the two ribbon ends. Please note that there could be other early dates worth extra money if they are in mint or near-mint condition.
Mercury Dimes: The “king” of Mercury Dimes is the 1916-D, which is usually worth at least a couple hundred dollars, even if very worn, as long as there is no question that it’s a genuine 1916-D. If there’s a mint mark present, it will be on the reverse of the coin, between the “E” in “ONE” and the branch stem. Other good dates for Mercury Dimes are 1921 and 1921-D, which are worth far less than the 1916-D, but still a bit more than a common date. As is the case with most older coins, there are also other dates that can potentially be worth significantly more if they’re in mint or near-mint condition with no problems.
More information coming soon – please check back often!
And remember that we buy a wide variety of precious metals products, including generic gold bars and coins, American Gold Eagles, Canadian Gold Maple Leafs, American Gold Buffalos, British Gold Sovereigns, Chinese Gold Pandas, Austrian Gold Ducats, Mexican Gold Pesos, Pre-1933 United States gold coinage, generic silver bars and rounds, Engelhard and Johnson Matthey silver bars, American Silver Eagles, Canadian Silver Maple Leafs, Silver Austrian Philharmonics, pre-1965 90% “junk” silver coins, Morgan silver dollars, Peace silver dollars, 40% silver half dollars, platinum coins and bars, palladium coins and bars, gold jewelry, sterling silver, rare paper money and much more.
Thanks for visiting Nashville Coin Gallery! We appreciate your business, and look forward to working with you!