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How Do I Find the Value of Old Coins?

Many individuals often find themselves with a handful of old coins tucked away at home, perhaps gifted by an elder family member or friend. Occasionally, when an older relative passes away, they may leave behind a collection of coins accumulated over the years, even if not pursued as a hobby. However, unless you are well-versed in numismatics, it is easy to overlook the potential value within that assortment of pocket change.  So, how can you uncover the value of old coins? 

Commonly Found Collectible Coins 

This list of coins is commonly found in the U.S. If you inherited coins from someone who traveled, you may discover coins or currencies from other countries. The value of the coins will vary depending on mintage, condition, demand, and more. If you think you have found one of these coins, review the description to see if your coin matches. If so, you can research what the coin might be worth using our coin value guides. 

Morgan Silver Dollars 

Morgan Silver Dollars are iconic coins in American numismatic history. They were minted from 1878 to 1904 and then again in 1921. Named after their designer, George T. Morgan, these silver dollars are prized for their historical significance, beautiful design, and silver content. 

The obverse features a portrait of Lady Liberty, often referred to as the “Morgan” or “Liberty Head” design, while the reverse depicts an eagle with outstretched wings, clutching arrows, and an olive branch. 

Originally minted to stabilize the silver market, Morgan Dollars became popular collector’s items due to their large size, high silver content, and variety of mint marks and minting years. 

Today, Morgan Silver Dollars are highly sought after by collectors and investors. They are valued not only for their intrinsic silver worth but also for their historical and aesthetic appeal. 

Lincoln Cents 

Lincoln Cents, also known as Lincoln Penny Coins, are among the most widely recognized and collected coins in the United States. Introduced in 1909 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, they replaced the Indian Head cent. 

The obverse of the Lincoln Cent features a bust of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, designed by Victor David Brenner. This design is iconic and has remained essentially unchanged since its introduction, although minor modifications have occurred over the years. 

The reverse of the coin initially displayed two wheat ears framing the words “One Cent” and “United States of America.” This design, commonly called the “Wheat Cent,” was used from 1909 to 1958. 

In 1959, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth, the reverse design was updated to feature the Lincoln Memorial. This design, known as the “Lincoln Memorial Cent,” was used until 2008. 

In 2009, the United States Mint issued special commemorative designs for the Lincoln Cent to celebrate the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth. These designs highlighted different aspects of Lincoln’s life and legacy. 

Since 2010, the Lincoln Cent has featured a reverse design depicting the Union Shield, symbolizing Lincoln’s preservation of the United States during the Civil War. 

Lincoln Cents are popular among collectors due to their historical significance, enduring popularity, and the numerous varieties and errors that exist within the series, making them a fascinating area of numismatics. 

Buffalo Nickels 

Buffalo Nickels, officially known as the Indian Head Nickel, are a classic and beloved series of United States coins minted from 1913 to 1938. These nickels, designed by James Earle Fraser, feature a striking depiction of a Native American on the obverse and a majestic American buffalo, often mistakenly referred to as a buffalo, on the reverse. 

The obverse of the coin displays the profile of a Native American, believed to be a composite of Iron Tail, Two Moons, and Big Tree, with the word “Liberty” inscribed above. 

On the reverse, the iconic design features a powerful buffalo standing on a raised mound, with the inscriptions “United States of America,” “E Pluribus Unum,” and the denomination “Five Cents” surrounding the image. 

Buffalo Nickels are treasured by collectors for their intricate design, historical significance, and the challenges they present due to their relatively short production period and the wear and tear commonly found in circulated examples. 

One notable aspect of Buffalo Nickels is the variation in the design’s details and features over the years, including differences in the placement of the date and the presence or absence of the mound on which the buffalo stands. Additionally, certain dates and mintmarks are scarcer and command higher premiums among collectors. 

Overall, Buffalo Nickels hold a special place in American numismatic history and remain a popular choice for beginner and seasoned coin collectors. 

Mercury Dimes 

Mercury Dimes, also known as Winged Liberty Head Dimes, is a classic and highly collectible series of United States coins minted from 1916 to 1945. Designed by Adolph A. Weinman, these dimes feature a beautiful and symbolic portrayal of Liberty on the obverse and a fasces, symbolizing strength, and unity, on the reverse. 

Despite the common misconception, the figure on the obverse is not the Roman god Mercury but rather a representation of Liberty wearing a winged cap, symbolizing freedom of thought. This design led to the coin’s popular nickname, “Mercury Dime.” 

The obverse also features the inscription “In God We Trust” and the year of minting. At the same time, the reverse displays a fasces, an ancient Roman symbol of authority and unity, bound by an olive branch, symbolizing peace, and flanked by oak branches, symbolizing strength, and stability. The reverse also includes the denomination “ONE DIME.” 

Collectors highly regard Mercury Dimes for their exquisite design, historical significance, and relatively short production period. Variations in mint marks and minting years, along with the wear and condition of the coins, contribute to their collectibility. 

Among collectors, certain dates and mintmarks are more sought after and command higher premiums due to their rarity or historical significance. Overall, Mercury Dimes remain a favorite among numismatists and are a staple in many coin collections. 

Walking Liberty 

The Walking Liberty Half Dollar is one of the most iconic and beloved coins in American numismatic history. Designed by sculptor Adolph A. Weinman, this coin was minted from 1916 to 1947 and features a stunning portrayal of Liberty striding confidently toward the dawn of a new day on the obverse. 

The obverse design depicts Lady Liberty draped in the American flag, her right arm outstretched in front of her, symbolizing the promise of freedom and opportunity. In her left arm, she cradles branches of oak and laurel, representing strength and victory. The sun rises in the background, casting its rays upon the landscape. 

On the reverse, an eagle in flight over a mountainous landscape is depicted, with the inscriptions “United States of America,” “Half Dollar,” and “E Pluribus Unum” encircling the image. This reverse design symbolizes America’s strength and vitality. 

The Walking Liberty Half Dollar is cherished by collectors for its exquisite artistry, symbolic imagery, and historical significance. Its large size and impressive design make it a standout in any collection. 

Over the years, certain dates and mintmarks of the Walking Liberty Half Dollar have become particularly desirable among collectors, commanding higher premiums due to their scarcity or condition. Despite no longer being in circulation, the Walking Liberty Half Dollar remains a timeless symbol of American freedom and prosperity. 

Finding Your Coin’s Value 

Finding your coin’s value can be an exciting process. You can start by looking up your coin on the PCGS (Professional Coin Grading Service) website or reviewing the latest Red Book. We also maintain a coin value guide on our website. 

Here are some steps to help you determine a coin’s worth: 

  1. Identify Your Coin: Start by identifying your coin, including its denomination, year of minting, and any distinctive features or designs. This information will help you narrow down its value. 
  1. Check Coin Grading: Assess the condition of your coin using the coin grading scale, which ranges from Poor (P) to Mint State (MS). The better the condition of your coin, the higher its potential value. 
  1. Consult Price Guides: Utilize coin price guides, such as the Red Book or online resources, to estimate the value of your coin based on its type, year, mintmark, and condition. 
  1. Research Recent Sales: Look up recent sales of similar coins on online auction sites, coin dealer websites, or numismatic forums. This will give you a sense of the current market value and demand for your coin. 
  1. Visit a Coin Dealer: Consider visiting a reputable coin dealer or numismatist to get a professional appraisal of your coin. They can provide expert guidance and insights into its value based on market trends and demand. 
  1. Be Realistic: Keep in mind that the value of a coin can fluctuate based on market conditions, collector demand, and other factors. Be realistic in your expectations and remember that rarity, condition, and historical significance all play a role in determining value. 

Tips: It may seem counterintuitive, but do not clean old coins. Handle them with care, even if they are dirty. Cleaning them could cause them to lose value. Also, if they are packaged, keep them in their packaging. If you can find any paperwork like Certificates of Authenticity (COAs), save those too. 

By following these steps and conducting thorough research, you can better understand the value of your coin and make informed decisions about buying, selling, or collecting. 

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