Coins - Some Factors Determining Coin Value

There are a host of factors that influence the market value of a collectible coin. Some of those are inherent to the coin like condition, age, number minted and errors. Other factors are purely market forces, which can be changed by mass psychology, non-coin related economic factors and dozens other causes.

Collectors have no control over large scale factors, such as current general economic well-being. But when considering an acquisition or sale, there are still many aspects that a trader can and should look at.

Coin grade is the first and most obvious of those factors. Even before seeking out one of the professional grading services available today (Professional Coin Grading Service – PGCS, Numismatic Guaranty Corporation – NGC), there are determinations collectors can make for themselves. A visual inspection will allow one to categorize the coin into Mint, Flawless, Good, etc. Catalogs can help make that determination, too.

History is an important factor in the worth of a coin. Though it's far from an ironclad rule, a 1860 dollar produced during the Civil War will generally be worth more than a 1960 dollar, simply because of the age. But age is only one obvious factor of history. Ownership history, wear, mint location and others contribute.

Rarity is important, of course. That factor isn't inherent in the coin itself, but is a relative quality - the coin has inherent properties apart from how many others were produced or exist in a given condition. Nevertheless, in general, the fewer of a certain type produced the more likely a coin is to be worth more than normal.

Coins produced at the San Francisico or Denver mints tend to be more rare, since Philadephia produced many more than any other for decades. Look for the 'd' for Denver, 'cc' for Carson City (Nevada), 's' for San Francisco or no mark (Philadelphia).

Rarity can be influenced by another inherent factor, though. If a coin was struck in some fashion that produced one of various kinds of errors, it can be more rare as a result. Colonial coins with planchet flaws or weakly struck designs are an example. Coins that have lint marks, in which foreign material came between the planchet and the die, can influence the value.

So-called 'errors' of that sort, along with others such as file marks, double-strikes, etc, can increase the value of a coin simply because they don't happen often. Hence, the coin in question is different, and therefore more rare, than its cousins minted at the same time.

A damaged condition (Good rather than Mint, say) generally lessens value. But in the case of errors, it may be higher. This is a different situation from those that simply have common defects, such as nicks, wear or others. That can be produced by bag damage (defects produced by coins rubbing together in carrying bags), use in machines and simple human handling over decades.

Market psychology is an important factor in economic value, too, though. Fads come and go, as with any collectible. Paintings are notoriously fickle in monetary value, for example. Coins suffer a similar fate. Those market factors are not under the collectors control. The best one can do is simply try to guess as well as possible about future conditions.

Still, carefully investigating the inherent properties of a coin and researching its history represent the 'first cut' for determining its value.



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