Dr. Sol Taylor

How to List a Coin Inventory

By Dr. Sol Taylor
"Making Cents"
Saturday, June 21, 2008

recently received a spiral-bound volume of 198 pages of coins and medals and stamps of the estate of an old friend. His sons had no doubt spent many hours assembling this tome and identifying virtually every single item in the hoard. It would be hard to call this a "collection" — except in the loosest of terms.
    The advice for any estate is to use these descriptions to better solidify the collection and determine a fair market value.
    As a dealer, I would be hard-pressed to mentally reorganize what basically was very disorganized.
    For example, if the collection consists of many rolls of uncirculated coins, assemble them in some order, such as denomination and date. Do not list rolls of coins on every other page of the inventory. List all the rolls of uncirculated coins by denominations — cents through half dollars or silver dollars. If the rolls are circulated coins, do the same — but not mixed in with the uncirculated rolls.
    If the date and mintmark do not appear on the outside of each roll, examine the contents and mark each roll — paper tube or plastic tube — with the date and mintmark. An example would be: "1955-S Cents, Uncirculated" or "1955 Half Dollars, Uncirculated."
    If there are proof sets, just list them by date. It is not necessary to also include the kind of holder — unless it is not a Mint-issued holder.
    For foreign coins, if they are not silver or gold, it is hardly worth the effort to do more than list them as "123 French coins, minor denominations," or "123 Mexican copper and other base metal coins."
    For foreign silver coins, list them by denomination and date: "Mexican 1948 5-Peso Silver," "Netherlands 1953 2½ guilders," etc. It is not necessary to include the name of the ruler on the coin or the eagle or other icons on the coin.
    For gold coins, list each coin by denomination and date and mintmark, if any. Keep coins of the same country together in the list, preferably alphabetically.
    For some gold coins such as British sovereigns, it may be necessary to get help, since some are from Canada, South Africa, Australia, and India. The mintmark makes a significant difference. List them by date. The value of the coin is not on the coin; a sovereign is about the size of nickel, and a half sovereign is about the size of a penny.
    Do not spend any time listing single coins unless they are in special holders or auction flips indicating special value.
    Loose foreign non-silver coins from various overseas trips many years ago generally have little or no value.
    For U.S. gold coins, all that is needed is the date, denomination and mintmark. Unless the coin is in a holder marked with the grade, let the buyer or appraiser determine the grade. It is not necessary to describe the features of the coin such as "eagle on the reverse."
    Circulated silver coins dated 1964 and earlier are referred to as "junk" silver and are worth multiples of face value based on the daily spot price of silver. Recently that has been about 10 times face value.
    Kennedy halves dated 1965-1969 are 40-percent silver and have a market value based on their silver content, which recently was about three times face value. Kennedy halves from 1971 to date basically have no premium. They can be lumped together and spent at the supermarket or deposited in the bank. The same is true for Eisenhower dollars (except for the silver issues).
    Fair market value for purchase can be better determined if the coins are well organized. If the collection is to be insured or made part of an estate, a written evaluation can be provided by any licensed coin dealer — not an estate appraiser.
    Selling an estate of this size or larger requires time, effort and expertise. Sellers must have a fair value in mind, not a catalog value. In fact, listing the catalog value along with the coins (and stamps) is a waste of effort for the most part (especially with stamps).
    In this estate above, several pages of U.S. plate blocks were listed with their face value and catalog value. Stamp dealers typically buy such accumulations at 20 percent below face value; the catalog value is irrelevant. I use such stamps for postage — although it often requires three or more stamps to equal 42 cents.
    A well-organized inventory is essential to get the best value on liquidation of an estate. The time spent getting it organized will be well rewarded.