An International Pursuit to Learn Collection’s Value

Question: During her lifetime, my mother amassed a small collection of coins. Many of them are from foreign countries, including France, Germany, Cuba, Ghana, Canada, some of the Scandinavian countries as well as the United Kingdom. What is the best way to determine their value?

There are also American coins, pennies and nickels. The oldest coin is an 1876 French franc, followed by an American nickel dated 1893, and then a 1907 Indian head penny from the United States. There is also a sales tax token from Kansas and a 1915 Cuban viente centavo.

I have no idea of their value or the value of the rest of the coins. Will you advise me on how to proceed?--S.M.

Answer: It’s a good idea to have a general idea of what your coins are worth before you try to sell them. You can make a major project out of this or treat it rather casually, depending upon your dedication. Practically, however, you can do a little research and satisfy your curiosity and get an approximation, but only a hands-on inspection by a professional numismatist will give you an accurate evaluation.


To begin, there are several price guides available. For foreign coins, there’s the “Standard Catalogue of World Coins” by Krause and Mishler and/or the Simon & Schuster “World Coin Catalogue” by Gunter Schon. For American coins, there’s “A Guide Book of United States Coins” by R. S. Yeoman plus numerous pocket-type guides.

Because condition is a key element in pricing coins, you will have to determine whether the coins are circulated or uncirculated. The less wear, the greater the value. After you’ve priced your coins, you’re liable to discover that they’re worth considerably less than you’d anticipated. The 1893 nickel, for example, is one of more than 13 million minted that year. It catalogues for $3.50 in good condition (a very low grade), but you’d be hard-pressed to get $1 from a dealer.

Which is the next step: finding a dealer who will purchase your coins. Don’t sell until you are satisfied you have received a fair offer. Check with more than one dealer; opinions and prices can vary widely.

Coin News


A new theme design featuring kangaroos will appear on the 1989 proof Australian Nugget legal tender gold coins. The design (pictured) will replace the three-year proof issue depicting 12 Australian gold nugget discoveries. Only 8,000 full sets will be minted with five coins in each set: a 1 ounce, half ounce, quarter ounce, 1/10th ounce and 1/20th ounce. This is the first time a 1/20th-ounce piece will be issued. For information, write to GoldCorp Australia, P.O. Box 711, Cooperstown, N.Y. 13326.

The Collection of Nelson Page Aspen is featured in the five-session sale Aug. 9-12 in conjunction with the American Numismatic Assn. Convention at the Vista International Hotel in Pittsburgh, Pa. More than 4,600 lots are featured, including a rare proof 1839 Gobrecht dollar. Catalogues are $15 from Auctions by Bowers & Merena, Box 1224, Wolfeboro, N.H. 03894; telephone (603) 569-5095.

More than 3,000 coins are featured in a mail bid sale closing Aug. 23 featuring selections from the Amon G. Carter Jr. collection and from a Long Island collection of foreign coins. Catalogues for the Ancient and Modern Coins of the World and the United States sale are available from Coin Galleries, a division of Stack’s, 123 W. 57th St., New York, N.Y. 10019; telephone (212) 582-5955.

Coin Update


The recent column that mentioned the 1989 no-mint mark quarter drew a negative response from Dennis Baker, editor of the Coin Dealer Newsletter, the respected numismatic pricing journal. Baker says contrary to other numismatic publications, which claim the error coin is worth about $3, some dealers are actually offering about $60 for the 25-cent piece. True values of course ultimately are settled in the marketplace. Still, the Coin Dealer Newsletter is the guide used by most dealers to determine day-to-day pricing. It is published weekly, $89 for a one-year subscription, from Coin Dealer Newsletter, P.O. Box 11099, Torrance, Calif. 90510.

Alpert cannot answer mail personally but will respond to numismatic questions of general interest in this column. Do not telephone. Write to Your Coins, You section, The Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053.