Your search for coins will likely bring you to buying them from a coin dealer. A coin dealer buys and sells coins, and is prime source of old and rare coins. Most coin dealers are friendly, knowledgeable, and easy to work with. Though coin dealers mainly sell and purchase coins, they are usually just as share information and answer your numismatic questions.
Coin dealers work in a variety of coin realms. They vary from the part-time dealer who sells modern coins through a mail-order advertisement in a magazine or on the internet, to the large firms consisting of many veteran coin dealers that buy and sell thousands of dollars of coins every single day. Just as well, different dealers work with different types of coins. Some dealers primarily buy or sell ancient coins. Others focus primarily on silver and gold coins purchased and sold by investors. There are many other dealers who deal with low- to-moderately priced United States and “common” foreign coins from major countries. There are also some dealers who focus buying and selling error coins and other numismatic novelties.
You should be able to easily locate a coin dealer near you. Your phone book or online telephone directory generally lists coin dealers under the heading of “coins” or “coin dealers.” There are also many reputable coin dealers who offer their services over the internet as well as through the mail.
Coin Buyer’s Etiquette
When shopping for coins at a coin dealer, it is best to display some behavioral decorum. Understandably, coin dealers may get a little nervous when a customer is handling a coin. If this is your first trip to a coin dealer, there are some basic etiquette rules of which you should be aware.
First, when inspecting coins to purchase, be sure that you handle the coins properly. Most dealers’ coins are protected inside of small, clear envelopes or mounted inside of two-inch-square cardboard sandwiches (these cardboard sandwich holders have a small, circular, cellophane window through which prospective buyers can view the coin inside). Be sure to hold any and all of the dealer’s coin you inspect over a soft pad; most dealers provide pads for customers looking at coins. Even with the protection a soft pad may guarantee, it is important to avoid dropping a coin. This is an important rule for any coin that you handle because if a coin is dropped, it will surely suffer some degree of damage.
When looking at coins, be very cautious of the many glass display cases normally found in a coin dealer’s store. Do not lean very heavily upon these cases, for they can easily become marred, scratched, or even broken. Take a seat on one of the many stools dealers often provide for their customers and be careful as to how much you rely upon the nearby display case for physical support. Always move carefully around coins, and be sure that you move slowly when picking up, putting down, or holding a coin.
Again—never drop coins!
Before Buying or Selling Coins
Along with knowing the average prices that you should expect to pay for a coin, it is also wise to know how to properly evaluate and grade a coin yourself. A coin’s grade refers to how much wear a coin has, and a coin’s price often directly correlates to its grade. Coin grading will be explained in more detail later in this series. Before you shop at a coin dealer, be sure to purchase a copy of the latest edition of a coin price guide. These guides will display the average price of certain coins. There are price guides designed for those who purchase coins from a dealer, and guides that inform you as to how much you may get for a coin if you sell it to a dealer. This way, you should know about what to expect when buying or selling a coin. However, remember that these guides are merely an implication as to a conventional, average price for coins–these guides are not meant to represent the exact amount you can expect to pay or receive when buying or selling coins.
Whatever you do, don’t engage in a protracted dispute with a dealer because his price does not agree with the guide’s value. Most often, coins that are in premium quality (above the average condition for a said coin) deserve to be priced higher than their average counterparts (whose values usually are the ones displayed in price guides). If you do not think a dealer is offering a coin for a price you think is fair, then perhaps suggest a slight price discount. If this does not work, simply find a kind, polite way to leave the coin dealer and shop for the coin elsewhere.
This series will proceed onward to outlining some measures collectors must take for safe handling of coins and issues regarding coin cleaning in Coin Collecting: A Guide For Beginners Part VI.