By: Tim Stroud
If you are like me, you try and pay as little as possible for the coins you add to your collection. Here, I will share what I do when hunting for coins at bargain prices.
Although I have not had much luck finding coins at these types of venues, there is the off chance of hidden gems just waiting for you to come along and snatch them up. The best yard sales or garage sales are the ones that are multi-family organized or are being hosted as a fund raiser by a church or other organization. These types of sales will, at times, have Indian Head cents and Buffalo nickels but not much else. If you happen to see these types of coins, they are relatively cheap and you can get the whole lot for just a few dollars. Always ask if the person that owns these has any more old money they would like to part with, you may be surprised at what goodies that will lead to. You might also get leads to other people that have old coins lying around, collecting dust, that they would be happy to let go to a good home; and on rare occasions, at no cost!
Online Want/Sales sites
Sites such as Craig’s List are another avenue you can use to find coins to add to your collection at rock bottom prices. However, if you see a listing, you must act fast because you will be competing with people who scan these types of sites regularly, such as coin dealers and others looking to turn a profit. The other down side is that you just do not know what sorts of people you might be dealing with, so approach with caution.
Pawn shops almost always have coins in their inventory, but overpriced most of the time. Yet with a little due diligence a good deal can be found if you know what you are looking for. I find that most proprietors of pawn shops have zero knowledge of world coins and, if they have a large inventory of them, you can pick some really nice old coins with silver content for 25-50 cents each, if lady luck is with you. As for U.S. coinage, they tend price at Red Book or above, especially anything from the Carson City mint, even if it is common date and not very valuable.
Coin Shops/Coin Shows
If you are fortunate enough to have a good coin shop in your area, always check the shops bargain bins, a.k.a. Junk Bins. These can hold semi key and on the rare occasion, a key date coin that was missed by the owner or one of the store employees when they were dumped into the bin. Larger dealers are especially prone to this because they will buy in bulk lots and do not have the time to invest in searching the entire lot. The same goes for coin shows, but stick with the dealers here as well, the smaller ones with one or two tables usually do that as a side gig and will search through their inventory so as to make as much profit as possible.
Brick & Mortar Auction Houses
These are probably my least favorite of all places to try and acquire coins to add to my collection. First off, you have the people that think because it is old it is worth a mint, pun intended, and run the bids through the roof. Then you have those who have little knowledge of coins or their values, but because they have seen people bid a ragged $1 blue seal note past $15, that they can get in on the action and make a killing. They believe that all they have to do is win that heavily circulated 1921 Morgan dollar that the bid is at $60 and climbing, and they can sell it for a nice profit.
This is where things get interesting. You can either overpay, by being caught up in the moment and have the bids run up by a shill bidder then dropped on you, which by the way can happen at brick and mortar establishments as well; or you can grab a nice old coin for well under Grey Sheet if you put in a little effort. One way to do this is to use several apps that are available for download, most of the time for free, that will not only assist you in finding these undervalued coins, some will even do the bidding for you while you are reeling in that world record bass or waving your foam rubber finger around at the football game. I use two if these myself.
Auction Sieve is the first one, it is used to help sort through all the stuff I do not want to see, and to find items listed in the wrong categories that will not see much attention from most coin buyers. The other program is Bid-O-Matic, it will sign into the online auction site for you and download the items you are watching. When you open the program all your watched listings will be in order of time left and all you have to do is enter the amount you want to bid in the appropriate box. Bid-O-Matic will default to bid 20 seconds before the auction ends so you will want to change that to a lower number. I go with 2 seconds before the auction ends, this does not allow for a counter bid or a shill bid that might be intended to run me up. To be really successful here, you have to be placing bids on a lot of auctions or your max bid has to be near the coins actual value, which would go against the whole purpose of you reading this in the first place. I never bid without good clear photos that allow me to determine an approximate grade and value. After I have determined a ballpark value, I enter a bid of around 50% lower than that. My success rate is around 25%-30%, but worth it in the long run.
Banks & Convenience Stores
These two places are the best venues to acquire collectable coins at face value. Rolls can be purchased at banks and searched for errors, die verities, and silver. Always be open and ask for anything out of the ordinary, such as large dollars, or whatever else you may be looking for. I have actually gotten Morgan dollars at face value just by asking for large dollars at banks. Convenience stores are always a good source for getting half dollars, sometimes silver, and other goodies such as obsolete bank notes. The convenience stores in the seedier parts of the city are best, but beware when venturing into these areas, remember that safety is still your number one priority.