Coin Price Guides

1900 Morgan silver dollar graded MS-64 by NGC, priced at the time of this writing at $40 to $55 by Heritage Price Guide, $42 to $60 by Teletrade's USA Coin Price Guide, $60 by PCGS Price Guide, $61.50 by Coins' Coin Value Guide, and $65 by Coin World's Coin Values

IN A NUTSHELL: Price guides are just that -- guides. Some are mostly accurate approximations of actual coins prices, while others appear to have as one of their goals helping dealers sell coins at attractive prices.

 

How much a coin is worth is crucial information. It affects what you're willing to pay for a coin, what you're willing to sell it for, and how you look at and appreciate coins in general.

There's lots of information about coin prices out there, online and off. Some coin price guides are more accurate than others. No single guide is foolproof. All guides are approximations of market values and actual coin prices. That's why, if you really want to know the market, you should also see what coins are actually selling for. Options include eBay and various auction houses, such as Heritage, Teletrade, Bowers and Merena, Stacks, and Classical Numismatic Group (for ancient coins), not to mention local and national coin shows and local coin shops.

Here's a rundown of the most commonly used coin price guides for U.S., world, and ancient coins.

Red Book

Officially titled A Guide to United States Coins, the Red Book is a comprehensive book of U.S. retail coin prices with a list price of $12.95 and is available at most coin shops. It's a good book to have, but more for background information about coins than for pricing. By the time the book is out, some of the pricing information in it is dated. Also, prices are included for far too few uncirculated grades.

The Blue Book, officially titled A Handbook of United States Coins, is a similar, though smaller, book that includes wholesale coin prices -- the prices that dealers typically pay for coins.

U.S. Coin Digest

This is a new coin price guide from Krause Publications (publisher of Coins Magazine, Numismatic News, and other periodicals), with a list price of $11.95. It's much like the Red Book, but it includes coin pricing for more grades. With Morgan dollars, for example, the Red Book has prices for only six grades, while U.S. Coin Digest has prices for eleven grades (but it still ignores pricing for VF-30 grades). U.S. Coin Digest also includes a bit more background information about coins in general than the Red Book.

Greysheet

Officially called the Coin Dealer Newsletter, this is a pricey subscription periodical, costing $98 per year (you can buy the current issue for $4). It's the most commonly used price guide by dealers in setting their own prices, and though it contains wholesale prices, it's a good choice for savvy collectors too. The prices are based on coins graded according to industry standards "as exemplified by PCGS and NGC," though pricing for properly graded raw coins is considered too in the compilation of its figures.

Greysheet "bid" is the amount that dealers are typically willing to pay other dealers for a coin. Greysheet "ask" is the price dealers typically ask other dealers for a coin, which is higher. For collectors, one rule of thumb is to add 25 to 75 percent to Greysheet bid when you're buying and to subtract 10 to 40 percent from bid when selling.

The Bluesheet, officially called the Certified Coin Dealer Newsletter, includes bid prices for "sight-unseen" slabbed coins. These prices are lower than prices in the Greysheet.

The Greysheet's biggest weakness is that it ignores the current state of the grading services. It ranks some of the services in terms of how the market values coins in their slabs. But it fails to rank SEGS, ACG, and NTC, three grading services that have a significant market presence. And it ranks two grading service with virtually no market presence, INS (International Numismatic Society Authentication Bureau), which folded around 1992, and NCI (Numismatic Certification Institute), which folded around 1988. Whether deserved or not, this creates an aura of unreliability over all of its data.

Coin World's Coin Values

Formerly known as Trends, Coin Values is part of Coin World, another subscription periodical, costing $41.95 per year. You can also subscribe to an online version for the same price (you receive the information sooner), or a print and online version for $53.95 per year. Coin Values is also a stand-alone newsstand magazine available for $36.95 per year. Unlike the Greysheet, Coin Values provides retail pricing, and it's the most commonly used price guide for this purpose.

Coin Values generally does a good job, but like all price guides, it can sometimes be inconsistent, with the prices for some series above actual market prices and the prices for other series below. Coin World itself can be a good way to keep up with developments in numismatics and is a good read, as is Coin Values, the magazine.

Heritage's Value Index

You have to register to access this information, but registration is free. The prices are based on wholesale and auction transactions for PCGS and NGC certified coins, which encompasses not only Heritage auctions but other observations of the marketplace.

Impressively, pricing is given for a wide range of grades and include a range rather than a single value. With Morgan dollars, for instance, prices are included for forty different grades: P-1, FR-2, AG-3, G-4, G-6, VG-8, VG-10, F-12, F-15, VF-20, VF-25, VF-30, VF-35, XF-40, XF-45, AU-50, AU-53, AU-55, AU-58, MS-60, MS-61, MS-62, MS-63, MS-64, MS-65, MS-66, MS-67, MS-68, MS-69, MS-70, PR-61, PR-62, PR-63, PR-64, PR-65, PR-66, PR-67, PR-68, PR-69, and PR-70.

You can also use the site to search for individual auction results.

Teletrade USA Coin Price Guide

As with Heritage's Value Index, free registration provides access to this information. The prices are based on Teletrade's own auctions. Unlike Heritage's Value Index and the other price guides, the information here isn't presented in an easy-to-use grid. You search for prices realized in past auctions of coins based on parameters of your choosing, such as denomination, year, mint, grade, and slab.

Teletrade Non-USA Coin Price Guide provides pricing information for world coins, from Afghanistan to Yugoslavia.

PCGS Price Guide

Some people feel that the prices in this free online price guide are higher than in some of the printed price guides. The editor of Coin World, which has its own printed price guide and is thus a competitor, called the online price guides "dealer price sheets" in a column in the Numismatist, meaning that their prices are those that dealers would like to obtain for their coins rather than reflections of actual market prices. PCGS Price Guide can be useful, but one piece of advice that has been offered is to subtract about 25 percent to arrive at true retail prices, depending on the series.

Numismedia Price Guide

This online service is similar to PCGS Price Guide, and its prices are also said to be higher than in some of the printed price guides. But beginning in February 2003, the service began charging a subscription fee to see pricing for grades above MS-60 -- $96/year, with other subscription plans available. Compared to PCGS Price Guide, pricing is given for more grades. With Morgan dollars, for instance, while PCGS Price Guide provides grades for ten grades, Numismedia does so for twenty.

Numismatic News, Coins Magazine, Coin Prices

The price guides in these Krause Publications periodicals suffer mainly from lack of use compared with other more commonly used and quoted price guides. A subscription to Numismatic News (weekly) is $32 per year, Coins Magazine (monthly newsstand magazine) is $25.98 per year, Coin Prices (bimonthly) is $18.98 per year. Numismatic News and Coins Magazine both include articles and lots of other useful information.

COINage

This price guide has the same limitation as those in Krause Publications periodicals. An introductory subscription is $11.88 per year. COINage is a good read for the articles and columns.

Standard Catalog of World Coins

Krause Publications also publishes this guide, which is 2,304 pages and lists for $52.95. The book covers the period from 1901 to the present. Related Krause books include Standard Catalog of World Coins, 19th Century, 1801-1900; Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1701-1800; and Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1601-1700. Despite their size, these books provide overviews rather than all-inclusive lists of world coins.

Wildwinds

This free online service provides auction results for ancient coins, primarily from eBay. Included are Greek, Roman, Celtic, and Byzantine coins. Attributions are included too, but they're only as trustworthy as the sellers offering them.

Acsearch.info

This is another free online service that provides auction results for ancient coins, but in this case primarily from European auctions, which are typically for higher-end coins than those auctioned through eBay.

 

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© 2014 Reid Goldsborough

Note: Any of the items illustrated on these pages that are in my possession are stored off site.