Coins have (and continue to be) an easy-to-use and effective means of monetary exchange for thousands of years. Indeed, the first human coins appeared in the 7th century BCE as the Lydians’ electrum coins.
These days, old coins are more than a relic of the past. They are highly valuable, to the point where you may need expert coin appraisers to determine their worth. How do you know, though, if that coin appraiser didn’t just pull the wool over your eyes?
It’s hard to find an honest coin dealer, just like finding an honest politician. So if you plan on selling coins, read on as we discuss how to avoid a rip-off coin dealer.
Red Flags for Coin Appraisers
Scams are on the rise when it comes to the sale of precious metals. Like most scammers, an unscrupulous coin dealer preys on the ignorant and the desperate. If you can identify the following signs, you may want to reconsider their offer.
They Know All the Coins
Collecting golden silver coins requires years and years of expertise. It’s a job that’s part historian, part researcher, and part economist. Each and every coin ever made has a complex history and a plethora of factors affecting its value.
For this reason, many coin appraisers specialize in a certain year, metal, or edition. This means many coins require specialized, esoteric knowledge that doesn’t always overlap with the rest of the discipline. Avoid coin dealers that style themselves as a jack of all trades for coins.
In some cases, you may have an honest coin dealer with limited experience. They fail to realize that their expertise doesn’t apply when grading your coin. Deceptive or not, look elsewhere for appraisal.
They Aren’t PNG/ANA Members
Numismatics (the study of coins), like most specialties, has members-only organizations. The two big names in numismatics are the PNG (Professional Numismatists Guild) and the ANA (American Numismatists Association). It logically follows that experts in numismatics would be members.
So, ask the appraiser if they have a guild or association membership. Even better, ask them if they have both. This is a surefire sign that they are trustworthy and know their chops.
Not being a member of the PNG or ANA is not a bad sign, per se. Then again, it’s not likely that you would trust a doctor who studied medicine and never got their license. In the same vein, don’t give deference to a non-member of these illustrious organizations.
The Prices Are Off
The easiest way to tell if someone is trying to pull a fast one on you is by the prices themselves. In particular, if an appraiser tries to lowball you. The promise of some money, rather than none, causes many to ignore their gut feeling and use their heart over their head.
Coins are often worth more than their value in gold and silver. So suppose something is wonky with the price. The appraiser tells you it’s worth less than the metal itself.
That right there is a red flag, barring all else. The price should fall in line with similar coins of a similar year, metal, manufacturing location, and so on. Use price averages as a tool to determine whether an appraiser is trying to get your coins for cheap.
They Use High-Pressure Sales Techniques
High-pressure sales techniques are emotionally manipulative tactics salespeople will employ. There’s no doubt that you have seen them in many places before. These are the one-time, limited-time offers or anything that puts you under pressure to cough up.
An appraiser may give you an offer and then put you into a vise, so to speak. They turn up the heat and make you feel like you need to sell now. They’ll give the impression that you won’t get another chance, not even with another salesperson.
These tactics are not only unethical, they are sometimes even illegal. Gold coins don’t fluctuate much in price from day to day or even month to month. Disregard any appraiser who gives the impression that your coins will lose half their value come tomorrow.
They Can’t Identify Counterfeits
Counterfeits are a problem in every collection specialty, including selling coins. Counterfeiters get better year after year at replicating high-value coins. Fakes of this caliber have succeeded in bamboozling the best of the best.
However, it’s easy to identify counterfeits when it comes to most coins. It’s again a matter of skill and expertise. People who have worked in the industry for a long time know the tells of a fake coin.
This isn’t to say that your coin appraiser is a fraud because they have fallen for counterfeits in the past. Rather, they should have the know-how to delineate the obvious fakes from the rest. Ask them for their methodology to identify a counterfeit coin and compare it to other appraisers.
They Give No Recourse
Coin appraisers (especially PNG or ANA members) agree to be held accountable for their actions. That means that if they give you a bad estimate, they are liable to go through arbitration. You can dispute the sale or sue them if you feel something was incorrect or deceptive.
A questionable dealer will give you no recourse whatsoever. They’ll deploy the age-old “no refunds” trick. Just as you wouldn’t visit a doctor lacking malpractice recourse, don’t visit a similar coin appraiser.
Green Flags for Coin Appraisers
Alas, not all coin appraisers are out to get you. Many are full-fledged members of the community who love a good coin. Here are a few green flags that tell you that you’re dealing with an honest chap.
They Have Reputation
As you can imagine, the coin-collecting world is a small one. Everyone knows everyone else. If your appraiser is a good one, then their peers will have good things to say about them.
Reputation matters in a community that is mostly word-of-mouth and in-person. After all, you’ll meet them face-to-face at a convention, auction hall, or sales booth. They’ll have to be an involved, active community member to be someone you can trust.
Reputation matters because it crumbles when someone plays fast and loose with the rules. Unethical coin appraisers won’t survive long ripping people off. If the reputation is good, then the appraiser is as well.
They Educate You
Coin appraisers are, at heart, enthusiasts. They live, eat, and breathe numismatics. Appraising a coin isn’t just a business opportunity, it’s a chance to educate and illuminate.
Scammers and questionable dealers are out to make a buck. They couldn’t care less about providing the pedigree or backstory of a coin. Appraisers, on the other hand, won’t mind fielding all your questions and giving you more information.
Thus, look for appraisers that make you feel like you’re talking to someone who’s in it for more than money.
They Apply No Pressure
You shouldn’t feel a sense of pressure when dealing with high-value items like this. An appraiser’s job is to give you the information you need and let you decide what to do with it. They are less of a salesman and more of a grader.
When you finish chatting with them, they shouldn’t be shoving you in one direction. They tell you the situation, the worth of the coin, and what their recommendation would be. Beyond that, there should be no undue influence tugging you toward a sale.
Tips for Selling Coins
The best thing you can do is prepare yourself in advance. Don’t go in blindly. Here are a few tips when selling coins.
Don’t walk into an appraiser’s booth without knowing a single thing about the coin you have in your hand. Instead, do as much research as you can in advance.
Purchase books, use PNG online resources, and check forums. Having any amount of knowledge will help a great deal, even if it’s just the basics.
Find a Price Guide
Pricing guides are the best way to find current estimated prices on coins of all kinds. This is a coin appraiser’s Bible. Buy the latest edition and use it for any coins you plan to sell.
Get a Second Opinion
It’s almost never a good idea to go with the first offer you get. Ask around, at the same event or across multiple events.
Write down the offers and use them as a bargaining chip of sorts. It’s kind of like price-checking at Walmart to get a better deal.
Some people discover some old coins in their attic and rush to sell them. They bite at the first offer, thinking they’ve scored big by netting a few hundred dollars. As with most things, let patience be your guide.
Take your time with selling coins. This doesn’t just ensure you get the best price. It removes any sense of anxiety to get them off your hands.
Find More at CMI Gold & Silver
Coin appraisers are one of the best mediums for getting an accurate selling price on your old coins. Unfortunately, not all of them are ethical or honest. Use this guide to get an idea of the sorts of scams you may come across when selling coins.
Although CMI Gold & Silver does not offer coin appraisals, we hope this guide provides helpful insights to make informed decisions.
CMI Gold & Silver is your source of knowledge and some of the best deals in gold and silver. Get started with our gold specials or call us today to learn more about investing in precious metals.