U.S. Coin Price Guide

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How Mintage and Design Affect the Value of a Coin

Coin design and mintage are the two main factors in deciding what the value of a coin is. Generally speaking, a lower mintage coin will be worth more than one that is a higher mintage. Even two identical coins that are minted in different years will have different values placed on them, depending on the mintage.

U.S. Mint coins have a varying degree of value placed on them, according to the mintage (set by the U.S. Mint). Each year, they only print a certain number of coins. Some, like the American Gold Eagle, are sold in sets; others are sold just as one individual coin.

Some collectors specialize in error coins; these are coins that have some sort of defect or an error that occurred in the minting process. One of the most famous is the 1937-D Three-Legged Buffalo Nickel coin. This error happened when a newly hired employee tried to rub off some mixed dies from the coin and accidentally rubbed off one of the Buffalo’s legs. By the time the error was caught, many of the coins were already in circulation although the quantity or mintage is very low. It’s believed that this is one of the most sought-after coins in America and has a value of many thousands of dollars.

It makes sense that the lower the mintage, the higher the value of a coin. For example, U.S. Mint coins that number in, say, 20,000, will have a much greater value than ones that were produced in mass amounts, say 1,000,000 (these numbers are for illustrative purposes only.) The latter coin would be considered much more rare, and therefore, more valuable. If that coin design was one that was intricate and inspired by a famous artist or sculptor, it would be even more valuable.

Coin vintage will also play a role in how a coin is valued. A penny from 1912, for example, would be much more valuable than a penny from 2012, regardless of the coin’s condition. It has to do with age to a degree, as much as rarity or mintage.

Some coin designs are worth more than others, and different designs can affect the value of a certain coin. The American Eagle coins, for example, are considered to be more valuable than others. First introduced in 1986, both the gold and silver varieties have become extremely popular, and are now the #1 modern bullion coin.

The condition of a coin will also greatly affect its value. A coin that has been in circulation for many years, has scuff marks, and has lost its luster will not get graded very highly by the reputable grading companies. On the other hand, a coin that is considered ‘uncirculated,’ and still has its original luster, with no visible scuff marks will have a much greater value.

Mintage, value, vintage, and condition are all taken into consideration when evaluating the value of a coin. If you’re just starting out as a collector, keep in mind that there are many false grading systems out there, and less than reputable dealers who will try and make you think that coins are more valuable than they actually are. When you go to sell the coin, you will be sorely disappointed.

There are two reputable grading companies that will evaluate your coins and give you the ‘true’ value of them. PCGS (Professional Coin Grading System) and NGC (Numismatic Guaranty Corporation) use a very strict standard of grading. These are used primarily in the United States; other countries have their own grading systems. Once they have graded your coins, you will receive them sealed and certified for grade and authenticity.

All U.S. Mint coins come with a Certificate of Authenticity. For certain sets and collections, they will put the coins in a special presentation case or box where you can proudly display them.
Over time, your coin collection will likely increase in value, but it is dependent upon the condition, where you received them, authenticity certificates, mintage and design. Some collectors have no intention of selling; they collect strictly as a hobby and they enjoy searching for rare and flawed coins. Many collectors buy silver and gold coins for the purpose of adding to their overall investment portfolios. If this is your intention, be sure to research the coins well, and make sure you deal with a reputable company.


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