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
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
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
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.