How to Find Great Deals on Old Coins

By Staff WriterLast Updated Jun 24, 2020 6:48:10 PM ET
Closeup of three vintage coins
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Whether you inherited some from an older relative or you just picked up the hobby on your own, collecting old coins is a fascinating pastime that can teach you about history and culture. However, it can also be an expensive hobby to get into if you aren’t sure where to find great deals. If you’re a collector on the prowl for some cool vintage coins that won’t leave you broke, look to these sources first:

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Estate Sales

The first place for old coin buyers to search for great deals should be local neighborhood estate sales. Coin collecting is a hobby that is popular with older people, and when that collector dies, his or her family may not know what the coins are worth and throw them out in the estate sale. If you happen upon a coin collection, you can usually negotiate a pretty good price. But even if the owner of the estate wasn’t a collector, you may still run into some antique coins. Check jacket pockets, jewelry boxes and other containers where someone may have hidden a few coins many years ago. You may just run into a real treasure.

Antique Shops

If you’re not having any luck at the estate sales in your community, try your local antique shops. Unless the person who owns or manages the shop is also a coin expert, he or she is likely to underprice any coins that are up for sale. Because many antique shops are cluttered and filled with old treasures, you may want to take some extra time to look in hidden nooks and crannies here too. There may be a few old coins tucked away in containers, banks, pockets and other hidden spots that the antiques dealer overlooked when putting out the merchandise. Some dealers may even let you have these hidden gems because they don’t want to deal with coins at all.

Outside

What’s better than a good deal on a coin? A free coin, of course. And if you own a metal detector, your chances of finding some outdoors are pretty good. Start in your own backyard, especially if you live in an older house. You never know if the previous owner buried anything in the backyard or just dropped something at some point in time. You can also try local parks, beaches and abandoned buildings in your community as long as you aren’t trespassing. Old and abandoned churchyards are a great place to look, because many parishioners brought their coins for the collection plate at some point in time. Check spaces like creeks, rivers and under bridges too — they once made great hideouts for thieves, and some people toss coins into water to make a wish.

Old Homes

Speaking of older homes, if you have a friend, relative or neighbor with an older home who doesn’t mind letting you snoop around, you may also find some coins hidden around the property. You can offer to share your bounty if you find anything in exchange for a few hours playing around with a metal detector. Be sure to check dark places that people often avoid, like under the stairs, the attic and old barns and sheds. Check heavily trafficked areas in the yard, like walkways and sidewalks, where someone may have dropped coins out of their pockets while they walked.

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Pawn Shops

While you’d never want to sell your coin collection to a pawn shop, they can be great places to find great deals on old coins. The owner or manager at the pawn shop probably doesn’t know much about coins and prices unless he or she is an expert or takes the time to do a lot of homework. Because pawn shops accept so many items, coins may seem pretty worthless to the owner in the grand scheme of things. On the flip side, not knowing how much a coin is worth can lead to overpricing as well, so if you run into this situation, find out if the pawn shop owner is willing to negotiate a deal.

Online Auction Sites

Of course, if you don’t feel like investing in a metal detector or exploring your community, you can search for great deals on coins from the comfort of your home. All you need is a phone, tablet or computer. Online auction sites, like eBay, have plenty of old coins for sale, and you may just run into some excellent deals. Much like an estate sale or antique shop, the auctions may be listed by someone who is just trying to get rid of some stuff and has no idea how much it’s worth. Or you may run into a fellow coin collector or dealer who is selling duplicate items or part of their own collection cheap to make some extra cash. Not every collector is into the same types of coins, so what they don’t want may be just what you’re looking for.

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