So you’ve found an old coin… what next?

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The rare 1909-S V.D.B, With a mintage of only 484,000

Jason Christie, Writer and Cartoonist

Picture this- you’re strolling down the sidewalk, perhaps walking your dog. It’s a bright sunny day. You notice a coin lying on the sidewalk . “Oh look! A penny!” you exclaim. You pick it up and look at it. The reverse side looks strange- a thick wreath with a shield at the top surrounding ONE CENT in fancy letters. You flip it over and see the head of a woman wearing a native american headdress. What is it? It’s from the U.S., it’s on the coin. You see the date and gasp. It reads 1895!

This situation is highly unlikely, but it does express the shock one would feel if indeed they found a penny this old. 

Some of you may have older coins (Wheat pennies are what I hear about the most) and don’t know what they should do with them. Well, Step 1 is to find the mintage figures (fancy term for the number made). A quick Google search can help. Generally, if it is 50,000,000 or greater, then there is little extra value. But there are exceptions. If the coin is in extra great condition (DO NOT CLEAN IT- this destroys the value), or if many of them were melted, then it may have value. Once that is taken care of, it’s time to move to Step 2.

Step 2 is to get it a holder. You can go online (Amazon), to a brick-and-mortar store (Hobby Lobby), or, if it is really valuable ($500 or above), then you can send it to a third-party grading service so they can assign a grade to it (PO-01 to MS-70, i.e., flat to flawless) and encapsulate it for a fee. PCGS, NGC, and ANACS are the three most well known. (PCGS and NGC require you to be members for another fee.)

The third and final step, Step 3 is deciding if you want to sell it, and if so, how. If you decide to sell, you will want to look up the value of the coin. If it is very high, (generally over $10,000), then you would probably consign to an auctioneer, like Stacks-Bowers or Heritage. If it has less than a $500 value, then you might consider selling it to a coin shop (not a pawn shop- they might try to rip you off). Or you could sell online, like on eBay or Etsy.

That’s it! So get out there and find those coins! They’re still out there!