AMERICAN coins can be worth much more than their original value.
Ian Russell, President of Coin Auctions at GreatCollections, recently sat down with The US Sun and shared his most prized collectibles.
The Australian born coin enthusiast has been in the business all his life.
He started working in a stamp shop as a teenager, but only a few years later found himself working at an auction house in Australia, dealing coins and paper money.
Now he is President of one of the largest auction websites, a company he founded 11 years ago with his wife.
“I spend most of my time looking at coins or talking to people about coins,” Ian told The US Sun, half-jokingly.
But despite having been to hundreds of coin shows and typically auctioning up to 5,000 a week, Ian never stops learning.
“We’re always learning, we’re always seeing new and wonderful coins. New discoveries are coming out,” he said.
HIGH PRICE SALES
GreatCollections has had some impressive sales over the past few years.
Recently, a collection of Lincoln pennies sold for $7.7 million after Stewart Blay, a numismatist and sculptor, passed away.
This was huge for the auction site as Ian said the last record for a Lincoln cent collection was probably less than a million dollars.
“The collection is probably the most striking realization because the coins are so modern and nothing has ever come close,” Ian said.
Only one of the coins, the 1958 Lincoln cent, was so rare and valuable because some of the letters were heavily doubled.
This particular penny sold after 117 bids for a record $1,136,250.
The site also handled the private sale of America’s first silver dollar, which sold for $12 million.
Rare coin experts believe this to be the first silver dollar ever minted by the United States Mint – leading to its high price.
Ian has also seen two 1913 nickels – both valued at over $4 million.
In fact, one of them was worth $4.2 million as only three are privately owned and only five were minted.
The obverse of the 1913 Liberty Head Nickel depicts Lady Liberty wearing a crown of stars above her head.
While the reverse features a large V in the center, it’s also known as the V Nickel.
This coin is so valuable because of its flaw – the US Mint forgot to put the word CENTS on it, making it ripe for scammers to issue them as higher denominations.
THE BIG THREE
Back in 2021, GreatCollections acquired three coins, each setting a record price.
Dubbed the Big Three, the total prize was $13.35 million and was completed on Thanksgiving.
The coins were:
- 1913 Liberty Head Nickel graded PCGS Proof-66 CAC
- 1894-S Proof Barber Dime rated PCGS Proof-65+ CAC
- 1804 silver dollars graded PCGS Proof-65
Collector Bruce Morelan owned the coins and has acquired them individually in recent years.
Few collectors over the past century have owned all three, including Louis Eliasberg, Col. E.R. Green, Dr. Jerry Buss and Bruce Morelan.
“This record-breaking deal was closed in less than 24 hours after a 10-minute chat with Laura the day before Thanksgiving,” Ian said.
The value of these coins can be attributed to their high quality and low mintage.
COLLECTING FOR BEGINNERS
For those looking to start collecting or selling, Ian recommends starting small.
“The high end of the numismatic market is not the normal part of the market,” Ian said.
That means looking for coins that are available for $100, $300, $500 or less.
Consider an 1880’s Morgan silver dollar containing just over three quarters of an ounce of silver in uncirculated condition.
Ian said collectors can buy these points for around $60 and you get a piece of history.
While not necessarily rare because they are plentiful, the coins have performed quite well in value over the last 20 years.
Another series of coins to collect is called the Seated Liberty series, which was made in the 1919 century before the Morgan dollars.
Modern coins are also a great collector’s item.
In 2021, the US Mint produced Morgan and Peace Silver Dollars.
When the Morgan dollar ceased to be minted in 1921, it marked the 100th anniversary of its final year.
It also marked the first year of the minting of the Peace Dollar.
The coins come in a set, but Ian said some people bought just one of the coins for around $100 but are now worth over $1,000 based on condition and demand.
“We’ve had customers who bought 10 coins as needed, and maybe five of them have now graded $70 and $1,000 silver coins,” Ian said.
BUY AND SELL TIPS
There are a few things to consider when buying and selling.
First, make sure your coin is graded and graded – even if it’s of little value.
This ensures that what you have is actually valuable and shows other buyers that you are legitimate.
Also, having your coin graded by a third party can even help you grade your coin higher.
Another important tip is to do your research.
This includes buying from reputable sources, learning about market values, and understanding all the risks involved in buying.
One of the biggest risks new collectors take is believing they’re getting a lot.
This is why understanding prices and what makes coins valuable is so important.
OTHER COIN SITES
While GreatCollections offers a variety of coins and other valuables, there are plenty of other sites to check out.
Heritage Auctions is another major player in the collectors space, offering thousands of items for auction every day.
Similar to GreatCollections, some of Heritage Auction’s items have recently sold for record prices.
These include an 1870-S three dollar gold that sold for an impressive $5.5 million due to its rarity.
Another great spot is Stack’s Bowers as it is known for its rare coins.
The business has been in existence for nearly a century and includes cataloging and sales of some of the finest US coin and currency collections.
WHAT MAKES A COIN VALUABLE?
While grade and error are some of the popular factors used to determine a coin’s value, the US Mint can add value as well.
Rarity is a good selling point for collectors, so price may depend on how many copies are produced.
Sometimes when the coin produces too many coins, it gets criticized.
Funnily enough, it’s also been criticized for underproduction.
Most of the time, if a coin sells out too quickly, the next issue of the mint is likely to produce too many.
For example, Ian said the Mint got it right in 2021 when it produced the Morgan and Peace Silver Dollars.
Ian believes these coins are the correct mintage as their price has increased globally.
“It’s a very fine line, you have to predict in advance. I’ve always said whatever they do, it’s going to be a mistake,” Ian said.
THE AUCTION PROCESS
GreatCollections was created to improve the sale of coins and paper money at auction.
Many places and platforms allow collectors to buy and sell, but few ensure secure transactions and keep both parties confidential.
The company holds weekly auctions where bidders can buy tons of certified coins.
“They range in value from $20, $50 to coins worth $1 million or more and everything in between,” Ian said.
GreatCollections deals with thousands of collectors each month, either by bidding or consigning.
The US Sun revealed the exact details to look for to find rare pennies.
Also, a rare $2 bill sold for over $19,000 due to a specific doubling error.