How Do You Determine the Value of Your Collection?

How Do You Determine the Value of Your Collection?

If you want to maximize your auction results you need to accurately determine the value of the significant items in your collection. This is essential if you are going to successfully navigate your way through the auction process.

“How much do you think the collection worth?” is often the first question an auction director’s asks a potential consignor. If an auction director looks at your inventory list and sees that the values assigned to the most significant items agree with his valuations, everything generally goes smoothly. If he doesn’t like what he sees, the differences will need to be resolved.

Here are some of the things an auction director decides, based on the perceived value of a collection – Should he travel to see the collection or ask the potential consignor to bring the collection to him? What value should he assign for insurance purposes? Will he allow reserves, and what should they be?

If a collection is really worth $1,000,000, an auction director will gladly travel across the country to see it. If it is only worth $10,000 the auction director will almost certainly ask you to ship it, bring it in, or take it to another auction company.

The value of the collection determines the amount of insurance coverage required. While statistics indicate that very few claims occur, a proper valuation makes the settlement process faster and easier. (See Insurance)

Any reserves allowed will be based on the true value of the significant pieces, and if these reserves are too low the items may not bring what they are really worth. If they are too high the items may not sell at all. (See Reserves)

How Should You Go About Determining Values?

The process begins with accurately identifying each item, and grading it correctly. If the coin has already been certified authentic, and has been graded by a well-respected third-party grading service, this has already been taken care of, but be aware that the grading services are not infallible. Double-check the attributions (go to the proper reference works and identify the variety), and also take note of the rarity ratings assigned by the reference works. The next thing to do is to see if the numeric grade assigned by the third-party grading service is accurate.

A professional numismatist will look for anything that might affect eye appeal; attractive toning, sharper than usual strike, and blazing original luster are all positive attributes. Dark spots, heavy scratches, atypical weak areas in the strike, and dull surfaces are all a minuses. What you do next depends on the particular type of coin.

It is relatively easy to establish values on some coins because they are bought, sold and auctioned on a regular basis. Morgan Dollars or Silver Commemorative Half Dollars are a good example. The “Grey Sheet” or “Blue Sheet” (COIN DEALER newsletter) lists prices for practically every series by date, denomination and grade, certified or uncertified. “Bid” and “Ask” prices are given. A professional numismatist might use the “Ask” price to establish the value of an item for insurance purposes.

Colonial Coins, Early Large Cents, Bust Half Dollars and Dollars, Patterns, and similar types require a more sophisticated approach. A large library of numismatic reference works is helpful. The Internet is very useful here as well. Several auction companies maintain online archives that record auction results. They publish enlarged images that help greatly when checking attributions. Rarities can be researched using the third-party grading services and their population reports. Several other services are available, some quite comprehensive and expensive, others relatively inexpensive but still quite useful.

Setting reasonable reserves requires additional work. (See Reserves)

Before you consign, determine the value of your significant items as accurately as possible. Seek professional help when necessary. The auction process will proceed smoothly and you will achieve higher realizations for your collection. Contact us.