Any numismatists here? Umm, any pawnbrokers?

Gotta question on old coins . . . My mother and I were going over Grandfather’s safe-deposit box and found about a dozen twenty-dollar gold pieces, all from between 1890–1910. All in perfect mint condition, looking brand-new.

I know they must be worth something—but are they worth “something,” or are they worth “SOMETHING?”

I’m feeling generous today, so I’ll offer you 20% over face value! :wink:

Check out http://www.wsrarities.com and look for your coins there. Depending on the condition, year, and mint mark, the ranges I saw were from several hundred to several thousand dollars per coin. If they’re proofs, multiply those numbers by fifty or a hundred.

For the board’s amusement, here are some pictures of American $20 gold pieces:

http://www.heritagecoin.com/extras/VCC/DoubleEagles.html

Nono, don’t visit a pawn shop. Don’t clean them in any way.
If you have a scanner, that would be a start as you could scan a picture of them & ask people on the net who deal in coins.

Hmmm . . . According to that site, Mother may be sitting on maybe $3,000–$5,000. Not as much as we’d hoped . . . May be worth hanging onto the coins, to see if prices go up.

My other grandfather collected even older and rarer coins (one of them is 14th century), but the condition is what numismatists in the know call “lousy.”

Thanks for the tips, Malden!

I have some old Roman empire coins that are dated 84 BC thru 65 BC. They guy selling them to me wanted around $3000 for them, but I was able to snatch them all for only $500. Ha!

I can’t be the only person who sees a problem here…

Har!

Reminds me, I saw a really modern-looking office building this weekend, with “AD 1987” on the cornerstone. I think they could have left off the “AD” without confusing everyone. “Look, Chauncey—a four-thousand-year-old office complex, right here in Bryn Mawr.”

I have nothing to add except that I have now added “numismatist” to my list of words I like to say.

And Eve, that actually made me laugh out loud - so much so that I had to disguise my laugh as a throat-clearing cough so that my co-workers wouldn’t know what I’m up to.

Or maybe two problems…

Common-date $20 gold pieces right now are selling for $350 in uncirculated condition. There are several factors that make up a coin’s value:

  1. Grade. You said these coins are in perfect mint condition, but what a numismatist sees may be different than what you see. You description tells me that your coins are somewhere from “About Uncirculated” (MS-50, in grading parlance) to “Gem Brilliant Uncirculated” (MS 65+). 'Nuff said about that for right now.
  2. Date/Mintmark. Coins are valued according to how many were issued in a particular year from a particular mint. My 1900 Indian-head $20 gold piece, for example, was made in Philadelphia (the only place where they didn’t use a mint mark) and is worth $350 because they made a lot of these coins there that year. A 1933 St. Gaudens $20 GP, on the other hand, is worth countless millions of dollars and a prison sentence because all $20 GP made that year were supposed to have been melted down.

Now, then. No, don’t go to a pawnshop with these coins. Likewise, do not go to a coin dealer. If you go down to your library, you should be able to find the current “Red Book” (the actual title is “A Guide Book of United States Coins”), which is a standard reference in this field. Look up your coins and see if any are particularly rare. If not, you should be able to easily get $350 for them on eBay. Coin dealers and pawn shops will generally pay 50-75 percent of full retail price.
If you have rare date or mintmarks, you’ll probably want to have them “slabbed”, which means graded by an independent grading service and encased in plastic. They are much easier to sell, and to get top dollar for, after an expert has assigned a grade to them. As the value of a rare date coin may vary $1,000s of dollars between MS-62 and MS-63, this is well worth your while. It costs, I think, about 8 bucks to get each one done. You can have a local coin shop send them in, or look in coin mags for advertisements.

Thanks, Uncle Usurer—I will print out your advice, and bring it to Mom’s when I next visit, so’s I can write down exactly what coins we’ve got.

I have a friend . . . well, an acquaintance who’s a coin dealer. Do they take a huge percentage of the sale? Isn’t it worth it, as they can also get a better price?

That’s totally untrue. It is not illegal to own any gold nowadays, regardless of whether or not the coins were supposed to have been turned in to the govt. when we went off the gold standard.

An earlier thread on the 1933 Double Eagle:

http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?threadid=14611

Noooo, OF COURSE gold is legal to own–that’s not the point, as the thread Mjollnir so thoughtfully provided points out. The point is that the 1933 St. Gaudens $20, like the 1974 aluminum penny, and the 1964 Peace dollar was never released into circulation, thus the Treasury Dept. wants any outstanding specimens back in a big, bad way.

Eve: Auction houses take pieces on consignment, and often coin dealers will too–especially pieces that are worth more money than the dealer feels like tying up. However, on a buy-and-sell type basis, which is probably what we’re dealing with here, you’re going to get 50 to 75 percent of “book” value because the coin dealer has to keep the light bill paid, ja? I myself never make anything less than a 100 percent profit on coins that I buy and sell, as I am in the business to make money. To get the most for your stuff, however, I still recommend eBay, as there’s a strong market for this stuff out there.

I withdraw my comments. I wrongly assumed Usurer was speaking about the myth that gold coins are still illegal to own (since FDR outlawed them in 1933). Wow, those links from the other thread are amazing. I was unaware of the Secret Service’s incredibly stupid and persistent efforts to confiscate a coin that was legally exempted from confiscation.

Hey, they must have felt the building was one for the ages! Five thousand years from now, when a different annum system is in place, they’ll be able to research our entire culture based on that one inscription! It’s our answer to the Rosetta Stone! :wink:

You can always check ebay.com to see what people sold them for.

A disagreement as to the facts is not an excuse to call someone an “idiot” in this forum. Please do not do this again.

Eve I’ve made my living by buying and selling coins for 30 years now, so I guess I’m a professional numismatist. (Of course, I used to be a philatelist , but that’s another story)

Usurer said

Well, he’s half-right. Pawn brokers usually pay a small percentage of what your coin is worth. Conversely, I, as a coin dealer, will pay you a small percentage of what your VCR is worth. :rolleyes:

Usurer is correct in that your $20 gold pieces probably have a current retail value of $320-350 each, assuming no rare dates. We currently would pay you $290 to $320 each. This works out to a bit more than the percentages he was talking about. You can dick around with them on ebay and such, but you will find you would be better off selling them to your coin dealer friend, taking the money and investing it a 6%. Even if US gold coins are low currently, you/your mother would be better off drawing interest. IMPO.

*In My Professional Opinion

The pawn shop I worked in would pay you based on what they thought they could sell the item for. (man, was that a grammatical disaster). If we thought we could sell your coin for $300, we would probably pay $150-200. If the coin was in not-so-good condition, the weight would factor in more than the coin’s book value.

Of course, different shops had different methods. We didn’t deal in gold coins much.

BTW, pawn shops are the best place to buy jewelry if you don’t mind buying “used” stuff. You can get some seriously killer deals there.

(NOTE: I am no longer employed by a pawn shop, nor do I have any monetary interest in one. Just offering a little help.)