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Fri Oct 5 2012 11:00:41

Antiques Friday: Advice from Coin Expert Steve Roach

By: Julia Wilkinson

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We're very lucky on this Antiques Friday (hashtag #ABAntiquesFri on Twitter) to learn more about the coin collecting and selling world with coin expert and Editor of Coin World Steve Roach. Coin World is weekly and the world’s leading publication for coin collectors. Steve talks about what types of coins are in the most demand these days, how he got interested in coins, and gives advice to those entering the market.

Know of an expert in antiques or collectibles you want to suggest for Antiques Friday? Email me at julia@auctionbytes.com.

- You got started in coins when your grandmother gave you a cigar box of coins; is that correct? Do you remember any of the coins in there, and what stands out about them as sparking your interest in coins? Was your grandmother also a collector?

My grandmother wasn’t necessarily a collector, but she had coins that she had accumulated over time. The bulk of the coins were well-circulated Liberty Head 5-cent pieces, which were struck for circulation from 1883 to 1912. I was curious as to what they were, so I picked up a book on rare coins from the bookstore and my interest in coins began.  It solidified when I went to my first big coin show and saw how many interesting coins there were at affordable price points. 

- You studied for a year in Florence, Italy. Did you learn about ancient (such as Roman) coins then, or what prompted that decision?

My studies abroad were nearly entirely focused on art history rather than coins. I’ve always had a deep interest in art and in many ways art relates to coins. Coin designs are a product of the era in which they are created. Object-based study is essential to understanding art history, and there are few better places to do that than Florence.

- What types of coins do you see as "hot" in the market now, and what is not? Or does it just depend on the individual coin?

In terms of what is “hot” in the rare coin market, it’s more a matter of quality and rarity than a specific coin type. People are looking for alternative investments and new buyers are turning to rare coins. That, in turn, is driving up prices at the top of the market.

Rarities that sell in the low-to-mid five figures and above are in demand. There’s also a healthy appetite presently for less-expensive coins, assuming that they are of high quality for the grade. The price range within a given grade is growing as collectors consider quality within a grade. For example, not all Mint State 63 coins are the same – some are attractive while some are less so – and the market is starting to attach a greater premium to attractive coins. It’s not just U.S. coins; the same trends are being seen with the world and ancient coin market.

- Do you have a specialty or specialties in coins, and if so, what drew you to that?


Coin World covers the entire range of numismatics including paper money, tokens and medals, from both the United States and abroad. Personally, I always appreciated art medals, ancient coins and handsome U.S. coins.

- What advice would you give a beginning collector today just starting out?


Read a lot to get acclimated to the hobby and understand basic grading. Subscribe to coin publications – like Coin World – and join groups like the American Numismatic Association. Check out a local coin club and then go to a coin show or two. Few things replace the in-person inspection of coins; a fact that is often lost as people rely on computers to buy and sell coins.

- Do you buy and/or sell coins on Internet sites like eBay, and if so what do you think people should keep in mind trading on those sites?

Many collectors use eBay and the same advice applies to buying online as when buying in person from a coin shop. First, if a deal is too good to be true, it likely is and coins that are worth buying rarely sell cheaply in any venue.  Second, if buying a rare coin, it’s generally advisable to have it certified by a leading rare coin grading service.  Currently eBay recognizes Professional Coin Grading Service, Numismatic Guaranty Corp., ANACS and Independent Coin Graders.

- Thank you, Steve!

Steve Roach is the editor of Coin World – www.coinworld.com – a weekly publication that is the world’s leading publication for coin collectors. He is also an accredited member of the International Society of Appraisers and focuses on fine art, antiques and rare coins at www.steveroachonline.com

Do you buy, sell, or collect coins, or all three? What got you interested in it, and what are some of your favorite buying or selling stories? What are your favorite coins? Post a comment here!




Comments (4) | Permalink

Readers Comments

Antiques Friday: Advice from Coin Expert Steve Roach   Antiques Friday: Advice from Coin Expert Steve Roach

This user has validated their user name. by: Anonymous Annie

Fri Oct 5 11:34:52 2012

Interesting stuff... I enjoyed reading this! (Thanks!)

Antiques Friday: Advice from Coin Expert Steve Roach   Antiques Friday: Advice from Coin Expert Steve Roach

This user has validated their user name. by: juliawww
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Fri Oct 5 12:12:16 2012

Thanks, Annie!

While I'm here I may as well share a coins story that comes to mind from my own family. (Break out the Kleenex). My brother (who shall remain nameless) had a ''mint Kennedy half dollar'' when he was about 9 or 10..apparently another sibling (who shall also remain nameless) got into the package and ruined its mint-ness...I remember hearing a lot about that ''mint Kennedy half-dollar'' for some time after that. Gee, I should buy him one for Christmas (no, it wasn't me, although the Chinese say blame is not important).;) As for me, I was collecting the state quarters..I know, not a high-roller thing, but I think they're so cool. ;) Anyone else have any stories?  

Antiques Friday: Advice from Coin Expert Steve Roach   Antiques Friday: Advice from Coin Expert Steve Roach

by: blaumann This user has validated their user name.

Mon Oct 8 01:33:23 2012

Same old rant, buy certified coins. How about learning to grade?

Antiques Friday: Advice from Coin Expert Steve Roach   Antiques Friday: Advice from Coin Expert Steve Roach

This user has validated their user name. by: Tula

Mon Oct 8 16:29:01 2012

My dad and grandfather were casual coin collectors. They had a bunch of those blue coin books with some decent older silver coins. I've sold some this year for my mom (dad and grandfather have passed), since she's retired and on a fixed income and needs the cash. I've found that I'm getting better than book value for the particular coins I'm selling - probably because they have high silver content and metals prices are quite high right now.

Most of the coins are not great quality, but are selling for a bit more than the spot price for silver. That's about the only thing that's been selling well on ebay for me.

It's interesting what he said about "attractive" coins. All the books and experts say you aren't supposed to clean or polish coins, yet when I've done so, I get more bidding and higher auction prices. I usually only do a quick swipe with some silver polish and don't rub them much. The condition on them is not great anyway, so I don't think it hurts them much. They also aren't all that scarce, either (early 60's Washington quarters, for example) so I'm not ruining anything of great value. I wouldn't do that with anything rare or any coin that's in excellent condition. I think most of the buyers are buying for the metal, anyway, but having a nicer-looking coin does actually seem to make a difference in the price and demand.



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