Just Ask John: I'm Back to Collecting! Now What?

Just Ask John: I'm Back to Collecting! Now What?

Every week we get emails from our clients asking our fearless leader John Brush for his knowledge and opinions on a wide range of issues within the coin industry. Last week, John cleared up some confusion on the different categories within our Sunday Auctions. This week, John offers some tips on what to do when faced with an old collection that no longer fits one's collecting goals.

I started collecting as most did in my youth with limited means, suspended after college, accumulated things here and there as income improved focusing on higher quality, but am now evaluating this decades-long somewhat eclectic collection and trying to transition it to things of best quality and numismatic interest. Maybe in a future blog, you might give your perspectives on some guidelines someone in my situation might be able to use to help this? I realize that might be a bit broad, but maybe some of your rules of thumb might be helpful?

Mark D. of Seattle, WA

Thanks for reading and for the question! I looked up your specific city and didn’t want to include it here, but it certainly sent me on a rabbit trail! I’ve learned a lot about the Islands around Seattle now and it makes me want to take a trip up there sometime soon, though ideally not during the rainy season! We haven’t had a show in the Seattle area in forever and while I’ve been there two or three times in the past 20 years to visit customers or buy collections, I’ve not had much time to enjoy it, besides seeing the Pike’s Market and Safeco Field.

Your question is one that we hear a lot, as it seems to be the story of coin collectors as a whole. I’m often asked, “is coin collecting dying out, everyone seems to be older…” and your background tells me that the answer is still “Not at all!” Coin collecting is a hobby that people return to once they are adults and the kids have left the house.

We all have our collections of random things that we’ve accumulated on our way back into collecting. I still have my original Buffalo Nickel set in a green album. I also just sorted through my dad’s coins and there were no less than 12 Whitman Albums of circulated Walking Liberty Half Dollars! Now, my Dad still wants to collect, but we definitely don’t need 45 pounds of silver. So DLRC bought many of the larger sets of duplicates from him and he’s now using the credit from it to buy more coins that he actually wants. There were a few bulky items he didn’t want to part with, like a book of uncirculated Washington Quarters that he put together with my mom. Those meant something to him and I’m okay with it. That little anecdote is just a part of what happens with collections. Collecting is a very personal thing, so there is bound to be a coin there that tells a story from your life. Over time I’ve realized that it’s okay for you to hold on to these, even if they aren’t of the highest quality because part of a hobby is the memories you make doing it.

That said, when you’re looking at buying something for your collection or starting a new collection, just start with something that you like. A design-type, a type set, something that speaks to you. Then you can dive into the set and figure out the components you already have that fit your goals, and start looking for the items that you still need. Keep in mind, you don’t have to sell your old coins now. You can do that as you go. The empty holes in a book drive me crazy too!

In a nutshell, I always suggest separating out the collection by setting aside the coins that you just don’t need or want anymore. Separate the coins that you want to keep for now and keep in mind that if you upgrade those coins down the road, you can sell the lower graded pieces. Once you’ve gathered what you don’t want, ship it to us, and we’ll make you an offer. If it’s not stuff that we typically offer on our website, we still have a home for it. The things that we end up buying in coin collections are quite often fascinating and they aren't always coins or coin-related. But, we’re collectors at heart and that’s how we end up with things like Sterling Silver Gravy Bowls made by Tiffany and Company.

When I get a chance to work with a true collector and get my hands dirty in a collection of raw coins and other miscellaneous items, it brings me back to my roots. My general rule for raw coins is this: If it’s worth $50 or more, get it certified. We don’t make much on things at that level, in fact we probably lose money due to our crazy offer of free shipping, but it’s still the root of collecting! Then we’ll sell it via our website or even give it away to kids if it’s not worth selling.

I’m sure this is a much lengthier answer than what you were looking for. To summarize, my advice is this: Sort your collection, Sell the stuff you don’t want, Buy the new coins that you like.

One last tangent, this discussion is VERY similar to the work I do with the Hansen Collection. The duplicates that we’ve been offering on our website were coins that were all featured in his primary sets at one point. But, as he found a coin that he liked even better, he simply replaces it with the lesser quality coin. Then we help sell it. It allows him to generate cash flow that he can use to continue improving his sets!

Thanks again for asking, Mark. I hope that this answers your question!