Valuing your coins for sale
(or am I a millionaire yet?)

What makes a coin valuable?
Coins are not necessarily valuable just because they are old. Most coin dealers have ancient Roman coins for sale for a few dollars each. They are old, but not scarce. Four factors determine value mintage, scarcity, condition and desirability.

Low mintage dates are generally more valuable than others due to their initial scarcity.
For example, in 1972 Australia issued only eight million five cent pieces. This sounds a lot but is by far the lowest mintage of any five cent piece issued. Forty million were issued the year before, nearly fifty million the year after. The 1972 coin now costs $40 in original condition. The 1971 and 1973 coins cost $5.

This is not the same as mintage. Some coins are scarcer now despite high mintages because more people have kept them in collections.
Consider, for example, the Australian threepences of 1910 and 1911, the first two years of Australia's silver issues. Mintages were exactly the same at 4,000,000. But because so many people decided to keep the first date, 1910, as a novelty, it is now much more common than the 1911. An uncirculated 1910 threepence costs about $200, but the 1911 in the same condition usually demands more than $3,000. Same mintage, but different scarcity.

The better the condition, the more valuable the coin. This is true with every numismatic item. Always. And the difference can be quite dramatic.
An Australian coin catalogue values the 1922 Australian penny as follows:
Very good condition (this means just average): 75 cents
Very fine (the minimum condition for serious collectors): $68
Uncirculated: $1750
Gem uncirculated: $6000.
Hence the condition - or grade - of the coin is critically important for its valuation. For further information on grading click here.

This is the least scientific factor of all. It relates simply to demand which is often quite irrational.
A classic example is the Australian 1930 penny which is expensive because of its desirability rather than its mintage, scarcity or condition. Every year Australian auction houses and coin dealers offer between 10 and 30 Australian 1930 pennies for sale. This cannot be considered in any way a rare coin. Yet they invariably fetch between $17,000 and $40,000 in various grades of ordinary circulated condition.
Rare coins are the early date King George V silver and copper in uncirculated condition which turn up at auction or coin shops only once every three or four years. Yet these seldom achieve more than $10,000. Why? Because they are more common than the average 1930 penny? Clearly not. The answer is desirability. The 1930 penny has a mystique about it that prompts huge - and entirely irrational - outlays.
In contrast, many Royal Australian Mint decimal issues have very low mintages and are hence are quite rare. But values remain low because of low desirability. For example, only 85,142 ten dollar proof coins were minted in 1982 - fewer than one hundred thousand - in contrast to nearly 134 million 1982 circulation one cent pieces. The ten dollar proof was issued at $45 but is now readily available below this price. An uncirculated 1982 one cent coin, however, now costs $3.00, up 30,000 per cent on issue price. Why? Simply irrational desirability.

Valuing your Australian pre-decimal copper coins
Copper coins if they have been circulated and are not the scarce dates are only worth face value, which is one Australian dollar for 120 pennies.
The scarce penny dates are: 1925, 1930 and 1946.
Scarce halfpennies: 1914, 1914H and 1923.
These coins have value above face in any condition.
Other dates are valuable only if they have no wear at all and have original mint lustre. Dealers, including us, pay significant dollars for these, provided they are uncleaned.

Valuing Australian pre-decimal silver coins
Silver coins, in contrast, have value above face in any condition because of their silver content, silver being a precious metal, unlike copper.
Coins minted between 1910 and 1945 are 92.5% silver. Coins minted in 1946 and after are 50% silver.
Actual value therefore depends on the silver price, which fluctuates but can easily be found on line, and the weight of pure silver, which can be calculated from the coin weights shown on this site.
For example: An average shilling before 1946 weighing 5.65 grams of .925 pure silver at current price of A$646 per kilogram
= .00565 x .925 x 646 = $3.38.
An average shilling after 1945, however, has only 50% silver. So the calculation is:
.00565 x .5 x 646 = $1.82.
Similarly, florins are worth twice this, being twice the weight, sixpences half and threepences a quarter.
Hence when the silver price is $646 per kg, coins pre 1946 are worth 33.8 times face value and coins post 1946 are worth 18.2 times face.
Note that this is the intrinsic silver value of average circulated coins. Coins in higher grades, or the scarce dates, will command a premium well above this. Check a current catalogue such as Renniks' or Greg McDonald's for these values.

Valuing Australian gold coins
Gold coins also have value above face in any condition because of their gold content.
As with silver coins, the variable rate can be found on line, and multiplying this by the weight of pure gold, which can be found on this website or elsewhere on line, will yield the intrinsic gold value.
Note that gold coins in higher grades or the scarcer numismatic items will also command a premium above this.

Valuing Australian decimal coins
Many decimal coins issued for currency and for numismatic collections have appreciated strongly, but not all. The easiest way to value your decimals is with a catalogue. Or you could check through websites such as ours.
Values in both the catalogues and websites are what you can expect to pay to buy these items. The sale price will usually be about half this, sometimes more and sometimes less.
Decimal issues in silver, gold or platinum in any condition have significant value irrespective of face value or issue price because of their precious metal content.

To sell or keep?
You will always get an offer for silver, gold and high-grade Australian collectable coins, but probably not for average condition copper, decimals or overseas coins. So it is often best to keep pre-decimal Australian and foreign coins as family heirlooms or conversation pieces with the grandkids. Average condition decimals you can spend.

Where to sell your coins
If you decide to sell, there are several options.
Please refer to our paper on Selling your collection (click here).

Cleaning your coins
It is absolutely vital you do not attempt to clean or polish or alter the appearance of any coin at all. To achieve the highest price, coins must retain their original lustre or natural dull toning, as the case may be. For further information refer to our paper on Cleaning coins (click here).

We hope this helps. You are welcome to contact us for further information.

Written March 2008, last updated January 2015