Why Evaluating Old Foreign Coins Is a Challenge?
Let’s first define what foreign coins are. Here, by «foreign coins» we mean the coins minted outside the United States, mostly in Europe. It’s quite obviously that such coins did not circulate in the United States and their presence on the market is relatively small. In view of a small number of such coins, and hence, a small number of deeds, it is quite a challenge to evaluate a foreign coin because statistical data related to a certain coin may be irrelevant. In other words, we can’t say that the price of a certain coin is ‘X’ USD as there have been only a few sales of such a coin in the last few years in the U.S. If there have been less than 3-5 sales in the last few years, hardly can the sales price of the coin be treated as the best reference value given that we face inflation, uncertainty at auctions, fluctuations in the prices of precious metals and many other factors contributing to fluctuations in the value; and it is only accumulated statistical data that can lessen these fluctuations. The task to perform an individual evaluation of a foreign coin based on its degree of preservation or grading rate (NGC or PCGS) is even more compounded by the necessity to accumulate statistics for coin sales with a breakdown by each degree of preservation or grading. The use of paper catalogs, in particular those published more than 2-3 years ago, is of no help for evaluation purposes due to the above-mentioned fact that the prices for numismatic items tend to be highly dynamic.
So, What About Evaluation on eBay?
The marketplaces like eBay aren’t going to be any help as well. Why not? First, keep in mind that sellers on eBay are used to overrate the preservation of a coin; second — selling fake coins is a routine practice there and, finally, the number of truly collectible items sold there is drastically small. On top of that, sellers on eBay only sometimes have a relevant competence to evaluate foreign coins since they face the same problem we mentioned earlier. A buyer may lack time to thoroughly read the reviews and check out the reputation of sellers while looking for the most trustworthy one. The way these sellers define the preservation is also doubtful since it is difficult enough for a buyer himself to define the degree of preservation judging only by the photo. Rare and collectible coins are sold at large auction sessions like Heritage (USA) or Künker (Germany), therefore neither eBay, nor similar websites have definitive statistics on sales of valuable coins, and, in the end, the way these marketplaces determine the preservation of coins just strains credulity.
What Is the Impact of Provenance on the Evaluation of Foreign Coins?
The provenance of European coins deserves a separate discussion. The provenance of a coin reveals the history of its owners, its origin. The provenance is one of the fundamental concepts in the professional numismatics. Many prominent coin collections that belonged to nobles, royalty and aristocrats were sold to Americans or taken by their owners to the USA due to revolutions and wars in Europe. In such a case, to find out the provenance, one should investigate catalogs and auction sales dating back to the 19th century. As a rule, the provenance is indicated in auction catalogs, and it can add considerably to the value of a coin. It’s hard to say to what extent the presence of a provenance impacts the final value of an item. According to our information, it may add even +500% to the item’s value, but anyway no less than +20%. In other words, should you suspect your coins have a provenance, the money you invest into looking for it and proving it will pay for itself repeatedly. However, it is also difficult to determine the provenance due to the same reasons we have observed earlier when discussing the evolution of foreign coins.
A Brief Insight into the European Numismatic Market
Theoretically, to carry out a more credible evaluation of foreign coins, we should check out the archives of auctions held in Europe. In fact, however, we’ll try to give a very brief description of the European numismatic market. Totally, there are more than 120 auctions in 15 countries in Europe. The auctions results are incoherently published in 8 languages, and you are lucky if it is English. As to the determination of the preservation degree, it should be noted that European countries use several systems to evaluate the preservation which are alternative to the Sheldon scale, making American numismatists get stuck in a stalemate. For example, there are different systems applicable in Germany, Russia, Finland, and Poland to evaluate the preservation of a coin. Well, it is really a task to work your way up through foreign terms and dozens of confusing websites to get a set of rough and uncorrelated data which, due to its incoherence, keeps you far from the desired result. This happens because there is no single European numismatic market as such, at least to the extent this concept is construed by us, Americans. To sum it up, you may rely on the data of European auctions when looking for a market price of a certain coin, but it’ll be a very time-consuming and thorny way due to the absence of translations, tricky measurement systems, different currencies and what not.
What Should You Do to Determine the Value of a Foreign Coin?
Well, how then do we get the most trustworthy evaluation for coins from Great Britain, Germany, Spain, and other countries? After all, we do really have such coins on the U.S. numismatic market as they came here in pockets of numerous migrants, American tourists on their way back home and were also imported by some collectors.
The right thing to do is to opt for online coin catalogs and here are their major benefits:
They are accessible online 24/7;
They can be easily used anywhere wherever there is internet access, also via mobile devices like smartphones and tablets;
The information is shown logically and systematically — catalogs are well structured and offer an intuitive user interaction for numismatists;
Constant information update — as a rule, such catalogs are regularly updated and, oftentimes, on a daily basis;
They come with English translation and sometimes even English-speaking customer service is in place;
They cover a wide range of periods, countries of minting and types of coins; an online catalog undoubtedly beats a paper catalog in terms of the richness of informational content;
A huge number of photos of your coin alongside with reports regarding different degrees of preservation written by prominent experts — this all will make it easier for you to assess the condition of a coin;
If you have got a question, you’ll get an answer right from the makers of online catalogs.
So, online catalogs have obvious advantages over classic paper catalogs, although there’s no denying that the usual printed catalogs are updated on the internet, and they will still be in demand for a long time because participants of this market are conservative.
Guidelines to Evaluate Foreign Coins in an Online Catalog
It’s quite easy to evaluate a coin. Just follow these steps using an online catalog:
1. Look at your coin — you should have the information on the country of its origin, nominal value, and date (year) of minting.
2. Find your coin in an online catalog. To do this, choose the country that minted your coin, the period, nominal value, and year of minting.
3. Determine the quality of your coin — check it for traces of wear, scuff marks, scratches, defects, or corrosion, which may affect its value. Try to roughly estimate the preservation of your coin under the Sheldon scale, using the photos of the coins that are already evaluated in the catalog.
4. Look at the prices your coin is sold in the online catalog. In the first place, your attention should be paid to the sales of coins with the same degree of preservation as your coin has. So, this is way to know an approximate value of your coin. If you are not going to sell your coin soon, we recommend that you repeat the evaluation from time to time, as the cost of numismatic items may change throughout the year or even more often.
Congrats! You’ve just evaluated your coin using an online catalog! However, there are still some more things you may explore:
Follow the current market prices of your coin by checking out the statistics of its sales and price trends in an electronic catalog.
Take proper care of your coin and protect it: avoid corrosion, scratches, and other mechanical defects.
Think over the grading of your coin as foreign coins on our market are often ungraded and stored out of a slab holder.
Keep records of your collection — describe each coin in detail and ensure proper storage to preserve their condition.
Follow these simple rules and you’ll stay informed on the market price of your collection.
Online Catalog of Foreign Coins at Coinstrail.com
The website Coinstrail.com is an advisable resource to evaluate your foreign coins. The evaluation of any coin — either U.S., or foreign one — is based on accumulated statistics related to coin sales. The Coinstrail online catalog has information on the value of more than 18000 coins from 17 countries of the world, including such countries popular with collectors as Great Britain, Spain, Germany, France, Mexico, and Poland.
This catalog has the following advantages:
The catalog is in English and offers English-speaking support;
Easy and clear interface, fast loading even on smartphones;
The biggest accumulated statistics on sales: more than 14 million items;
The statistic on sales covers even the beginning of the 19th century and this may be important to determine the provenance;
The catalog is constantly updated and expanded: over the past year two new countries and several thousand coins have been added;
Data is stored and processed in the European Union having the most demanding legislation in the field of personal data.
This catalog applies freemium model and paid subscription is required only for the part of information about prices. The subscription fee is only15 USD per month which is much lower than the price offered by some similar resources.