Collector tips: where to buy world coins
- Published: May 16, 2016, 7 AM
For buying world coins, things aren’t as straightforward as with buying United States coins.
Go to any flea market, antique store or coin auction, and almost all of the coins you’ll find are American. From Lincoln cents to Indian Head 5-cent coins, Winged Liberty Head dimes and Morgan dollars, these famous and fantastic designs proliferate.
So what is a world coin collector to do? Grab the Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1901-2000, or Krause-Mishler catalog, and you’ll find tens of thousands of world coins listed on 2,300+ pages. The classic edition of the “Red Book” (properly known as A Guide Book of United States Coins) measures fewer than 500 pages, but carries in-depth research of the kind not found in the Standard Catalog.
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Then pause to consider that the aforementioned Krause-Mishler catalog (named for Chet Krause and Clifford Mishler, the progenitors of the research) is one of five such catalogs, all equally robust, listing coins dating back only to 1601. Add medieval, Byzantine and ancient coins to the mix, and the staggering array of options could overwhelm a collector.
Collecting world coins might require more patience and more diligence than searching for U.S. coins requires, but the rewards can be rich.
Here’s a quick exploration of some of the main online venues where collectors can buy world coins.
The obvious sources
The Internet of 10 years ago, or even five years ago, looked far different from what it does today.
Since eBay exploded onto the scene, that website has dominated the online auction space for all sorts of items, collectible to consumable.
At any given moment, tens of thousands of coins from around the world are available through auctions or fixed-price listings at eBay.
The sheer volume of coin output, modern and historical, means that your ability to locate a given coin is going to depend on timing and luck.
Search for that new French Mint commemorative coin, and you’re likely to find it; look for tiny coin from a French feudal state and the search might take a lot more time.
While eBay remains a viable option for many collectors and dealers, many full-time dealers have created their own websites where they can sell the coins outright, without the fees and other strictures of the global powerhouse.
Knowing which dealers specialize in what areas helps if your collecting approach is varied, but is absolutely essential after narrowing your focus. Identifying specialists that have years, or decades, of experience in your chosen collecting area can magnify your collection experience and connect you with kindred spirits.
Since not all dealers create their own websites, there are other options to consider.
Another auction option
Another online auction site is worth considering.
Delcampe.net calls itself “the international meeting place for collectors” and the site is available in six languages. Though it offers several categories of collectibles, it is dominated by coins and paper money, post cards and stamps.
Some 1.1 million numismatic listings appeared in Delcampe’s main marketplace on April 27, but there is more than one level to delcampe.
The site offers the basic marketplace, which is more inclusive of sellers. The premium store is open to only professionals meeting certain criteria, and then the prestige classification is for auction houses to publicize their auctions.
At Delcampe, buyers pay each seller individually.
Dealer auction hybrid
Vcoins.com serves as a dealer-auction hybrid website, that owners call “the virtual coin show” and is available in English, Spanish, German, Chinese, French and Italian. Dealers register for stores and are vetted (each is expected to adhere to a code of ethics as explained at the website).
Nearly 200 dealers have stores at the site in the ancient coins category alone. A total of 22 firms are in the U.S. category, and 110 are in the world category, though there is strong duplication between the ancient and world categories.
Users can view items that have been recently added to the site or coins that have recently been discounted.
A strong contingent of American-based dealers does business at Vcoins, but European dealers are well represented.
Dealers can host auctions through the companion site vauctions.com, and a companion site, ancients.info, offers educational material to inform collectors.
Vcoins allows buyers to add items from multiple sellers into one cart, and payment and processing is calculated in one transaction, regardless of seller location.
Another dealer platform
Ma-shops.com offers the similar seamless experience of buying from multiple sellers in one transaction.
The “online collector mall” (which recently added Chinese language service) has begun courting U.S. dealers to expand that category to match the reach that European and world-based dealers currently have.
The site includes non-numismatic items such as wine and jewelry, as well as other categories like militaria that have crossover appeal.
Users can view newly added items in each category and can sort by price level.
The most expensive item in the U.S. coins category, at press time April 27, was a 1925-D Saint-Gaudens gold double eagle graded Mint State 62+, topping the list at $7,890.19.
The least expensive item listed, with shipping, is priced above $100.
World Coin Gallery
What is a collector to do who wants to see every coin, even ones that sell for only a few dollars?
That’s where WorldCoinGallery.com comes in.
The site initially began (and continues to mostly serve) as an online coin catalog. It is the largest collection of full color coin images in the world, according to site owner Don Norris.
The gallery features more than 60,000 coin photos from 1,270 places and more are added daily.
A few years after he started, Norris (he’s a one-man band) added a service to allow users to create a checklist of their collection.
Then Norris added a want list function, and finally, a store.
Norris said he has sold more than 35,000 coins through the site and is continually adding more coins.
Norris said the site is “the only place on the web where you can put a 15-cent coin under a magnifying glass before buying it.”
Each coin in the store is scanned and available for viewing at an enlarged size. Even multiple offerings of the same type, say Canada’s 2015 National Flag 25-cent coin with color, are each scanned, so collectors can view images of the exact coin available for purchase.
The want list function will highlight matches with any listings in the store that fill those gaps.
Norris’ site receives hundreds of thousands of visits each month, and includes links to the Numismatic Guaranty Corp. price guide for each coin type.
These are just some of the many sites online that serve to connect collectors of world and ancient coins. Surely there are others that we missed or could not include. This is intended to give a collector a great starting point to begin their world coin collecting journey.
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