Collectors are often confused about the difference between retail and
Coin World’s Coin Values reports retail prices — the
prices that collectors may expect to pay for coins when purchasing
them from dealers.
We get these retail prices by looking at dealer fixed-price lists
and confirming completed transactions, analyzing the results of public
and online auctions, identifying trends in the wholesale markets and
what dealers are buying, and listening to and responding to reader
comments. Coin Values’ retail prices are for reasonably attractive,
accurately graded and problem-free coins. Coins with “plus” grades,
“stars” and Certified Acceptance Corp. stickers may trade for premiums.
Retail pricing differs from wholesale pricing in that retail pricing
is always higher. Wholesale pricing represents dealer-to-dealer
transactions, the prices that dealers pay one another for coins when
building inventory or filling client inventories.
With the historical and artistic pleasures of coins notwithstanding,
coin dealers are ultimately in business to make money. A markup is
made from the wholesale level to the retail level, allowing dealers to
be compensated for their efforts.
Price guides cater to either wholesale or retail markets. Wholesale
price guides like the weekly Coin Dealer Newsletter (the Greysheet)
typically represent sight-seen transactions, meaning that a dealer may
return a coin if it is not up to his or her quality standards.
The weekly Certified Coin Dealer Newsletter (the Bluesheet)
reports on prices for the sight-unseen market, where dealers place
bids on dealer networks and agree to accept any coin meeting the type,
date, grade, and certification service — typically Professional Coin
Grading Service or Numismatic Guaranty Corp. — regardless of the
coin’s eye appeal. The sight-unseen market typically represents a
“floor,” with the lowest prices coins are trading for in the market.
While an exceptionally beautifully toned coin may fetch multiples of
its retail price when offered at auction, an example in the same grade
with thick, unattractive toning or muted luster may sell for little
more than sight-unseen bid.
Annual price guides like the Guide Book of United States
Coins (the Red Book) and Coin World’s Guide to U.S. Coins
report on retail prices for coins. The Handbook of United States
Coins (the Blue Book) lists wholesale prices and gives readers an
idea of what a dealer might pay for a coin.
Sadly for collectors, no magic formula exists that indicates what
percentage of a coin’s retail price represents a wholesale price or
what percentage of Coin Values prices a dealer will pay.
Some coins have tighter buy/sell spreads than others. For example,
modern commemorative coins or Proof and Uncirculated Mint sets
typically have relatively low spreads between wholesale and retail
prices because they’re easy to sell. Other coins that may take more
effort to sell and are not as interchangeable will have larger
wholesale/retail spreads. ■