US Coins

Bust coin market operates on three tiers

Designs of the Times column from Nov. 30, 2015, issue of Coin World:

The market for Bust coins by die marriage has developed into a multi-tiered marketplace that cannot be covered by traditional price guides.

As die marriage collecting developed, A Guide Book of United States Coins, the “Red Book,” gave the value of the more common die marriages. The other, scarcer die marriages did not have a reliable price guide. The “values” they sold for were often random, based on what a willing buyer and seller could agree upon. More recently, collectors have developed a database of auction prices for the scarcer marriages, which helps to determine the values for these rare marriages.  

The Coin Dealer Newsletter came on the scene in the 1960s to help dealers determine the wholesale values of coins. This tool has recently morphed into more of a general price guide for the more common coins in less than perfect condition for the grade, when used for the Bust coins.

There are at least three tiers to the market. At the top of the pyramid are the investor coins, all housed in thick plastic slabs with lofty grade labels. These often trade at auction, and when available in dealer showcases, all have prices unsupported by any printed price guide.

The second tier of the pyramid is the circulated coin with impeccable surfaces that is in high demand from many collectors who have refined their tastes over the years to accept only the most original coins for each grade. The higher the grade, the higher the demand; these also do not adhere to any printed price list. Collectors are left to determine their own comfort levels of price based on budget and availability.

The third tier involves the rest of the coins, in lower grades of circulated or “problem” coins that are languishing in dealer inventories looking for buyers who are unconcerned with the “look” of the coins or their eventual resale value. These are often discounted to sell. Dealers are not excited to add them to inventory, knowing the difficulty in selling them.

More and more collectors are demanding the best coins in any given grade, making the choice coins more difficult to find and more expensive to buy. As they are the smallest percentage of the surviving populations, fewer trades are being recorded, leaving stale inventory to stare at everyone show after show.

Therefore, buy carefully, my friend, as your taste today will determine the marketability of your coins in the future.

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