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A coin expert’s guide to evaluating a collection

Readers seemed to have had a positive response to my first article for the Mirror , which this newly minted columnist greatly appreciated (pun intended).

Readers seemed to have had a positive response to my first article for the Mirror, which this newly minted columnist greatly appreciated (pun intended). A few people reached out with specific questions about evaluating their collections, and expressed concern about not knowing where to begin. It’s almost impossible to overstate how common that sentiment is among those who have inherited coins, paper money, stamps, and other collectibles.

Most of us have, at one time or another, been in a position where we had to rely on someone else for advice. That can be unnerving. So, I am going to spend the rest of this column outlining specific steps readers can take to inform themselves about their coins. Ultimately, experience is key here, but at least having some sense of what’s valuable and what isn’t could go a long way toward giving you confidence when having your collection appraised by a professional.

The most important and least exciting thing to do is lower expectations. I have had so many people approach me about their collections with unfounded lofty expectations. Consider this: finding an ultra-rare coin in a collection is like finding a needle in a haystack or winning the lottery. Rare coins are rare and expensive for a reason, after all. Keep that in mind when going through your coins.

The next thing to do would be research. The internet can be a treasure trove of information – and misinformation. People often come to me saying “…but I saw online this coin is worth $10,000!” Readers need to be careful about doing the right kind of research. Use common sense. If you look up your coin and find 10 examples selling for $1 and one piece selling for $1,000, ask yourself why that is. The outlier could be in better condition, a better variety, or the seller could be fooling him/herself. All of these things need to be considered. 

For researching Canadian coins, visit Pay a visit to a forum like, where you can post pictures and ask questions. Buy or borrow a copy of the Charlton Coin Guide for Canadian coins. Read it. 

A simple thing to do would be scrolling through eBay. Make sure to look at sold listings, not just asking prices.  This is a great way to get a sense of what the market is for your coins. Like anything, though, a variety of factors need to be taken into consideration. 

Warning: Following these steps will not make you a coin expert. I have been doing this full time for nearly a decade, and the most important thing I have learned is how much there is to learn. Ultimately, you have to place your trust in a professional. Contact a few dealers. Tell them what you have and listen to what they say. The more people you ask, the better sense you will have about who is trying to help and who is trying to take advantage. I do the same thing when I have to repair my car. It takes extra time, but you’ll be more confident in the decision you make in the end.


As always, you can send me an email at Whether it’s a quick question or a more complicated topic like an inheritance, I am more than happy to help.