Collecting rare and vintage coins can be an exciting and rewarding hobby. With the rise of online shopping, there are now many great options for purchasing rare coins online. Buying coins online can give you access to a wider selection and better prices compared to local coin shops. However, it’s important to deal with reputable online dealers to avoid counterfeits or overpriced coins. This comprehensive guide will cover everything you need to know about How to Buy Rare Coins Online.
How to Buy Rare Coins Online
Purchasing rare coins online may seem daunting at first. But with some basic knowledge, you can confidently buy coins online and build an impressive collection. Here are some tips for buying rare coins online:
Choose Reputable Dealers
The most important factor is choosing reputable and established online coin dealers. Watch out for dealers with no online presence outside of an anonymous website. Legitimate dealers will have a track record of satisfied customers. Search for reviews of any dealer you are considering. Membership in industry organizations like the Professional Numismatists Guild or the American Numismatic Association is also a good sign.
Check Coin Grading and Certification
For rare coins, the condition and grade significantly affects the value. Coins should come with a certification from a respected third-party grading service like PCGS or NGC. Review the coin images and description carefully to ensure the coin matches the certified grade. Raw coins without third-party certification present a bigger risk of being overgraded or counterfeit.
Compare Prices at Multiple Dealers
Like any collectible, coin prices can vary between dealers. Browse various dealer inventories and price guides to get a sense of the fair market value for any coin you are interested in. Be wary of deals that seem too good to be true.
Read Return Policies and Shipping Details
Reputable online coin dealers will offer return periods in case you are not satisfied. Shipping and insurance fees can add significantly to your total cost, so review shipping options closely. Ask about signature requirement or other security measures for high value shipments.
Pay Securely and Maintain Records
Use trusted payment methods like credit cards when paying online dealers. Avoid wire transfers unless you have already done business with that company. Be sure to maintain invoices and keep records of your purchases for insurance purposes.
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Top Online Rare Coin Dealers
Now that you know how to buy coins online safely, here are some of the best online rare coin dealers to consider:
APMEX is one of the largest online precious metals dealers, with over $11 billion in transactions. Their selection includes over 15,000 rare coins alongside bullion, bars, and jewelry. APMEX has a strong reputation with fast shipping, competitive pricing, and excellent customer service. They offer a 7-day return period on most coin orders.
David Lawrence Rare Coins
Focused exclusively on rare U.S. coins, David Lawrence has over 40 years of experience in buying and selling coins for collectors. Their website offers around 5,000 coins authenticated and graded by NGC or PCGS. You can browse by type, series, grade, price, and other options. David Lawrence has weekly auctions in addition to fixed price sales.
GreatCollections Coin Auctions
As an online-only rare coin auction site, GreatCollections provides access to coins you won’t find elsewhere. They hold over 30 Premier Sessions auction events annually, selling certified coins direct from sources like old family collections. Sign up on their website for email updates on upcoming auctions.
Monaco Rare Coins
In business since 1999, Monaco buys and sells certified rare coins at fixed prices. Their inventory includes specialties like silver dollars, gold coins, commemoratives, and early US copper & colonials. Many of their coins are CAC approved as being high end for the certified grade. Monaco accepts returns within 5 days of receiving an order.
Numismatic Guaranty Corporation
The NGC Coin Grading Service also operates an online store selling coins that they have certified. Browse their inventory by grade, price, certification number, special designation, and other filters. NGC encapsulates coins securely and stands behind their coin grades and assessment of authenticity.
Family-owned Selby USA deals in rare US coins as well as paper money, gold, and other collectibles. In business since 2004, they have a strong customer base built on trust and transparency. Selby has a layaway program and also purchases coin and precious metal collections from the public.
A top coin auction site based in California, Teletrade has been operating since 1985. They hold over 360 online auctions every year, with a focus on certified US coins and currency. Teletrade’s large inventory and low buyer’s premium make them popular with active coin bidders.
USA Coin Book
This online coin price guide works as a dealer directory and marketplace combined. Browse their price information and dealer stock lists, then purchase coins directly through the site. USA Coin Book verifies and escorts every order, so you always get the coins described by the dealer.
Whitman Coin & Collectibles
The well-known publisher Whitman also operates an online coin store. Their shop has a strong selection of certified coins, especially classic commemoratives. Whitman frequently acquires fresh high-end coins from old collections. Expect above-average eye appeal and quality from their offerings.
This list just scratches the surface of the many reputable rare coin dealers with robust online sales. As you get more experienced, you will discover more niche dealers and boutique auction houses. But the above top 10 dealers are a perfect starting point for any new collector.
Purchasing Rare Coins on eBay and Amazon
General auction and marketplace sites like eBay and Amazon also offer opportunities for buying coins. But extra caution is warranted when purchasing from an unknown seller on these sites:
- Review seller feedback carefully – Avoid sellers with limited feedback or low ratings. Only buy from experienced sellers with a long history of satisfied coin customers.
- Watch for deceptive listings – Some less scrupulous sellers will exaggerate condition or rarity to attract buyers. Verify any claims about specific coin attributes.
- Coins should have clear photos – Legitimate sellers will provide several close-up pictures so you can examine coin details and condition.
- Receive the exact coin pictured – Sellers sometimes use stock images that don’t match the actual coin for sale. Require your specific coin be pictured in the listing.
- Ask about third-party certification – For rare and vintage coins, PCGS or NGC certification provides peace of mind and is essential for higher value coins
- Review return policies – Know what the seller’s return policy is in case the coin you receive doesn’t meet expectations
- Pay securely – Avoid risky payment options. Use the site’s own payment processing if available. PayPal with purchase protection also offers security.
- Wait to leave feedback – After paying, don’t leave positive feedback right away. Wait until you receive and inspect your purchase.
With the right seller vetting, eBay and Amazon can be sources of good deals on coins. For beginners, the added purchase protections make these marketplaces a lower risk way to start buying coins online. But experienced collectors tend to prefer the specialized rare coin dealers for higher end acquisitions.
What to Avoid When Buying Rare Coins Online
While the internet opened up coin collecting to a broader audience, you do need to be selective about which online coin sellers to work with. Avoid the following scenarios that could leave you with an overpriced or counterfeit coin:
Avoid any online dealer that does not prominently list their name, location, and background on their website. Anonymous sellers are more likely to rip customers off since they can disappear without a trace. Only buy from established dealers.
Bulk Lots of Sight Unseen Coins
While eBay and some dealers sell bulk coin lots at tempting prices, it is safest to avoid these. Bulk deals often contain fakes or common coins once you sort through them. Only purchase coins once you can examine each one.
Claims of Major Rarity
If the dealer claims a coin is exceedingly rare but you cannot verify that in coin price guides, proceed with caution. Some unethical sellers will talk up the scarcity of a more common coin to inflate prices. Stick with reputable graded coins.
Offers Significantly Below Market Price
Sometimes you can find good deals, but beware offers that seem significantly under fair market value. This could indicate the coin has been artificially cleaned, doctored, or is an outright fake.
Raw Coins Lacking Certification
For 999 fine gold or silver bullion coins, raw coins direct from major mints are fine. But for rare collector coins, pay the premium for 3rd party grading like NGC or PCGS certification. Avoid uncertified rare coins unless you are an expert grader.
Poor Photos or Stock Images
Always review multiple clear, high-resolution photographs of the actual coin being sold – not generic stock images. Photos should clearly show details like the date, mintmark, surfaces, and rim. If a dealer uses blurry or misleading pictures, shop elsewhere.
While the internet has brought collecting more into the mainstream, there are still risks to navigate as a coin buyer online. Apply common sense measures like those outlined here and you can confidently purchase certified rare coins to grow your collection.
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How to Buy Ancient Coins Online
Ancient coins, minted thousands of years ago, offer a unique window into history and culture. Here are some tips for successfully buying authentic ancient coins online:
Purchase from Specialized Dealers
Reputable ancient coin dealers with expertise reduce risks of fakes. Well known dealers include Forum Ancient Coins, Numismatica Ars Classica, and Classical Numismatic Group. Check that they guarantee authenticity.
Review Coin Details
Lookup the coin details in reference guides to check that the description matches expectations for that coin type. Understanding the proper designs, lettering, and other diagnostics takes study but helps avoid fakes.
Examine Photos Carefully
Evaluate the wear, surfaces, edge, shapes, metal color, and other subtleties in photos. Compare any inconsistencies to references of genuine coins. Purchase coins showing original ancient surfaces.
Seek Coins with Provenance
Provenance refers to the origins and ownership history of a coin. Coins from old European collections or major auctions generally have securely traced provenance. Coins without named provenance pose more risk.
Be Wary of Low Prices
Authentic ancient coins are difficult to locate, so appropriately priced examples are the norm. Deeply discounted coins suggest something suspicious with authenticity or condition. Pass on potential fakes or “too good to be deal” offers.
Learn Authentication Signs
Study the capsule, holder, and labeling used by top dealers and auction houses. Fakers often use improper or imprecise language in labels. Also learn to recognize uneven wear, casting seams, and other warning signs.
Consider Third-Party Certification
Services like NGC Ancients can expertly assess authenticity and grade ancient coins. Certified coins cost more but are reassuring for making expensive purchases online.
Collecting ancient coins requires diligence to avoid costly fakes. But buying safely from the top online ancient dealers allows you to own these pieces of history even without local access to ancient coins.
Is it Safe to Buy Coins on Instagram or Social Media?
Social media outlets like Facebook and Instagram make it easy to find and contact coin dealers. But is it safe to buy coins this way? There are risks to direct social media purchases, so caution is advised:
- No buyer protections – Unlike auction sites, social media provides no guarantees, ratings, or recourse if a deal goes bad.
- Identity uncertainty – It can be hard to verify who you are really dealing with or their trustworthiness.
- No ability to inspect – You cannot fully evaluate coins through social media pictures and videos.
- Questionable pricing – Prices may be inflated compared to reputable coin dealers and auction houses.
- Potential fakes – Without handling a coin, it’s easier to fake details in photos or videos.
- Shipping risks – No guarantees you will receive the coins, or in the condition advertised.
That said, there are some scenarios where buying coins through social media carries low risk:
- The seller is an established brick and mortar store with an existing reputation.
- Coins offered are certified by NGC or PCGS encapsulation with images of the actual slab.
- You have the ability to see the coins in person and pay cash on pickup.
- The seller has strong references from other social media customers.
- Coins are inexpensive enough that potential loss is acceptable.
- Payment methods with purchase protection are available.
For rare, high-value coins, social media caries too much uncertainty. Interact and learn from sellers there, but make major purchases through reputable dealers and auction houses for your own protection.
How to Buy Coins at Auction
Coin auctions provide an exciting opportunity to bid on rare coins you won’t find elsewhere. Here is how buying at auction works and top tips for success:
Research and Register with Auctioneers
Look through upcoming auction catalogs and calendars to find promising sales. Register at least several weeks in advance to get approved for bidding. Review auction terms, fees, payment, and shipping policies.
Inspect Lots Before Bidding
If possible, examine coins in-person during preview open houses to assess quality. For online-only auctions, evaluate scans and descriptions thoroughly against your references. Don’t bid until satisfied with a coin’s legitimacy.
Set a Maximum Bid Limit
Having a highest price in mind prevents getting caught up in auction fever and overpaying. Remember to factor in buyer’s premiums and sales taxes too.
Bid Early to Establish Position
Placing an initial bid early can deter competitors and start the bidding where you want it. But be prepared to go higher if required. Avoid waiting until the last possible moment.
Know When to Use Auction Proxies
If you cannot closely monitor the auction in real-time, use a proxy bidding service. You will pay one fee, but they handle bidding up to your set maximum on your behalf.
Don’t Let Auction Estimates Limit You
The auctioneer’s presale estimates reflect what they think a coin might sell for, but coins frequently exceed estimates once bidding commences. Bid what you are willing to pay, not what the estimate suggests.
Review Payment and Shipping Procedures
Understand how you will be required to pay for successful purchases, plus any shipping and insurance costs. Large auction houses have demanding payment timeframes, so be prepared.
Coin auctions combine excitement, unpredictability, and opportunity. By following the right strategies, you can land quality rare coins while staying within your collecting budget.
Should I Buy Coins At Pawn Shops?
Pawn shops offer coins at interesting prices, but there are risks to buying coins here:
- Limited selection – Pawn shops only have what customers happen to pawn, not a deliberate inventory. Finding coins you want takes persistence.
- Spotty expertise – Some pawn brokers know coins well, but many have limited numismatic knowledge. Rely more on your own skills.
- Condition uncertainties – Without professional grading, accurately evaluating coin condition is difficult. Coins may grade lower than assumed.
- Higher premiums – There are deals, but pawn shops must factor their overhead and profit margins into prices.
- Fewer protections – No guarantees on authenticity or grading. Limited ability to return problem coins compared to reputable dealers.
- Disorganized stock – Coins may be dirty or improperly stored. Finding nice problem-free coins takes digging.
For inexpensive coins, pawn shops can be fine and even offer exciting finds. But for serious collecting of rare coins, traditional rare coin dealers will provide a better experience and inventory. Take time to build rapport with a trustworthy pawn broker to gain access to their more premium items.
Protecting Yourself from Fake or Altered Coins
As with any collectible, forged, faked, and altered coins pose a threat for buyers. Learn to recognize warning signs and only buy from sellers you trust:
Look for Improper Surfaces
Genuine circulated coins will show even, natural wear. Fake surfaces may be textured, oddly discolored, or show unnatural looking wear patterns.
Watch for Suspicious Color
Fakers often get details right but the color wrong. Know the proper hues for certified metals like copper, silver and gold. Toning or patinas should match genuine verified coins.
Check that diameter, thickness, and weight match official specifications. Odd shapes or sizes can mean a fake. Numismatic references list the correct measurements.
Examine Design Elements
Study real coins and learn to recognize proper fonts, shapes, and details. Fakers often get designs slightly off. Letters, dates, devices, and other elements provide clues.
Check Edge Markings
Genuine coin edges will show proper reeding, edge devices, or inscriptions. Fakers rarely go to the trouble of faking edges accurately.
If a price seems too good to be true compared to the fair market value, that can indicate the coin is counterfeit. Stick with coins priced appropriately for their type and grade.
Require Third-Party Certification
For rare and high-value coins, buy coins certified by NGC, PCGS, or other reputable grading services. The sonically sealed holders and holograms deter alterations.
Isolate fake and altered coins by thoroughly learning their warning signs. Rely on certified coins from trusted dealers and you can buy online with confidence.
How to Photograph and Document Your Coin Collection
Recording details and images of your coins is important for insurance purposes and organizing your collection. Here’s how to properly photograph and document your coins:
Take High Resolution Images
Use a digital camera or smartphone capable of capturing crisp, clear photos. Take pictures in indirect natural lighting without shadows or glares. Fill the frame with the coin to show maximum detail.
The edge can give insights into authenticity, so photograph edge inscriptions, reeding, or other diagnostics visible there.
Picture Any Imperfections
Take additional pictures documenting any scratches, nicks, toning, or other surface issues. This provides evidence if a coin’s condition later becomes disputed.
Include Images of Labels and Packaging
For graded or certified coins, photograph the label and encapsulation. For raw coins, picture any original mint packaging or inspector tags still present.
Organize Digital Images
Store and organize coin pictures using photo software so the relevant images are easy to access later. Add keyword tags like date, type, mint, grade, etc to aid searches.
Record Physical Dimensions
Using a caliper, measure diameter, thickness, and weight for each coin. Compare against published specifications to check for alterations.
Transcribe Diagnostic Text
Note the exact wording of dates, mints, designer initials, edge lettering, or any other text. Check them against confirmed genuine examples.
List Key Details
Record information like denomination, metal, series, variety, identifying marks, grade, mintage etc. Include any known pedigree, collector marks, or other attributes.
Maintain Paper and Digital Records
Keep physical notebooks or forms documenting your coins for quick reference. But also back up your documentation digitally in case disaster strikes.
Update as Needed
Re-examine coins periodically and update images or details that have changed. Add new acquisition records promptly after buying a coin.
Thoroughly photo documenting and cataloging your coin collection takes diligence but provides many benefits for both enjoyment and protecting your investment.
Selling Coins Online for Maximum Value
Eventually, most collectors look to sell some or all of their coin holdings. Here are tips for getting the highest sale value possible:
Start with Auction Houses
Major auctioneers like Heritage, Stack’s Bowers, and David Lawrence have the best reach for securing top dollar. Their catalogs bring your coins to thousands of dealers and collectors. The buyer’s premium is worth it.
Avoid Quick Sale Discounters
Companies that offer immediate payment at a fixed price generally pay 30-50% under true market value. Only use quick buyers as an absolute last resort if you need cash urgently.
Work with Multiple Dealers
Get multiple purchase offers from dealers known for fair practices like Blanchard, Monaco, and APMEX. Play dealers off one another to bid your price up.
Instead of selling directly, consign to a high end retailer to market your coin for a percentage. This shifts effort to the dealer but provides strong exposure.
Research actual sales data to set fair asking prices. Avoid pricing coins based on sentimental value. Coins priced too high simply won’t sell.
Take Great Photos
Capture coins in high resolution from multiple angles, especially if selling raw uncertified coins. Good photos are critical for buyers to evaluate condition.
Select Safe Shipping
Package coins extremely securely to avoid damage. Require signature confirmation and insure for full value. Never use riskier shipping options to save money.
Selling directly to knowledgeable dealers or via major auction houses takes more effort but results in achieving true market value for your cherished coins. Avoid the temptation of quick and easy routes to sell coins or you will leave money on the table.
The advent of internet commerce expanded access to rare and vintage coins for enthusiasts and investors. But buying coins online also requires diligence to avoid fakes or overpaying. Focus on reputable, high-volume dealers with strong credentials and proven customer satisfaction. Graded certification and fair transparent pricing indicate professionalism. Use common sense precautions with payments and shipping. By finding an ideal trustworthy coin dealer, you can confidently buy online to take your collection to the next level.
Frequently Asked Questions About Buying Coins Online
How do you know if an online coin dealer is reputable?
Signs of a reputable online coin dealer include:
- Years in business with a positive reputation
- Strong customer reviews and feedback
- Membership in industry organizations like PNG and ANA
- Published contact info for a physical company location
- Clearly stated return policies and guarantees
- Inventory offered by third-party grading services
- Competitive benchmarked pricing based on actual value
- Quick and responsive communication
- Secure payment methods and insured shipping
Performing due diligence before purchasing from an online dealer helps avoid issues down the road.
What payment methods are best for buying coins online?
For optimal buyer protection, stick with established secure payment methods like:
- Credit cards – Offer fraud protection and ability to dispute charges
- PayPal – Provides purchase protection when paying for goods and services. Avoid direct bank transfers.
- Checks – Gives time to receive and inspect coins before dealer deposits payment
Avoid unsafe options that offer no recourse like cash, money orders, and direct wire transfers – especially for high dollar purchases.
How can you detect fake or altered coins when buying online?
Telltale signs that a coin may be fake or altered if bought online:
- Price seems dramatically below normal market value
- Details on the coin look slightly “off” upon close inspection
- Surfaces have an unnatural texture, coloration, or wear pattern
- Dimensions, weight, or measurements don’t match specifications
- Poor quality photographs hide details or inconsistencies
- Certification or grading seems inconsistent with the coin’s appearance
- Dealer makes excuses why coin can’t be returned if unsatisfied
Avoid uncertainty by only purchasing coins graded by NGC, PCGS, or ANACS encapsulation so you can confirm authenticity.
What shipping insurance level should you get when buying coins online?
Important factors for deciding on shipping insurance:
- Insure for the full purchase value – premium coins are worth insuring for every dollar spent
- Only waive signature requirement for lower cost orders – get tracking and signature confirmation for expensive shipments
- Evaluate package disguising and security – original mint tubes and plain boxes attract less attention
- Upgrade to Express/Overnight shipping for high dollar orders – faster transit means less time for issues
- Review dealer reputation – well established companies package professionally
- Inspect immediately on delivery – document and photograph damage before accepting
Proper insurance helps ensure you either receive the coins in perfect condition or get immediately reimbursed if issues arise.
What is the safest website to buy ancient coins?
For beginners, the easiest websites for buying genuine ancient coins include:
- MA Shops – Marketplace of vetted, approved ancient coin dealers
- Forum Ancient Coins – Large inventory of guaranteed authentic coins
- VCoins – Renowned ancient coin dealer portal for browsing coins from many sellers
- Nomos AG – Swiss auction house and dealer specializing in ancients
- Classical Numismatics Group – Top rare coin dealer with ancients experts
- Harlan J. Berk – 40+ year veteran dealer in ancient, medieval, and world coins
Always review seller guarantees, return policies, and certifications when buying pricey ancient coins online. Third-party certification from NGC Ancients provides further peace of mind.
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