Which Coin Price Guide is Right?
7 April 2009

There doesn’t seem to be a shortage of coin price guides available to the collector and dealer. About a dozen come to mind immediately. To try to make sense of some of the information available to value coins I did a comparison for seven coins that are commonly bought and sold by collectors. What I wanted to discover was how do the price guides compare to actual prices of coins being sold. With only seven coins this isn’t an all inclusive statistical comparison of actual prices and the price guides, however, from this limited sample of coins you can get an idea of how well the price guides reflect the current price of coins.

The seven coins chosen are common coins most collectors would have in their collection. I purposefully didn’t include extremely rare, bullion related, or top end uncirculated coins. The price for these coins has a lot of variability due to market fluctuations and probably wouldn’t be reflective of what I am trying to uncover here.

Table 1 lists the coins used in this study. The column labeled “eBay Store” are actual selling prices realized during 2007 from our eBay store http://stores.ebay.com/C-D-Coins-and-Currency. The prices listed in the “Num. News Ad” come directly from display ads in Numismatic News or Coin World magazines. The last column labeled “Average” is just the numeric average of the eBay and magazine prices. All the prices include shipping and insurance. The average price should be very reflective of the current retail coin market for these seven coins.

Table 1 - Retail Prices


Coin

eBay Store

Num. News Ad

Average

1828 AU Half Cent 13 stars

$100.00

169.50

$134.75

1812 VG+ Large Cent

$82.00

$104.00

$93.00

1868 G Indian Head Cent

$32.00

$43.00

$37.50

1921-D G Walking Lib. Half

$257.00

$349.00

$303.00

1925 BU63 Stone Mountain Commemorative Half

$66.00

$83.50

$74.75

1872 VG Seated Dollar

$194.00

$244.00

$219.00

1924-S AU Peace Dollar

$59.00

$68.50

$63.75

Sum of column

$790.00

$1061.50

$925.75

Three commonly available price guides were chosen for the study. The first is the old reliable “Red Book”. Actually it is called “A Guide Book of United States Coins”. It has been published since 1947 and virtually all collectors are familiar with this guide. The second guide comes monthly in Numismatic News as an insert. Over the years, I have found it to be reasonably accurate on the retail prices of US coins. The last, but not least, is the Coin Dealer Newsletter (commonly called the “Grey Sheet”). The “Ask” prices are the suggested dealer’s retail prices. I used the most recent editions of each of the price guides. The last column is the average of the three price guides.

Table 2 - Price Guide Prices


Coin

2008 Red Book

Num. News Price Guide

CDN Ask

Average

1828 AU Half Cent 13 stars

$160.00

$135.00

$120.00

$138.33

1812 VG+ Large Cent

$85.00

$83.00

$72.00

$80.00

1868 G Indian Head Cent

$45.00

$37.50

$30.00

$37.50

1921-D G Walking Lib. Half

$300.00

$285.00

$280.00

$288.33

1925 BU-63 Stone Mountain Commemorative Half

$100.00

$85.00

$67.00

$84.00

1872 VG Seated Dollar

$220.00

$190.00

$230.00

$213.33

1924-S AU Peace Dollar

$70.00

$66.50

$55.00

$63.83

Sum of column

$980.00

$882.00

$854.00

$905.33

So what does all this tell us? The price guide from Numismatic News gives the closest average price ($882.00) to the actual selling price of the coins ($925.75) and the other two are a little over (Red Book) and a little under (CDN Ask). Does this mean we just should ignore the other two guides? Not really. Each price guide has its place for the collector and dealer. The Red Book is a classic and works well for retail prices of collector coins. The price guide in Numismatic News is free with the subscription and comes monthly. The editors of Numismatic News do a good job in keeping the price guide current. The CDN is the most expensive of the three but it comes weekly with current wholesale prices. So wherever you are at in the world of coin collectors, there is a guide that will help you spend your hard earned money wisely.