Coin pricing is somewhat of an art, and not a true science. Unlike conventional commodities like gold and silver where you have a somewhat universal spot price to go off of, coins are a whole different beast. You can find various price guides that may have the same coin in the same condition at all different prices.
The price guide of choice for most dealers and collectors alike is called the Greysheet. The Coin Dealer Newsletter, or “The Greysheet” has been published every week since 1963. Each issue includes all of the latest wholesale market information for actively traded U.S. coins. Prices are tabulated from the most recent sales of the coins. For over 50 years this has been the standard for pricing for U.S. coins. While this is the easiest way to obtain U.S. coin prices, it is fairly expensive and not always accurate. In addition, these are wholesale prices, meaning more or less what dealers should be paying for the coins, not the general public.
While the Greysheet is one of the easiest ways to obtain values for coins, the most accurate way is to research the prices realized at major auctions. Ebay and some other major auctions have archived results of previously sold coins that you can research for free. If you are just looking to price a few coins, this is the most accurate way to do it. If you are looking to price hundreds of coins, it is extremely time consuming to do it this way, and the Greysheet would be much faster.
Though using the Greysheet and auction prices realized will generally be very accurate for pricing U.S. coins, there are a lot of factors that can change a value of a coin. Some of these factors include the certification service (whether it’s PCGS, NGC, ANACS, etc), the quality of the coin for the grade (for example, if it’s a low or high end MS65), the eye appeal of the coin and the toning on the coin,. PCGS and NGC coins generally sell higher than ANACS coins, and beautifully toned coins generally sell for higher than untoned specimens. In reverse, unsightly toning or toning that takes away from the luster or eye appeal of a coin can also have a negative effect on pricing. Also, remember that every coin is unique. For example, two coins of the same grade and from the same grading service are not always the same. One can clearly be nicer than the other, whether it be bag marks, strike, eye appeal or a combination of all three. An extra nice specimen of the same coin in the same grade can bring a much higher price as well.
It’s best to use a combination of the Greysheet and priced realized at major auctions. This way you will have several methods of obtaining your coin prices, and you can average them out. For instance, if the same coin is listed in the Greysheet for $160, sold on Ebay for $120 and sold at a major auction for $175, you can average these out to around $150. Just remember, though, every coin is unique so you have to compare quality and other factors mentioned previously as well.
Share with us your favorite price guides or methods of obtaining coin prices in the comments below!