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What Is My Coin Worth - Is it Used or New?

Day in and day out we meet people who have recently acquired a collection of old coins from a relative or friend. If you are like most people, you have little or no interest in coins or coin collecting and simply wish to sell them at the highest possible price. Most would not take the time to learn about their coins just so they can be sold; but many want to know "What is my coin worth?"

The purpose of this article is to show you how to recognize the difference between a circulated coin and one that is in new condition. We chose the Morgan Silver Dollar because most people will have at least one to sell. It is also much easier to illustrate the differences in condition with this coin than others. What you learn here about the silver dollar can be applied to other coins you may have.

Silver dollars are both historic and very popular. Starting in 1878, the U.S. Mint produced hundreds of millions of them. Many were never used and stored in Treasury vaults. This explains why so many can be found in brand new condition. What most people do not realize is that these magnificent coins circulated up until the mid 1960's. Despite their age and interest, they are still very common. Almost every family has an accumulation of silver dollars and we eagerly buy them. Certain dates and mintmarks and those from Carson City are quite valuable.

BU or Brilliant Uncirculated Morgan Silver Dollar
Uncirculated Morgan Silver Dollar

To start, the coin at left is uncirculated. It has no wear from use. The coin's details are sharp and well defined. You can almost make out its high luster. Luster is a term used to describe how light reflects off of a coin's surfaces. A coin in this condition, even a common dated one, will bring top value. A rare date in such condition can be worth hundreds and even thousands of dollars. Coins of this quality are usually purchased for investment by an experienced coin collector.

Contrast this with the one in average used condition shown below. This coin is more like what you would generally find in a collection of coins that were saved from circulation. This coin is dramatically less detailed, is grey in color and has lost almost all of its luster. There is no mistaking this coin for one that is new. A common date coin in this condition will bring average value.

A Morgan Silver Dollar in XF Condition
Average Circulated Morgan Silver Dollar

Finally, this third coin is another example of a circulated silver dollar. Although it has more than average wear, its condition is very typical of what people bring in to sell. A common date coin in this condition will bring below average price.

AG Condition Morgan Silver Dollar
Heavily Circulated Morgan Silver Dollar

Please keep in mind that a coin's value is not solely due to wear as we just described. Although wear is an important factor, impairment or damage would reduce a coin's value. For instance, a rim nick, a ding, a scratch, or even grafitti in a strategic spot like lady Liberty's cheek would lower a coin's marketability and its price. Similarly, evidence of any cleaning would also impact a coin's value.

While we don't expect you to be able to become an expert coin grader after reading this blog, we hope it helps to prepare you for what to expect when you present your coins for an appraisal. By comparing the three coins we show here with your own, it will be easier for you to gauge their condition and value.


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