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Buying Gold Coins - Ancient Gold Coins

October 20th, 2011 Coins

Avoiding the “Graded Coin Value” Scam

Buying coins on eBay is a double-edged sword. On one hand, you have the opportunity to find some rare and valuable gold coins for sale for a fraction of what they’re worth. On the other, fraud is prevalent, and sometimes it’s too late before you find out you’ve been scammed. One of the most popular scams on online coin auctions host is the “graded coin value” scam.

Coins are “graded” by a third party grading service, which rates the coin at a higher grade than it actually deserves. The seller will link to a viable grading service like PCGS (Professional Coin Grading Service) to reinforce the value of the coin. The coin is then sold at a “discount.” For instance, if the third party grader ranked the coin at a grade worth $8,000, and the seller has the gold coin listed for $300, what a bargain! Not so.

The problem is, anyone can be a third-tier grading service. All you really have to be able to do to qualify is slab a coin (read: put it in a plastic holder. Doesn’t require much skill). It is possible that third-tier grading services exist solely to upgrade coins specifically for this type of fraud. They get their money, the seller gets his, and everyone (except you) is happy.

Third tier services are known to be unreliable. To be safe, only buy from sellers who use the following grading services:

  • Top Tier (such as PCGS and NGC)
  • Second Tier (such as ANACS and ICG)

Buying Gold Coins From a PNG Dealer

When buying gold coins, or any coins for that matter, it’s important that you can trust the dealer you buy coins from. By working with a PNG gold coins dealer (Professional Numismatists Guild), you can be assured of your coin dealer’s ethics and product quality. The PNG requires certain things of its dealers:

  • 5 years’ experience in numismatics
  • numismatic assets over $175,000
  • must honor the Coin Collector’s Bill of Rights
  • must resolve disputes through binding arbitration
  • must be elected to PNG by a majority of membership
Other requirements of PNG coin dealers involve not overcharging customers, offering a fair price for gold coins and all coins, and remaining professional in all transactions.

PNG’s website offers a wealth of information on coin collecting, as well as a PNG dealer locator. You can read the Code of Ethics as well as see why the PNG was founded. If you’re into collecting ancient gold coins, don’t miss the site’s great page on collecting rare coins.

If your dealer isn’t a member of PNG, ask why. Dealers know the value of being associated with such a reputable company, so if you get stammers as an answer, there’s probably a good reason the PNG didn’t want to affiliate with the dealer. Take your business elsewhere.

Collecting Ancient Coins: Today, Yesterday, and Tomorrow

Think coin collecting is a new phenomenon? Not at all! Collecting gold coins is a tradition that goes back to Roman times. In the age of Augustus Caesar, Roman noblemen developed an interest in collecting Greek coins, and this era has been dubbed the birth of numismatics. Collectors today are still seeking the same ancient gold coins!

The type of gold coins you collect can say a lot about your personality. If you are drawn to Greek coins, you may be creative and artistic, as these coins have the makings of fine art. If your collection is filled with Roman Imperial coins, you are likely a historian buff, as the coins feature important historical figures. If you’re interested in early Christianity or Judaism, early Biblical coins are likely your favorite.

Not all ancient coins were issued in gold. Other materials used were:

  • Silver
  • Electrum (a gold-silver alloy found in nature)
  • Brass
  • Bronze
  • Billon (debased silver alloy)
  • Potin
  • Lead
  • Nickel
While some ancient gold coins are priced out of this universe (take the Egyptian oktodrachm of Arsinoe III, featuring the Queen of Egypt for $10,000), other pieces are quite reasonable, especially those from the Byzantine Empire. No matter what your budget, you can find ancient gold coins for your collection.

Determining Your Roman Coin’s Origin

Gold Roman coins, by proxy of being thousands of years old, may no longer have strong evidence of where and when they were minted, who the ruler was at the time, or even what the denomination is. There are four characteristics you can analyze to determine your coin’s origin:

Physical: By studying the weight and diameter of your coin and matching it up to the specifications of certain Roman gold coins, you can better pinpoint the era it came from. Additionally, the die alignment can guide you on your way. Die alignment simply refers to how the obverse and reverse coin dies were lined up with one another when the coin was minted. Color, too, is an indicator of when and where the coin was struck, as gold, silver, and bronze or copper were used at specific times in Roman history.

Wording: Both sides of the coin always had a legend. Pay attention to:

  • The length
  • Breaks in the legend
  • Spelling
  • Name of issuer
  • Titles or descriptors
If you can only make out part of the legend, look online for resources to guide you to complete it.

Picture: The type of image, head gear and clothing worn, and accessories on the front image can give you a good indication of the age in which the coin was minted. On the reverse image, identify the scene, the subject, items in the image, and the number of subjects in the image.

Mint Markings: Where the mint markings are located as well as the type of markings can identify the city the coin was minted in.

Once you have as much information as possible, you can research Roman coins online to find yours!

Don’t Be The Victim of “First Strike” Marketing

If you come across gold coins for sale that claim to be “first strike,” beware. Some third party grading companies use this term loosely. What it should mean is that the coin was packaged for shipment within a month of its release date by the U.S. Mint. However, many third party graders mislead collectors, insinuating that a coin was the first of its batch to be struck. This is simply not true.

The grading services that use this marketing term are aware of the implication, and like that the term “first strike” commands a premium on the cost of gold and silver coins. Since 30 to 80 percent of a total mintage are minted before or during the official release date, there is nothing special about a “first strike” coin. Don’t be fooled into overpaying for a commonplace gold coin.

NGC (Numismatic Guaranty Corporation) had so much bad publicity surrounding its “first strike” coins, that it changed its terminology to “Early Releases.” Other third party grading services haven’t made the move to change the term, and will continue to take advantage of the unaware coin collector. Spread the word to your fellow numismatists: this deal is too good to be true.

Favorite Coin of Collectors and Investors Alike

The Gold American Eagle is the coin of choice for both coin collectors and investors. Why investors? It allows them to have gold bullion in their portfolios, and in fact, since the American Eagle coin’s launch in 1986, the gold, silver, and platinum coins have become top investment bullion products!

The gold coin uses Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ version of Liberty, originally gracing the $20 Double Eagle gold coins issued from 1907 to 1933. The Gold American Eagle coin is available in proof and bullion versions, as well as uncirculated.

What’s the difference between proof and bullion coins, you ask? Bullion coins, favored by investors, are valued by their weight in, in this case, gold. The American Eagle Gold Bullion coin comes in four sizes:

  • one ounce
  • one-half ounce
  • one-quarter ounce
  • one-tenth ounce
The proof coin is specially minted by the burnished coin being manually placed into presses with special dies. The coin is struck numerous times to create a unique frosted image atop a mirrorlike background. Once this process is complete, each coin is hand inspected for quality, and placed in a presentation case.

The U.S. Mint added a new member to the Gold Eagle collection: uncirculated coins. The gold uncirculated coins are minted at West Point, and come in the same four sizes as the bullion coins.

How to Buy Gold Coins

So you’ve had your fill of pennies, nickels and dimes. Now you’re ready for gold. Buying gold coins doesn’t have to be daunting. Here are five simple steps to help you:

1. Pick your poison. Decide what kind of coins you want to collect. Your selection is almost endless. Four of the main categories you can choose from include:

  • US gold bullion coins
  • European gold coins (before 1933)
  • American gold coins (before 1933)
  • Commemorative and semi-numismatic coins
2. Set your budget. If you can afford, the sky's the limit in collecting gold coins. If not, it’s best to decide how much you can afford to spend weekly, monthly and annually on your collection. Set this money aside in a special coin collecting account.

3. Know your source. It’s important to find reputable dealers. Since so many dealers work online, it’s hard to be certain they’re trustworthy. Look for dealers associated with the following organizations:

  • ICTA
  • PCGS (Professional Coin Grading Service)
  • NGC (Numismatic Guaranty Corporation)
  • American Numismatic Association
4. Study a coin. Once you find your target, learn all you can about that particular coin. If you’re buying online, ask for as many photos as possible. Find out what fraudulent versions look like. Compare gold coin prices with different dealers.

5. Add your new addition to your collection! Once you get your first gold coin, you’ll be eager for more! Stick to dealers you’ve worked with, and branch out into other areas of gold coins.

Price vs. Value: How to Determine Each

In your hunt for the best gold coins, you hear about gold coin prices. And you hear about gold coin values. What is the difference, exactly?

Price: This is the cost a dealer will charge you to buy a coin. Gold coin prices depend on several factors:

  • Type
  • Grade
  • Desirability
  • Rarity
  • Availability
Value: This can be a little tricky to understand. If you wanted to sell your gold coin collection, it would have a value that likely wouldn’t correspond with the price. If a dealer buys your coins, he will buy them for less than he knows he can sell them for, in order to have a little profit for himself.

Compare it to buying a car. You see the sticker price (that’s the “price”), but you know there’s also the price the dealer paid (the “value”). The car dealer wants to make a profit, so tries to sell the car to you at the sticker price. If you’re smart, you’ll bargain him down.

You may have heard of the Red Book. This book lists the retail price or worth of coins. That’s what the dealer will sell them for, and what you can pay. However, there is another book, the Blue Book, that tells you what the dealer will offer you for your coins. As a general rule, expect to get an offer that is half of the retail value for a coin.

The Future of Gold

While it is virtually impossible to predict the future of gold, most analysts feel it is on the rise. Is it a good time to invest in gold? Only you can decide that. But take these factors which affect gold and gold coin prices into consideration before making that decision:

  • The dollar is wavering. The U.S. doesn’t have the stronghold it once had in global economies. The weakness of the dollar may lead us to depend again on gold.
  • Supply and demand. Gold is a limited resource, and we are rapidly depleting our sources. Meanwhile, demand for gold is on the rise.
  • Increase in gold investment. No longer is gold the rich man’s favorite investment. More average income investors are taking notice of this precious metal as an asset for their portfolios.
  • Sticker shock. Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, rising energy costs, and the outrageous cost of gas are shaking up the U.S. economy, which may lead us back to gold.
In determining whether you want to invest in gold, consider that gold investors fall into three primary categories:
  • Disaster hedgers
  • Profit makers
  • A combination of the two
Decide which you fall into before making your investment. Speak to a financial professional if you are still unsure.

The Krugerrand: The World’s First Gold Bullion Coin

In 1970, South Africa, the leading gold producer in the world, introduced the world’s first gold bullion coins. The gold Krugerrand bullion coin is unique in the coin world because rather than being valued by a denomination, the coin is valued in ounces of pure gold, and trades at the market value of gold each day!

One of the most popular gold bullion coins in history, the Krugerrand is still legal tender in South Africa. To date, more than 54 million coins have been issued. The 22-karat coins are made up of 11/12 24-karat gold and 1/12 part copper as an alloy, which helps keep the coin scratch resistant and undentable. Because 24-karat gold coins don’t contain the copper alloy, the Krugerrand stands out with its durability. The Krugerrand comes in four sizes:

  • 1 ounce
  • 1/2 ounce
  • 1/4 ounce
  • 1/10 ounce
On the front of the coin sits Paul Kruger, the most recent president of South Africa. The unusual animal featured on the reverse of the coin is a Springbok, the national animal of South Africa (a type of gazelle). The coins are readily available for purchase at many online dealer websites, and prices will reflect the current gold market.