When it comes to purchasing rare currency, nothing matches the thrill of collecting rare historical pieces. Commonly called numismatics, these investments are prized for their collectible value rather than their base metal content. Depending on the condition and availability of the note, it may be worth several hundreds—or even thousands—of dollars above its face value.
However, it takes much more than a lucky find to successfully invest in numismatic coins. Wise investors often spread their investments across bullion, collectibles, and numismatics to protect against sudden changes in any market. If you’re curious about the potential investment value in numismatics, there are a few factors to consider before buying any collectible coins.
How to Value Rare Currency
The value of rare currency must take into account several factors, including grading, age, rarity, mint mark, popularity, and whether the item is part of a larger collection.
The grade—or professional assessment of the currency’s condition—is one of the most important factors when buying or trading currency. Grading should only be performed by reputable numismatists who will objectively determine its condition based on several factors. The better the condition, the higher the value.
The most well-regarded independent grading services include PCGS (Professional Coin Grading Service) and NGC (Numismatic Guarantee Corporation). After grading, these third-party authorities put each cuurency in a certified slab to authenticate it as the one the company graded.
Some questionable coin and currency dealers offer grading services, but getting an independent grade from a top grading service is highly suggested. For one thing, a dealer could attempt to inflate the coin's price by appraising it for more than it’s worth. There have also been instances of slabs being falsified or tampered with to misrepresent value. Counterfeiters may get currency graded by a less reputable company but encase them in a PCGS or NGC slab. If the slab is broken, hard to read, or has indistinct markings, the coin inside may not be worth your money.
The age of the currency has a direct impact on its value. While older currency is generally worth more than newer currency, the value is more closely tied to a specific year or mintage. You may have currency over 100 years old, but if it’s relatively common or a poor grade, one that’s only a decade or two old could be worth far more.
Rarity is a delicate factor in the value of currency. If the currency is too rare, it may not be considered collectible, resulting in a lower value. Ideally, you want currency with a limited minting or one with only a handful of good quality still in existence. It’s best to research how many of that type of currency has been bought or sold in the past few years to determine whether there’s a market for it before buying.
The mint mark tells you where the currency was minted. There have been various mint facilities across the United States since its inception, including San Francisco, Denver, and Philadelphia. Each mint produces a different volume of currency, so currency minted in the same year but at other locations could have widely different values. There may also be specific marks or errors in a currency's printing that make it more valuable.
Certain currency may be more popular because of their historical significance, beauty, or design. Popular collectible currency is valued more and have a higher numismatic premium than others.
Currency enter a new level of numismatic value when they become part of a collection. If you sell a few random pieces of currency of desirable years and mintages, you can expect to get roughly the numismatic premium. On the other hand, selling a collection or an entire set of certain currency can result in a dramatic profit even above the value of the individual coins. Collections are highly sought-after because buyers don’t have to hunt down missing pieces to complete the set. They can also allow savvy sellers to increase their return on less valuable currency by bundling them as part of a set.
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