Question: Many years ago, I inherited some foreign coins, which, I have reason to believe, are valuable. However, I do not know how to go about having their prices estimated. Any advice you might give me about the matter would be greatly appreciated.--E.Q.
Answer: Pricing foreign coins is similar to pricing United States coins. The major difference is there are more collectors and dealers of U.S. coins than foreign coins. But the principles of rarity, condition and desirability remain the same.
There are several ways you can go about getting your foreign coins appraised. You can take them directly to a coin dealer. Some dealers specialize in foreign coins or have the expertise to handle them. Some large dealerships have specialists who are quite knowledgeable. At a coin show you can usually find one or more foreign coin dealers or someone who could put you in touch with a foreign coin dealer.
An even better idea might be to check out prices yourself. There are numerous reference books available, depending upon your needs and the size of your collection. The only problem with reference books is that they can only give you a general idea as to what your coins are worth. Prices can be very volatile and can fluctuate on a daily basis. But the reference can serve as a starting point.
Remember: Dealers work on a bid-ask basis, so their buy price will be considerably under their sell price or catalogue price.
The 6th edition of Gunter Schon's price guide with the numbing title "Coin World, the 1988-89 World Coin Catalogue, 20th Century" is now available. More than 300 countries are represented. It costs $24.95 from Coin World, 91 Vandemark Road, P.O. Box 150, Sidney, Ohio 45365; telephone (800) 253-4555.
Krause Publications also specializes in pricing guides. There's the Standard Catalogue of World Coins, World Gold Coins and World Paper Money that might prove useful. Contact Krause at 700 E. State St., Iola, Wis. 54990.
Some coin dealers stock these guides and others, or can order them for you. There are also specialty books by country. The possibilities are practically unlimited, depending upon how deeply you want to delve into the subject.
More than 1,500 coins will be sold at the first Professional Numismatists Guild Coin Convention Auction on Feb. 23 and 24 at the Registry Hotel in Universal City. One of the highlights is expected to be the 1915-S Panama-Pacific octagonal gold $50 in Mint State-60 (pictured) with an estimated value of $25,000. The PNG sale will include more than 400 gold coins, California fractional gold, early coppers, cents, nickels, dollars, circulated coin sets, paper currency plus ancient and world coins. Catalogues are $10 from Pacific Coast Auction Galleries, 1013 State St., Santa Barbara, Calif. 93101; telephone (805) 963-1345.
Love tokens are coins that have been engraved, usually with someone's initials. They were often given as gifts and worn as necklaces. The practice is no longer in vogue, but collecting love tokens is still popular. Sol Taylor of North Hollywood reminds me that "as Valentine's Day approaches, it is a good time to plug the love token and the Love Token Society." Annual dues for the society, which includes a bimonthly newsletter, are $10. The group's president is Lloyd L. Entenmann, 130 Cornell Road, Audubon, N.J. 08106. Regional director is Edwin McDonald, P.O. Box 1323, Pueblo, Colo. 81002.
Yet another coin pricing guide is on the market. This one, U.S. Coins of Value, 1989, by Norman Stack, is extremely useful for non-collectors. It is well illustrated and lists prices for circulated lower-grade coins. It is practical for people with a few coins tucked away in a dresser drawer. It is issued by Dell Publishing, 666 5th Ave., New York, N.Y. 10103, and is $4.95.