The Official Red Book
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17 posts in this topic

I am very new to coin collecting.  If I buy from a dealer, should I expect to pay the red book price of a coin?  I have seen many asking prices that are slightly higher than red book.  If I offer to pay the red book price, will most dealers look at me as if I am from another planet or is it a reasonable offer?  Thanks in advance for any info you might give.

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Hello and Welcome!

While it's been quite a long time since I've collected US coins, I think I can help you out here.  The problem with the Red Book is that it only comes out once a year.  Therefore, it does not keep up with market prices very well.  In most cases, I'd say prices slightly higher than Red Book would be very reasonable.  However, it is important to note that fluctuations in bullion prices for many common coins made of precious metal can cause rapid and pronounced price increases and decreases and the market for key and semi key date coins also moves around more than that for common dates, so if you're in the market for keys, you may have to pay significantly higher prices than what is in the Red Book.  If the dealer's prices are slightly above Red Book prices, I wouldn't try to bring them down to Red Book prices......that could be considered rude as such prices are already very reasonable.  I personally wouldn't do so.  Remember, dealers need to make a profit and a good dealer should be in touch with what the market is doing at the present time, so their data would be more up to date than the Red Book.  Basically, the best way to look at the Red Book is as a US coin guidebook, but not necessarily an effective US coin price guide. 

I hope that this is of some help to you!

~Tom

 

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Not sure how it is where you're at, but my experience in three different places has been that once the dealer knows you as a regular, and that you consistently pay with something other than a credit card (the fee can really cut into their margins, especially on stuff near melt), you are likely to start getting better deals.

How those relate to the red book, I don't know. Dirty secret: I've never owned one. But I do get Coin World magazine, and I find its values to be on the high side. So if that's what the dealer is charging, on my first visit or two, I might pay that, and might make sure I always bought at least something, just to establish some optimism on the dealer's part. But then if I came on a bigger shopping trip, I might ask if there were anything s/he could do for me, and see what the dealer said. I typically get about 20% off the marked prices with established dealer relationships. Of course, if even one time we negotiated that, having not talked about payment methods, and then I stupidly whipped out the plastic, that'd be a major step backward in the relationship because by then the dealer has come to make certain assumptions about my intentions, and it's up to me to keep demonstrating that I'm good business (and should therefore continue to get good deals).

A lot of finding a great dealer is learning the fine art of being a good customer. At my dealer back in Kennewick, one day they were slammed and I sort of stepped up to help a lady and her teen daughter, who were interested in the same world coins book I was looking at. I went through it and told them some specifics about pieces, including a 1787 Connecticut copper that they really liked. I ended up basically selling them about $100 worth of coins (and they paid retail). They were very happy. The dealer didn't say anything, but I also had my own haul. Most of it was silver and had not been repriced for some time (Ag having gone up quite a bit). Without a word, the dealer rang it all up at the marked prices, rather than at the 20% higher he could have legitimately asked. I understood exactly what had happened. The savings were, in effect, a commission--a nice thank-you. When the dealer likes having you around, lots of good things can come your way.

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13 minutes ago, bwolper said:

Tom,

Thank you for taking the time to give me such a thorough explanation.  Perhaps there will be more input from others.

Bruce

Hi Bruce,

No problem.  I'm always glad to help out.  Jonathan also brought up some very good points with his response.  My fiancee and I are some of our favorite dealer's favorite customers.....we're always polite, we pretty much always buy something and we always pay cash.  We're also knowledgeable and have been able to help customers out when the guys at our favorite shop are slammed, just as Jonathan was able to.  And many good things have come our way from this shop, as Jonathan has said.   We're probably headed out there tomorrow actually......gotta go see if they have any new British stuff for my fiancee and any ancients or bird coins for me....I'm hoping to find a new addition for my budding Faustina the Younger collection.

And, to Jonathan, dirty secret here as well.....I've never owned a Red Book either.  What I know about it comes from my time working at a coin shop!  I read the shop's Red Books so that I could know what was in there when I sold them....and we sold A LOT of them!

Cheers to both of you!

~Tom

Edited by Mohawk
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Your posts are incredibly infomative.  Thank you again.  I will look forward to building a good relationship with a reputable dealer.  You suggestions are greatly appreciated.

Perhaps we will "speak" again.

Cheers to both of you.

Warm wishes,

Bruce

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Buying a Redbook is a good first step when starting out collecting US coins. The prices in there should mostly be  used as a guide in comparing one coin or series to another. As far as the actual price that you may pay, I have found the Redbook to be high in some instances, low in others. 

A good second step: be patient.  Learn as much as possible about the coins you want to collect. Being an informed collector will help you make wise purchases.

Welcome to the forum.:hi:

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Thinking about it, I want to make sure my glib-but-truthful statement on the red book isn't taken incorrectly. I think it can be of great value, especially to new collectors of US coins. Often to experienced collectors. I just have never had the need for one myself.

Now, Aorta--can't get along without it.

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11 minutes ago, JKK said:

Thinking about it, I want to make sure my glib-but-truthful statement on the red book isn't taken incorrectly. I think it can be of great value, especially to new collectors of US coins. Often to experienced collectors. I just have never had the need for one myself.

Now, Aorta--can't get along without it.

You make a good point.  I didn't mean anything bad about the Red Book either, but some of what I wrote may sound that way.  We sold a lot of them at the shop I worked at because it IS a good reference for US coin collectors.  I agree with everything you said :) .......especially about Aorta!  I thank you again for suggesting that to me.....I always have my head in that book now!

Edited by Mohawk
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Where Aorta will really show its worth is when someone shows you a worn AE3 where they can't even identify the emperor, and you'll reach into the middle of the informational mess and pull out a positive ID. They'll think it's sorcery.

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I think of the Redbook as akin to an encyclopedia of U.S. coins.  The prices I see in the Red Book are just a general guide to the relative value of the coins in any particular series.  I have never relied on the Red Book to set prices when selling or paying for a coin.  I doubt if many dealers use it that way either.  Instead, I would educate myself thoroughly about the current market and if I am looking for a specific coin, I will actually use the SOLD prices on Ebay to get a feel for the market at any given moment.  

If I am looking for a 1909S VDB Lincoln in VF condition, I see today that the SOLD prices can vary wildly from as low as $579 for a VF20 ANACS slabbed, to as high as $775 for a VF35 in a PCGS OGC holder.  Now you have a range to look at and decide what you are willing to pay for a slabbed (non-details) 09S VDB.  If someone wants $750 for a VF20, you can decide, based on your research, if you are willing to pay that.  It's your choice, but you have done your due diligence and know the general range. 

Buying a raw coin, especially a relative rarity like the 09S VDB requires even more research and a very good understanding of both grading and the flaws, like obvious cleaning or rim dings, that would cause a coin to lose value, even at a higher grade.  So, best policy is join a local coin club, if possible, befriend those experienced collectors in the club, and study, study, study.

 

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24 minutes ago, bwolper said:

Wow, thank you Mokiechan.  Your post thick with great information and advice.

Thank you for taking the time.

Bruce

Happy to add my two cents (so to speak) Bruce.  You will find the vast majority of more experienced collectors LOVE to help newer collectors.  That is one thing I love about this hobby.  Regards, Malcolm

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I've got a few Red Books on the bookshelf as I always pick them, and other coin related books, up whenever I see them at the thrift store.  No luck yet finding the 1947 edition but holding out hope.  Did score a nice copy of "A guidebook of Modern European Coins" dated 1965 this year - nothing too special but a nice addition for 50 cents. 

Like many of the responders so far I don't think I've actually used it for checking prices though.  Except one time where my son bought an VF indian head for $10 and I showed him in the 1960's era Red Book that the same coin, same condition, was listed for $10 over 50 years ago - but those in MS condition have changed price points quite a bit.  Used it as a teaching lesson on the finer point of "buying the best coin you can afford" if you intend to resell it later.  The header categories in Red Book have some good tips on identifying high points on certain coin series from what I recall.

For pricing purposes I tend to hit 3 sites mainly to determine a baseline:  CDN Greysheet (both the app & the site) - has ongoing updates including eBay sales data, reflects more of a raw pricing point and what I'd expect to pay in a retail setting +/- 10%; eBay recently sold - you'll have to review more sales to determine what's fair, was it an auction or buy it now?, common or rare?, etc...; and Great Collections auction archives - best if you're looking at the top end of graded coins but also useful to determine a fair price on varieties that you may not find listed/sold very often on eBay alone.

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