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What is the Value of My Old Coin?

Over the last couple of centuries, the United States Mint produced millions of bronze, nickel, copper, silver, and gold coins in different designs and denominations. Some of these coins have become rare with exceptionally high value.

In this guide, I will go over the factors that affect the coin values of old coins and the estimated value of different types of United States coins. Keep reading until the end, as I will also give an example of the old coins value chart and go over some tips that you should follow if you’re ready to sell your old coins.

Let’s get started!

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How to Determine the Value of an Old Coin: Factors That Affect Coin Values

What Is My Old Coin Worth?

Whether it is gold coins or silver coins, there are certain factors that coin collectors consider before purchasing, which can affect their value. These include the following:

Number of Coins in Circulation

The number of coins in circulation refers to how many the United States Mint produced, which can directly impact the coin’s value. However, not all coins that went into circulation exist today.

If you research the Morgan Dollars, you’ll learn that the Numismatic Guarantee Corporation graded around 3.5 million of them between 1891 and 1892, but only a few exist, as the government melted most of them. Due to their rarity, the value of the half-dollar coins can go up to $1,200.

It is not just the number of coins in circulation that affects the value of an old coin. Buffalo nickels, for example, have become rare, but they are considered “common coins,” which is why they’re only worth between $1 and $10.

Condition of the Old Coins

When determining coin values, it is essential to look at the condition of the old coins. Depending on the level of wear or damage, the coin can either be worth a lot of money or nothing at all.

There are several signs that coin dealers look out for when assessing old coins, and these include signs of damage, the coin’s color, the tones, and any marks, among others. These show the level of preservation. Too much wear on an old coin can depreciate its value.

If you want to know a coin’s grade, there are several third-party coin grading and certification services, such as Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) and Numismatic Guarantee Corporation (NGC), that can help determine their condition.

Age of the Coins

Old coins often face severe damage due to their age, which can affect their value. However, that is not the only way the age of the coins impacts the coin values.

When you look at the half dime values, the value of Bust half dimes differs from the price of the Seated half dime, as both were made at different times.

Another thing to remember is that the older the coin, the more difficult it is for collectors to get their hands on them. This is because you can no longer purchase old coins from the United States Mint.

It is also important to note that not all old coins are valuable, and it is the date inscribed on them that the collectors and coin dealers look out for when looking to make a trade.

The Coin’s Design

The design of the coins may have cultural, political, and historical significance and vary from one type of old coin to another. When you look at the two-cent coins, you’ll find a shield and olive branches. 

As new political parties or governments emerged, they would instruct the United States Mint to produce new bronze, nickel, copper, silver, or gold coins. Some would be limited editions, while others would have an expiration date.

There are coins that were minted and immediately halted because of the American Civil War, which made it impossible for the US Mint to procure the raw materials. These types of coins are incredibly valuable for collectors.

Demand for the Coin

When it comes to coin collecting, demand plays a significant role in the value of old coins. The United States Mint minted some coins in the millions, but only a few exist today, which is why there is a lot of demand for them.

The Standing Liberty Quarter is an excellent example of a rare old coin that many collectors seek to add to their collections. Even some foreign currencies are worth collecting due to their rarity, which drives demand and their value.

Bullion Coins

Silver or gold coins are more valuable than those made from bronze or copper because of the value of the precious metals used to make them. If you were to melt gold or silver coins, their value would be much greater than their face value.

However, old coins may only have precious metals plating, which is why many of them have a lower value than modern bullion coins.

The Coin’s Lineage

If the coin has a certain history or famous person attached to it, the value of it instantly shoots up. This is because collectors are always on the lookout for something rare and unique to add to their coin collection.

The Estimated Value of the Different Types of United States Coins

I have an example of an old coin value chart later in this article to help explain the significant differences between the coin’s value according to their age and condition. 

Here, I will explore the different types of United States coins and their estimated value. It’s important to note that these are approximates, and the value may rise since most of these coins are related to historical events or are made from precious metals.

Half Cents

Half Cents

Considered to be incredibly rare collectibles, half-cent coins were minted between 1793 and 1857 and were the smallest denomination in the United States at the time. There were five different designs, and the country’s mint circulated around seven million of them.

Made of 100% copper, the United States Philadelphia Mint received authorization to mint the half-cent coins under the Coinage Act of 1792. The different design varieties included the following:

  1. Left-facing Liberty Cap (1793)

  2. Right-facing Liberty Cap (1794 to 1797)

  3. Draped Bust (1800 to 1808)

  4. Classic Head (1809 to 1837)

  5. Braided Hair (1840 to 1857)

Most half-cent coins have plain edges with no mintmarks, except the 1797 variety, which has a gripped edge. Considering how rare these coins are, you may be wondering how much they’re worth in today’s time.

Well, the half-cent coins minted in 1793 are pretty rare, as there were only 35,334 pieces in circulation. They could cost you up to $17,000. 

The Draped Bust coins minted in 1800 are also quite valuable for collectors and can fetch up to $2,000.

American Large Cents

American Large Cents

With a face value of 1/100 of a United States dollar, the American large cents were officially minted between 1793 and 1857 and were eventually replaced by the modern penny. 

Made from pure copper, these coins are pretty rare, especially those produced in 1793, which can fetch up to $17,000, depending on their condition.

The following are the different varieties of the American large cents that went into circulation:

  1. Flowing Hair – Chain Reverse (1793)

  2. Flowing Hair – Wreath Reverse (1793)

  3. Liberty Cap (1793 to 1796)

  4. Draped Bust (1796 to 1807)

  5. Classic Head (1808 to 1814)

  6. Coronet – Matron Head (1815 to 1839)

  7. Coronet – Braided Hair (1839 to 1857)

The Liberty Cap was the first design of the American large cents that continued for a couple of years after Rittenhouse requested to change the coin’s design multiple times in 1793.

In 1796, Robert Scot redesigned the coin (Draped Bust), which now had the bust of Liberty in drapery and a ribbon flowing through her hair. 

The Classic Head variant had a higher quality copper that was prone to wear and tear, making it a valuable collectible, as high-grade examples of these types of coins are more difficult to find.

Since the American large cents minted between 1794 and 1796 are also considered to be rare coins, they can fetch up to $5,000, depending on their condition. The Coronet variety, if graded fine, can cost up to $1,000.

Flying Eagle Pennies

Flying Eagle Pennies

Minted in 1856 and circulated until 1858, the Flying Eagle pennies replaced the American large cent coins, as they were becoming unpopular and too expensive to mint. These coins have a composition of 88% copper and 12% nickel.

However, their design did not do well, and they were eventually replaced by Longacre’s Indian Head cents in 1859. An 1856 Flying Eagle penny in mint condition (no wear and tear) can go for $12,000, while those with a good grade can cost up to $4,000.

When determining whether the Flying Eagle penny is in good condition, collectors must look at the feathers on the bird. They should be precise. On the coin’s reverse, there should be a clear picture of the crops. The date on the Flying Eagle penny should also be visible.

Two-cent Coins

Two-cent Coins

Circulated between 1864 and 1872, the United States minted the two-cent coins out of necessity due to the economic turmoil in the country. Silver, copper, and nickels were the most popular, but because of the American Civil War, the US Mint decided to replace the Longacre’s Indian Head cent with the bronze two-cent coin.

There were approximately 20 million pieces of the two-cent coins in circulation, and in 1873, the government redeemed and melted most of them. Although they’re rare, the two-cent coin is relatively inexpensive, with the 1864 “SM Motto” (in mint condition) going for $1,000.

The two-cent coin has a shield on one side that represents war, while the other side of the coin has olive branches encircling the two cents, suggesting peace. 

When it comes to mint condition, it should have no signs of wear, with the arrow signs visible. The strands of the wheat with every grain should also be noticeable. You’ll notice much heavier wear on a good-grade two-cent coin. The shield and arrow details are barely noticeable, with only the two cents on the backside visible.

Three-cent Nickels

Three-cent Nickels

The US Mint Chief Engraver James B. Longacre designed the three-cent nickel, a popular coin minted between 1865 and 1889. 

Due to the economic turmoil of the American Civil War, the government replaced many silver and copper coins with paper money. However, it was a highly unpopular decision, as the small slips of paper would become dirty and ragged quickly.

In 1864, Congress proposed replacing the three-cent notes with light bronze coins, similar to the two-cent coin. Although these were popular initially, the American public preferred the five-cent nickel for commerce.

After 1870, the US Mint reduced the mintage of the three-cent nickel, and by 1890, Congress abolished it. The government redeemed those left in circulation and melted them to produce the popular five-cent nickel.

On the three-cent piece, Liberty wears a coronet with her name on it and a ribbon that binds her hair together. The designer, James B. Longacre, had a laurel wreath (found on the 1859 Indian Head cent coin) combined with the Roman numeral III on the back.

Although there were 17 million three-cent nickels produced at the time, the government melted most of them, which makes any remaining coins rare and valuable.

One of these coins, in mint condition, can go for $200. Liberty’s face should be clear, and you should be able to identify her cheeks and mouth. The engraving on the crown should read “LIBERTY” clearly, and the reverse side should have the Roman numeral III prominent, with the bow below the leaves visible.

When compared to the mint condition of the three-cent nickel, a good grade has considerable wear, and the structure of Liberty’s face blends with her hair, with the separation line faded away. Turning the coin around, you might also notice that the details on the leaves are not clearly visible.

Liberty or V Nickels

Liberty or V Nickels

Also referred to as the V nickel, the Liberty Head nickel is a five-cent coin circulated between 1883 and 1912. It replaced the five-cent piece made from copper and nickel due to long-standing production problems.

Congress passed on the responsibility to design a replacement for the copper-nickel five-cent piece with similar features to the US Mint Chief Engraver Charles Barber.

Barber designed the new Liberty Head nickel with a portrait of Liberty and the mintage date on the obverse, while on the back, it had the Roman numeral “V” surrounded by a wreath of wheat, cotton, and corn. A year later, the US Mint added “In God We Trust” on the back of the coin.

However, President Chester Arthur disapproved of the design as the law required the “United States of America” to appear on the back of the coin instead of the front. Barber had to change the design once more, which eventually got approved in 1883.

When it comes to this coin’s value, the 1885 Liberty Head nickel can fetch up to $1,500 if it’s in mint condition. This means that it shouldn’t have signs of wear, and there should be a visible grain of wheat on Liberty’s head. The corn and cotton on the coin’s reverse should have fine details.

Compared to the mint condition of the Liberty Head coin, a good grade should have blurry details of Liberty with bloated stars surrounding it. On the reverse, you might notice that the motto and details of the leaves are faded.

Seated Liberty Dimes

Seated Liberty Dimes

The seated Liberty portrait appeared on most United States silver dime coins. On the front, you can see Liberty wearing a flowing dress and a Phrygian cap while seated on a rock with a Liberty pole in her left hand. Her right hand rests on a striped shield with a banner inscribed “LIBERTY.” On the bottom, there is the date of the coin.

When you turn the Seated Liberty dime around, you’ll find olive branches tied with a bow that surrounds the “One Dime” inscription, with the outer having “United States of America” inscribed. Those circulated between 1837 to 1838 (No Stars Obverse Type Liberty) can fetch up to $14,000 due to their rarity.

Unlike those minted by the Philadelphia Mint, the New Orleans Minted Seated Liberty dimes had an “O” mintmark. The Obverse Type Dime (minted between 1860 and 1891) can cost $100.

Bust Quarters

Bust Quarters

Minted between 1796 and 1838, the Bust Quarters were extremely popular and had a few design variations. The Draped Bust Quarter has Liberty facing to the right with flowing hair loosely tied by a ribbon. Since the US Mint produced only half a million of these, they are rare, and if in mint condition, they can go up to $10,000 in value.

Another variant of the Bust Quarter is the Capped Bust Quarter, which circulated between 1815 and 1828. Liberty is facing the right, similar to the Draped variant, but is wearing a cap with the portrait surrounded by 13 stars representing the 13 colonies of the United States. On the coin’s backside, you’ll find an eagle holding arrows and olive branches.

There were 1.2 million of the Capped Bust Quarters minted, and they can cost around $4,000 each. The 1805 variant in mint condition can go for $12,000, with a fine grade fetching up to $2,000.

Liberty 2.5 Dollar Gold Coins

Liberty 2.5 Dollar Gold Coins

Each containing 0.12094 ounces of pure gold, the Liberty 2.5 dollar gold coin can go up in value depending on the price of the precious metal. However, considerable wear and tear can affect its bullion coin value.

Created by Christian Gobrecht, the Liberty 2.5 dollar gold coin has a portrait of Lady Liberty surrounded by 13 stars, while on the back, you’ll notice the famed Heraldic Eagle. It will cost you around $4,000 for the uncirculated 1887 coin and $1,200 for the circulated variant.

There are different mintmarks on the Liberty 2.5 dollar gold coins. The New Orleans Mint and the San Francisco Mint use an “O” and an “S” mintmark, respectively, while the Philadelphia Mint has no markings.

An 1881 New Orleans Liberty 2.5 dollar gold coin is a rare piece for coin collectors. It has Liberty facing the left side with her hair tied in pearls, and on the back is an eagle with olive branches and arrows.

Liberty 10 Dollar Gold Coins

Liberty 10 Dollar Gold Coins

The New Orleans minted Liberty 10 dollar gold coins are rare and can cost around $800. On the front, Liberty is facing the left side with 13 stars surrounding her, while on the reverse, you’ll find an eagle holding arrows and an olive branch.

If you’re looking for an 1893 Liberty 10 dollar gold coin (it has a “CC” mintmark that represents “Carson City” in Nevada), it should cost you around $1,100, with extremely fine-grade coins fetching up to $5,000.

Morgan Silver Coins

Morgan Silver Coins

Minted between 1878 and 1904, 1921, and in 2011, the Morgan silver coins were the first standard silver dollar coins after the passing of the Coinage Act of 1873. 

In 1876, the US Mint engraver George Morgan came up with the design for silver half dollars, which the government used for the one-dollar coins at the time.

Later, Morgan changed Liberty, which often represented a Greek figure, to an American woman. She is wearing a Liberty cap with a diagonal band that has a “LIBERTY” inscription. On the silver half-dollar coins, you’ll find the eagle on the back that is flying upright, which represents national pride. It has an olive branch and an arrow that symbolizes power and peace.

The government passed on the responsibility to mint the Morgan silver coins to five mints. You can find good-grade coins for $20. However, the 1886 silver dollar coins with an “O” mintmark can cost over $1,000.

An Example of Old Coins Value Chart to Help You Determine the Value of Half-cent Coins

The value of the old coins depends on many factors, as discussed earlier in this guide. Here, we will look at the price range you should expect for the different types of half-cent coins depending on the year and their condition.

  • Liberty Capped Variety 1793-1797:

    • 1793: Good – $3,150, Fine – $6,675, Extremely Fine – $17,369, Mint State – Rare

    • 1794: Good – $446, Fine – $1,610, Extremely Fine – $6,506, Mint State – Rare

    • 1795: Good – $520, Fine – $945, Extremely Fine – $3,600, Mint State – Rare

    • 1796: This is a rare coin

    • 1797: Good – $395, Fine – $900, Extremely Fine – $3,285, Mint State – Rare

  • Draped Bust Variety 1800-1808:

    • 1800: Good – $80, Fine – $113, Extremely Fine – $453, Mint State – $2,115

    • 1802: Good – $833, Fine – $2,840, Extremely Fine – RARE, Mint State – Rare

    • 1803: Good – $70, Fine – $152, Extremely Fine – $493, Mint State – Rare

    • 1804: Good – $73, Fine – $115, Extremely Fine – $348, Mint State – $1,265

    • 1805: Good – $62, Fine – $130, Extremely Fine – $390, Mint State – $2,144

    • 1806: Good – $62, Fine – $127, Extremely Fine – $293, Mint State – $1,321

    • 1807: Good – $60, Fine – $113, Extremely Fine – $325, Mint State – $1,418

    • 1808: Good – $78, Fine – $128, Extremely Fine – $385, Mint State – $2,108

  • Classic Head Variety 1809-1835:

    • 1809: Good – $44, Fine – $69, Extremely Fine – $171, Mint State – $865

    • 1810: Good – $73, Fine – $133, Extremely Fine – $432, Mint State – $1,658

    • 1811: Good – $343, Fine – $833, Extremely Fine – $3,143, Mint State – Rare

    • 1825: Good – $44, Fine – $63, Extremely Fine – $151, Mint State – $795

    • 1826: Good – $56, Fine – $50, Extremely Fine – $113, Mint State – $429

    • 1828: Good – $44, Fine – $52, Extremely Fine – $145, Mint State – $385

    • 1829: Good – $47, Fine – $62, Extremely Fine – $130, Mint State – $388

    • 1831: This is a rare coin

    • 1832: Good – $50, Fine – $54, Extremely Fine – $89, Mint State – $321

    • 1833: Good – $49, Fine – $57, Extremely Fine – $133, Mint State – $230

    • 1834: Good – $51, Fine – $56, Extremely Fine – $108, Mint State – $271

    • 1835: Good – $51, Fine – $68, Extremely Fine – $110, Mint State – $236

  • Braided Hair Variety 1849-1857:

    • 1849: Good – $51, Fine – $68, Extremely Fine – $149, Mint State – $483

    • 1850: Good – $43, Fine – $92, Extremely Fine – $418, Mint State – $623

    • 1851: Good – $46, Fine – $67, Extremely Fine – $83, Mint State – $229

    • 1853: Good – $46, Fine – $61, Extremely Fine – $90, Mint State – $224

    • 1854: Good – $44, Fine – $57, Extremely Fine – $135, Mint State – $229

    • 1855: Good – $46, Fine – $58, Extremely Fine – $114, Mint State – $295

    • 1856: Good – $47, Fine – $67, Extremely Fine – $86, Mint State – $244

    • 1857: Good – $46, Fine – $66, Extremely Fine – $176, Mint State – $340

Note: The values in the old coins value chart represent the estimated prices for half-cent coins in different conditions based on their rarity and mint state as of 2023.

Changing Gold and Silver Content in Our Coinage

Since 1794, the United States Mint has minted silver coins, ranging from three cents to half dimes to silver dollars. Those minted in 1794 had a fineness of .8924, which later increased to .900 in 1837. However, during the 1960s, there was a silver shortage due to the rising demand across multiple industries, which drove the price.

Due to the rising price, the value of silver coins increased to $1.40 at the time, which was 40 cents more than their face value. Many people started hoarding silver and melting it to make good profits. In response, the Treasury decided to stop using silver when minting coins. However, the half dollar continued to use the precious metal, albeit with the US Mint reducing its content to 40%.

In the United States, mints produced gold coins between 1795 and 1933. However, when President Franklin Roosevelt took charge, he ordered the abandonment of the gold standard. By 1795, the content of a gold coin included .9167 fine gold and a mix of silver and copper. From the 1830s until 1933, the mints made them from .900 fine gold and .100 copper.

How to Value Old Coins: Is Your Old Coin Worth a Fortune?

Let me share a few things with you that I learned on my quest for knowledge and riches. These will help you understand whether your old coin is worth a fortune.

  1. The American Numismatic Association had a magazine known as “The Numismatist.” One day, while reading a column written by Mitch Sanders, I discovered that many people did not spend the coins that the United States Mint minted in the millions, such as the 1964 Kennedy half-dollars. This means that they aren’t worth much. The circulated variant of that coin is worth about $11. However, if you get your hands on the uncirculated coin, they can fetch up to $5,200.

  2. Twentieth-century half-dollars minted before 1965 are silver coins with a value greater than their face value due to the metal content.

  3. Recently, I came across 1920s silver dollars, and since they were more than 100 years old, I had high hopes for their value. To my surprise, they were worth between $20 and $30 per coin, depending on their condition. What I learned here was that not all old coins are valuable.

  4. Depending on their condition, the value of an old coin can vary significantly. An 1885-O Morgan silver dollar, for example, can be worth $150 to $200 if it is in good condition. However, coin dealers won’t pay more than $25 for the same coin in worn condition.

  5. The number of coins minted and the particular mint play a significant role in the value of old coins. Even in worn condition, the 1885-O Morgan silver dollar is worth a couple of hundred dollars if it carries a “CC” mintmark.

Are You Ready to Sell Your Old Coins? Follow These Tips!

If you’re looking to sell your old coins, you should follow the tips below:

  • Whether you’re selling copper or old silver coins, it’s best to avoid cleaning them. Rubbing the coin with detergent or polishing it can reduce its value.

  • Study print and online references to get the estimated values of the currencies you want to sell. There is an excellent guidebook called “A Guide Book of United States Coins” that you can purchase. It contains pictures and other relevant details that can help you assess your coin’s value.

  • Consider becoming a member of the American Numismatic Association and the Professional Numismatists Guild. It will help connect you with dealers who are looking to buy old coins.

Final Thoughts

The value of an old coin is what someone is willing to pay for it. A coin passed down from one generation to the other may hold emotional value for the holder, but it may be worthless for a coin collector.

Today, modern bullion and silver coins are extremely valuable from an investment point of view. However, for coin collectors, the history associated with old coins and the coin’s rarity makes it a great addition to their collections.