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I'm a Newbie, need some advice

26 posts in this topic

I am an American expat living in the Philippines. I am in possesion of approx 150 kilos of coins that my wife and I have saved throughout the years. I am not a professional collector and the coins are not catalogued or graded. The following is an email I recently sent to NGC in the United states.  * Dear NGC
I feel a bit overwhelmed at this point. I have about 60 lbs of assorted US and International coins, many dating back into the 1800's.
They are in a cardboard box and loosely wrapped and not inventoried. 

I just don't know where to start and to go through and look at each and every coin seems to be a very daunting task for me. 

Can you please advise me how you would proceed if you were new to coin collecting and wanted to catalogue/grade inventory a large number of coins like this? 
Honestly I would love to be able to pack them, and ship them to someone trustworthy who could do this for me. I would be more than willing to pay for this service. I have a feeling that this collection could possibly be worth a significant amount.

Can you advise me step by step on how you might go about this?
Thanks again,
So as you can see, I have a huge task ahead of me and am looking for a professional service where I could submit my collection for grading/value/inventory. Can you please advise me how I could do this here in the Philippines? I am willing to join a collectors club/service and am willing to pay to have my collection fixed and in place, so I can understand how much my collection is worth. Please help me out if you can and advise me. I live in Quezon province in ****** City. Thank you, Pete

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First: 150 kg or 60 lbs, which is it? The two quantities are quite different.

NGC won't go through that collection. You will either have to find a numismatist and pay him/her, or start drinking from the numismatic fire hose. I suspect that by the time someone finishes cataloguing them all for you, it will cost more than the collection is worth, so I do not really recommend that. Coins are heavy to ship. Also, here's your first ice bath of honesty: the odds are low that the coins are worth Big Bucks. Oh, it's possible, but most people imagine their coins to be more valuable than Mr. Market says they are. You should brace yourself for "Whaaaaaa? You can't tell me these are only worth $XXX? No WAY! I have Real Old 1800s Coins here and they have to be worth massive money!" If that sounds mocking, it's not so intended. I'm saying it with a collegial smile based in experience looking at a lot of collections that people thought were very valuable. For example, take German Imperial 10pf coins in F condition, 1800s. Except for a few less common dates, they are so common they are often found in assortment bins for 15-20c. They're cool, but they aren't worth much--and try telling their owners that.

I'd start by sorting the US coins by type, then subtype where obvious. For example: Kennedys 1964, 65-70, 71+. Washingtons 1932-64 and 65+, Rosies 1946-64 and 64+, Jeffs 1938-42 (not silver), 42-45 (silver; look for the big mint mark above Monticello), and 46+. Lincs 1909-33, 1934-58, 1959-82, 1982 (Cu clad Zinc)+. I'd sort the non-US coins by country, putting all the ones you can't determine the country (don't guess; if you aren't sure, have an "aren't sure" group) into a "hellifIknow" category.

When you finish with that, start counting how many are in each group. If it's easier to weigh them, do that and divide by the standard weight of the type.

That should keep you out of the fleshpots of ****** City for a while. When you have totals, or need guidance, post here and let us know what you have or need to know, and we'll help you move forward. Even if you decide you want to send them to someone, a basic inventory by type and subtype will help that person quote you a cost and have an idea what they're up against, so you ought to do it for best outcome.

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Thanks so much for this honest, open and sage advice. I totally get it! I can just start sorting them, I need something to keep me busy anyway. How about software that would help keep an inventory? Any advice on that? For example, I found a program  called "Exact Change". I haven't looked at it yet. Or if there is any cataloguing software that you would recommed, I would appreciate it. Again, thanks!

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7 hours ago, Peter Madlem said:

Thanks so much for this honest, open and sage advice. I totally get it! I can just start sorting them, I need something to keep me busy anyway. How about software that would help keep an inventory? Any advice on that? For example, I found a program  called "Exact Change". I haven't looked at it yet. Or if there is any cataloguing software that you would recommed, I would appreciate it. Again, thanks!

Walang anuman. I don't know of specific software to recommend, but for starters it's just making a count. The expected outcome from that is to know what really needs research and opinions, and what is of minimal value. For example: non-steel US Lincolns from 1934-58 are typically not worth much of a premium. Someone might pay $1.50 for 100 of them. Most of the silver will be worth its metal value (around US $27/oz right now; see this page for exact numbers on specific US coins).

So once you've got it all sorted out and counted in raw numbers, phase two involves winnowing out what is worth more than bulk. This will be more difficult. Your best resource for the US coins would be a Red Book, not because you can always go by the pricing, but because the pricing lists will show which coins are rare and worth watching for. So then when you get the Buffalo nickels sorted out, for example, you'll be watching for those before 1915, those before 1927 with D and S mint marks, the 1916 and 1935 doubled dies, a 1936-D three-and-a-half legs and the famous 37-D three-legged buffalo. The logic is that 99% of your coins will likely not fall into any premium categories and don't need more than a quick identifying glance. The other 1% will be worth the time to check into, identify what you've got, look up in price guides, get an idea how to grade.

On the non-US coins, of course, well, that depends in part on your language and alphabet background. Those and ancients are my main collecting area, and while some are valuable of course, the fact is there is less demand for most issues. People wonder how a US 1909-S VDB penny, 484K minted, can automatically be worth $500+ if authentic (counterfeiting is a big problem), whereas a Hungarian coin with only 15,000 minted might be worth $10. Demand is what drives it all. There are collectors of Hungarian coins; there just aren't as many as there are US collectors. Eventually you'll start to get an idea of what looks older, and once you get your non-US coins sorted mostly by country we can help you ID the stragglers. Or you can begin yourself using Numista, a fantastic resource for this.

One last thing: shininess is deceiving, but don't risk damaging coins that might be valuable. One can make a coin shiny by cleaning it, thus damaging its value. When trying to assess condition, look for high points and wear (or lack thereof). A coin that has all its detail and nice fields may be nearly uncirculated and you would not want to ding it or get skin oil on it any more than you could help. For example, consider the 1937-44 PI centavo, of which you have surely seen some and probably have a lot. On the obverse (front) it has a shield with an oval device that sticks way up; you would look to see most of the detail in the oval (looks to me like a tower overlooking a sea dragon). If flat, could be wear and could be a weak strike, but either way it's probably not vulnerable to damage in your process.

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This is exactly the type of advice I am looking for. I truly appreciate you taking some time to help me out, and look forward to continue corresponding with you. I'm retired, have plenty of time on my hands and am ready to start learning something. I understand that the bulk of my collection may not have much value now, and that's ok. But I could have a few gems hidden in here somewhere. What's interests me are the US/Philippine Commonwealth coins, of which I have quite a few. My wife's father had a "Juke box" business in the 1950's and '60's and mama saved all of the older coins. It seems that folks had figured out that they could use the old coins in the juke boxes and did so frequently. Mama saved them, wrapped them in small groups and dated them. For me, historically, they have value... for me, because they come from a special era in time. Maybe as collectables they don't have much value (although I don't know that yet and won't until I check them against pricing guides right?) but I will hang on to them just the same. JKK, again... thanks. I will stay with, because for sure I will have more questions. Maraming Salamat po pare!

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I like PI coinage as well. I've got one older one from the Spanish era, 1820 I think, a quarto. Worn, but I like it.

If you need help identifying anything, post the pics (both sides) with weight and diameter in their own thread (one thread per coin). Cropping the photo helps a great deal. We have people on here whose world coin knowledge makes me look like a bonobo. And of course US coins, well, lots of knowledge here in that area. It will be helpful to know or learn which coins are silver, because those always get at least something close to the bullion value. Having a jukebox business is the motherlode for accumulating a coin collection, so that's excellent for you.

Even with pricing guides, the problem there is that the values you see tend to be very much inflated and rarely updated. If you really want to know what a coin is worth, find one like it under Sold Listings on Ebay. Anyone can put something to sell for any price, but what people pay for it when it's real money--that's what it's worth. Enjoy this journey, and glad to be of service.

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JKK, love that Spanish coin. My metal detector is broken, need to buy a new one. There was an old spanish fort here, about 2 kilometers from my house hefe in Lucena city. i would love to find the exact location and do some sweeps with a metal detector. You never know what you might find. I was doing some "Panning" on a fresh water spring on our property in Lucban, Quezoin province a few years ago and found a 1930's coin. 

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2 minutes ago, Peter Madlem said:

JKK, love that Spanish coin. My metal detector is broken, need to buy a new one. There was an old spanish fort here, about 2 kilometers from my house hefe in Lucena city. i would love to find the exact location and do some sweeps with a metal detector. You never know what you might find. I was doing some "Panning" on a fresh water spring on our property in Lucban, Quezoin province a few years ago and found a 1930's coin. 

Nice find, Peter. That's how I got my own start on coin collecting, though without a metal detector. My family are from Kansas (middle of the lower 48 US) and moved to what became the family cattle ranch in the 1880s. One day when I was about six, just outside the carriage-room (we still call it that to this day, 50 years later), I found a blackened early 1900s Barber dime in the dirt. Considering this was Kansas, where the mud is more like muuuuudd and swallows up dropped items, that was a miracle. Maybe my great-grandmother (who was then still alive; born 1884, grew up there, raised family) had dropped it by mistake when she was a young wife or teen girl. They were happy to let me keep it, and family members began to give me coins. I don't think they had any idea what they started.

Where you are at, you could legitimately hope for pre-Spanish-American War pieces in old forts, especially those that have all but fallen down because they long ago ceased to be needed. Those might be less picked over than the better preserved forts.

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JKK thanks for the advice. Hey, started sorting some of these coins today. All pre-WWII US/Philippines  ( early 1900's and up to 1944-45) 1, 5, 10, 25, 50 centavos, and at least 300 pieces of each denomination , and so far only one pre-war one peso coin. Most are in average to fairly worn condition, but many of the bronze and silver coins are in very good shape. I have plenty more to sort through but at least I have a start. When I make some progress and have it fairly organized, I will send you some pictures.


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So I will send you a short video from my sorting today. I wanted to mention that mixed in with some of my "International" coins I found about six Spanish coins, the earliest date 1867 and was 10 cents. The other Spanish coins were 1800's. Then there were some from Trinidad/Tobago, Netherlands and various other places. I have a lot more sorting and classifying/dating to do before I have any clue as to what I am sitting one here. There's always that hope that one of these will be that "six figure" coin, but I tend to not start counting my chickens before they hatch, it's foolish to do so. Wanted to tell you that you can feel free to add me on FB Messenger if you are there and if you want too. Makes it easy to send messages back and forth. Anyway, enjoy the video! Actually, just looked again, there's an 1883 (I think) 10 cent peice from Spain. So 1867 Spainish 10 Centamos is the oldest I have found so far. Have to keep sorting! Here is the Youtiube link for the video I made today. 


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I can't see the video, but that I suspect is because of draconian privacy settings. That's pretty sweet to find 1800s coins, even if it is unlikely any of them will rise to the nest egg level. Spain and its colonies had a major currency transformation over that century, as did many other European countries. If you ever want to see a real numismatic quagmire, check out German States coins before unification. I think a third of the Krause book is occupied with all the various principalities, electorates, duchies, and other states of many sizes.

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You have received excellent advice and cautions from JKK. Let me follow up as a Philippine collector for 50 years and the author of Philippine Medals and Tokens 1780-2020. My friend bought 10,000 US Phil pesos (1903-12) in the late 60s and shipped them to the US. Most were junk and came from those dropped in Manila Bay when Japan invaded in 1941, but he bought them for the silver. 50 years later he is selling a large number to a smelter for the silver content (currently $13 per peso). Many (most?) Spanish (<1897) and US Phil coins (1903-45) have been cleaned and are not highly sought after except for those with extremely rare dates and in XF+/UNC condition.  It seems you also have US and foreign coins so this complicates things even for an expert. Few experts, IMHO, have a level of knowledge about all world coins and this would take an inordinate amount of time to research and as JKK explained may cost you more than the coins are worth.

Again, just my opinion, but generally silver coins are worth at least their silver content. You can check this, as you most likely know, by passing a magnet over the coin and if it is not attracted by the magnet, it is likely silver. Coins that are UNC and do not have stains/scratches will bring higher prices IF again there is a collector base who buys these types of coins. You can also google "Value of 1921 Philippines 50 Centavos" and NGC offers prices for many coins.  Nearly all my coins are certified by NGC/PCGS so that when the time comes for me or my heirs to sell, there will not be a buyer trying to lowball me by claiming the coin/medal is of low quality.

Good luck as you try to bring order to your collection. When helping friends I will look up the coin by date, country, and denomination on Ebay and see what they sell for. Here in the US many regular people have accumulated several hundred dollars face value of old US coins. As JKK states, most are not valuable in and of themselves, but they may hold intrinsic value because they belonged to a relative or it was a childhood collection.

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Mactanboy, thank you so much for this thread/advice. A couple questions, one of my coins is a really nice 1909 "s" mint US/Philippine peso. I am wondering what it is worth? I have at least 17 peices of fifty centavos dating from 1907 to 1944, wondering about those too and then lastly, one mothe coins I found was a Philippine coin, either five or twenty five pesos, I'm not sure because the coin was mistakenly struck with the "Back" or "Shield" on both sides, so there is not date or denomination on it. Wondering if it has any value? I have lot's of late 1800 and early 1900 one centavo/penny, five centavos/ and 10 centavos. I will try and post another video today. A friend of mine and I were chatting and he looked up the 1909 "s" mint one peso and told me that it sold at auction for 26,000.00$. If that's so, then I might have a few others that are worth something. Interesting to say the least. But for me, this is not about the money. I would just like to know what I have and what it's worth, so I can catalogue the collection. 

1909 peso.png

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This is my inventory so far. Moving to later dates now

US Philippines Commonwealth coins
Once Cent
1903- 1
1904- 1
1917- 1
1925- 1
1928- 3
1929- 1
1930- 1
1933- 1
1934- 1
1936- 1
1937- 5
1938- 8
1939- 2
1940- 1
1941- 6
1944- 104

Five cents
1903- 7
1921- 1
1926- 1
1930- 1
1932- 2
1934- 2
1935- 4
1937- 3
1938- 2
1941- 4
1944- 90
1945- 96

Ten cents
1903- 3
1904- 4
1908- 18
1909- 3
1911- 5
1912- 6
1913- 7
1914- 7
1915- 2
1917- 28
1918- 52
1919- 5
1920- 1
1929- 6
1935- 9
1938- 1
1945- 1

Twenty cents
1907- 4
1908- 1
1909- 3
1910- 3
1911- 1
1912- 2
1913- 5
1915- 4
1916- 3
1917- 16
1918- 38
1920- 8
1921- 12
1928- 3
1929- 14
1944- 6
1945- 8

50 Centavos
1907- 5
1908- 4
1917- 1
1918- 4
1920- 1
1944- 1

One Peso
1909- 1

Other countries
1867 Spanish 10 cs- 1 piece
1888 canadian one cent- 1 piece
1901 canadian one cent- 1 piece
1866 Italian 10 Centisimi- 1 piece
1902 Canadian on  cent- 1 piece
1900 US one dime- 1 piece  (Barber dime)
1904 Panama 5 cents- 1 piece
1945 US one dime- 1 piece
1949 Australian three pence- 1 piece
1885 Spanish 10 cs- 1 piece
1950 Hong Kong 10 cents- 1 piece
1899 Us dime- 1 piece
1885 Spanish 10 cs- 1 piece
1776 Carolus III 8 Real coin- 1 piece with a hole in it
1966 Trinidad and Tabago once cent- one piece

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Some basic coin collecting facts: value of a coin/medal is based upon condition, scarcity, and demand by collectors. Your friend has sent you information on a US Phil peso in MS 67 condition, likely the top grade for that year and honestly one of the top grades of all the peso years of 1903-12. I may be wrong but your chance of having a peso anywhere near that condition is pretty small. For anyone to judge what you have set aside, one would have to see the coins and assign a grade which most of us do not have the expertise to accurately grade a coin much beyond broad XF/AU/UNC categories. That said, you may believe your coin is UNC when in fact the coin would be graded AU minus by a grading company. Again, I cannot tell you what your listed coins are worth, but you can search on google for example: "value 1903 Philippines 5 Centavo" This will take you to the following link and based on your grading decision you can see number minted (scarcity) and approximate value:


Going through a pile of coins, sorting into approximate grades, and determining approximate value is tedious and time consuming. Going back to the 1903-28 5 centavos linked above you should see that the 1916-S 5C is the most valuable, especially at higher grades. Most 5C pieces are not valuable, except the 1916-S, in lower grades. Serious collectors want higher grade, better conditioned coins as these will appreciate more than lower grade coins found in circulation. Coins of all denominations minted in 1944-45 are seldom valuable since their mint numbers were extremely large.

Some general info on most of your coins: US PI rare dates are 1903-S, 1904 (no S), 1905, 1907-09 (especially 50C), 1911-15 10,20C. You appear to have few of these years. Your 1909-S peso is not rare with 8.5 million minted. If it is in AU condition, NGC values the peso at $35. You can get it certified, which would cost you in the Philippines to send to NGC Hong Kong about $75-100 for shipping both ways, grading and submission fee. Then you would need to advertise on Ebay or sell to someone in the Philippines for $100 or more to cover your costs and time invested. Your chances of being able to do this are small. Sorry, but this is the situation faced by all collectors/sellers, me included!

In closing, let me say I spent a number of years in the Philippines with the Air Force and found many older US and Phil coins in my adventures on and off base. For example, it was common to get WW II US dimes when playing the slot machines at the NCO Club in the late 1960s. Few were valuable and I ended up selling most for the silver value or to beginner collectors who wanted lower grade coins. Again, I hope that my response provides you with an avenue to better understand the coins you have accumulated. Good luck!



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I might be able to help you on your three Canadian large cent coins.

Here again value would depend on condition. There are several varieties of the 1888 Vickie. All three are fairly common so unless they are high grade, they are probably only worth a couple of dollars CDN. each.

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 As this is the first time I have really focused on these coins, my objective is to just hold on to them and pass them on to my niece, as my wife and I have no children. I don't mind sharing photos and getting advice here on this forum, it's fun and educational. But honestly, I am not a serious collector, although I do want some order and coherence to this collection so that I have an idea as to what I am sitting on. I will try and get some photos today (close ups) and share them here today. 

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