"Inherited" a bunch of foreign coins. What's the best way to know if anything is valuable?

Hi Coin Folks,
This is my first post in the coin forum, although I spend a lot of time in the card forums.

I have a box of foreign coins that was left to me when my grandfather passed away. Maybe a kg or two.

From your experience, what's the most efficient way for me to figure out if I have anything valuable?

No surprise...I've seen foreign coins go for $50 each, or for $3/pound on eBay.

Should I just try to identify them one by one and check eBay sales? That would take forever.

For instance, in cards I could easily tell someone that any 1987-1990 Topps cards aren't worth the paper they are printed on. Any similar rules of thumb for foreign coins?

Thanks in advance!



  • bronzematbronzemat Posts: 1,942 ✭✭✭
    edited October 28, 2017 2:43PM

    Are they all loose or in holders of some sort?

    Either way, maybe take photos of them scattered about and some us can tell you if there is anything worth while or if it's better to sell in bulk.

    Any that are silver, put aside as there is at least "melt" value if it's something common or worn.

  • Tecmo BoilTecmo Boil Posts: 160 ✭✭✭

    Thanks bronzemat. I'll do that.

  • 291fifth291fifth Posts: 16,289 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Check with your library to see if they have copies of the Krause catalogs on world coins.

    All glory is fleeting.
  • AbueloAbuelo Posts: 344 ✭✭✭✭

    For sure you want to check one by one, you never know what you will find. The idea of checking your library for the Krause is a good first step.

  • JBKJBK Posts: 3,166 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Getting an idea of what some of it is will help give you some hints on the rest. For example, of it looks like leftover pocket change from a vacation then it will likely have minimal value.

  • SapyxSapyx Posts: 1,117 ✭✭✭

    One can still find scarce gems in "pocket change" foreign coins. I recently handled a tin full of coins donated to a charity group I volunteer for. Most of the coins were typical "tourist come home" shrapnel, but in amongst them was a New Zealand 1936 florin in near-pristine condition - one of the scarcest New Zealand coins, worth several hundred dollars.

    The only way to be sure you don't miss out on any high-value coins is to go through them one-by-one, looking them up either on eBay or on a coin catalogue site like NumisMaster.

    There aren't really any shortcuts to offer. Coins that are 1960s or earlier that are silvery-coloured might actually be made of silver, so look those up and pull them out; you don't want silver coins going into a $3/pound bulk lot. Most other rules have too many exceptions to be useful. For example: most European coins are now obsolete with the introduction of the euro. Some of these obsolete coinages - such as Germany - are still fully backed by their issuing government so have retained their value. Others (such as France) have fully demonetized the old coins, so they're only worth scrap metal value. British coins are generally cheap with no "rare dates" to look out for... except of course the 1951 penny (which is far more common in America than it is in Britain, because the entire mintage that year was shipped off to Bermuda).

    Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.
    Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, "Meditations"
  • Tecmo BoilTecmo Boil Posts: 160 ✭✭✭

    Thanks all. That's the kind of advice I was hoping for.

  • DBSTrader2DBSTrader2 Posts: 2,805 ✭✭✭

    I didn't know that fact about the '51 Penny to Bermuda......................

  • RMWRMW Posts: 219 ✭✭✭

    Neither did I. Good one! Wonder why?

  • If you have South African coins i will assist as far as possible

  • SapyxSapyx Posts: 1,117 ✭✭✭

    @RMW said:
    Neither did I. Good one! Wonder why?

    As far as I know, the reason was, "Bermuda needed lots of coins that year. Britain did not".

    Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.
    Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, "Meditations"
  • Hi Techmo Boil, Research is the most important aspect of coin collecting. You could check for relevant information on the internet based on the designs and inscriptions found on your coins. It is easier to find the value of coins, once you know their type. It is equally important to know the rarity and condition of these coins. That’s because, the market value of coins is heavily dependent on these two factors. Apart from that, you can click pictures and post them on relevant online portals to network and seek expert advice. So the points to remember would be research, condition, rarity and networking!

  • KkathylKkathyl Posts: 2,348 ✭✭✭✭✭

    If your Grandfather was a true collector and had time to attend to his coins, I would look at how he cared for them, if he had them in a holder, then probable has more value then if it was in a box full of other random coins. You could try to find a dealer who is willing to go through them for you.

    Best of Luck.

  • BillDugan1959BillDugan1959 Posts: 1,913 ✭✭✭✭✭

    The easiest way to winnow out the wheat from the chafe is to obtain recent copies of the Standard Catalog of World Coins.

    Earlier this week, F&W Publications had a 50% off sale. There was a three book bundle for $120 that contains the 2018 SCWC 2001-date; the 2018 SCWC 1901-2000; and the 8th Edition SCWC 1801-1900. With the 50% discount, the three book deal was a total of $60 postpaid.

    Only $60 for 200+ years of solid reliable information with thousands and thousands of actual coin illustrations!

    Having liquidated several old estates in the last few years, I cannot say that there is a hard and fast rule about how coin storage correlates to value. I recall one estate (which I didn't get to handle) where the cost of the plush cases and the fancy plastic holders was more than twice the value of the actual coins. The coins (modern German) were worth having but nothing easy to sell. Collectors do weird things.

  • StorkStork Posts: 4,534 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @BillDugan1959 said:
    Collectors do weird things.

    That pretty much sums it up.

  • BillDugan1959BillDugan1959 Posts: 1,913 ✭✭✭✭✭

    That collection took the cake for over-spending on cases and holders. Sadly, the deceased collector had not clued his heirs in on the wide disparity between the over-the-top holders and the decent but nothing special coins.

  • PokermandudePokermandude Posts: 2,555 ✭✭✭

    General rule of thumb is to put all the silver in one pile, all the non-silver pre-1950 in another pile, and all non-silver 1950+ date coins in another pile. The pre-1950 and silver is worth looking at, the later non-silver coins are almost certainly destined for the $3/lb bulk bin.

    http://stores.ebay.ca/Mattscoin - Canadian coins, World Coins, Silver, Gold, Coin lots, Modern Mint Prodcuts & Collections
  • giorgio11giorgio11 Posts: 2,801 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @BillDugan1959 said:
    That collection took the cake for over-spending on cases and holders. Sadly, the deceased collector had not clued his heirs in on the wide disparity between the over-the-top holders and the decent but nothing special coins.

    And as we have seen here recently on this forum, there is nothing more difficult than talking down a novice/noncollector off the ledge of "I know this coin/these coins are valuable because ..." when they really are not very much ... or at all.

    Kind regards,


    VDBCoins.com Our Registry Sets Many successful BSTs; pls ask.
  • BillDugan1959BillDugan1959 Posts: 1,913 ✭✭✭✭✭


    Sometimes I think that Noobs come across this site and quickly think that the participants have more money than common sense. They determine to offer their stuff, nothing much, thinking it will be easy to sell to a bunch of nincompoops. Then they get huffy when nobody bites.

    This site seems to get about two cases of this type of Noob per month.

  • Tecmo BoilTecmo Boil Posts: 160 ✭✭✭

    Hi all again. You guys are great.

    I’m in the sorting phase. Doesn’t look too promising.

  • JBKJBK Posts: 3,166 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited November 20, 2017 12:40AM

    The German coins can still be redeemed, worth about 4 euros. I think I see a silver coin or two. The quarter with an embedded tiny coin is a novelty worth a few bucks on ebay. I see a lot of obsolete but not very old foreign coins.

  • JBKJBK Posts: 3,166 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I think that is a Mexican silver peso in a bezel - might be kind of neat, especially if there is something interesting on the back (if it is solid and not just a frame).

    I also see some UK coins some of which might be current, but the main face value money is in the pound coins, which I believe can still be exchanged at banks but which are now obsolete.

    Aside from the silver and a few oddities which should be held back, most of it seems like a good variety of routine foreign stuff that would fascinate a young collector but otherwise probably does not have much value, but of course there could in theory be a gem hidden in there.

    If I were trying to liquidate a pile like this, I would pull the silver and curiosities (the quarter, the pendant, etc.) and also pull anything that is there is some level of quantity of (seems like you have a decent amount of pre-euro Irish coins). I would also pull any current coins - or ones that can be exchanged - such as the British and German. All of that stuff I would list separately on eBay. For the rest - I would take lots of pics but also leave a little extra pile just to add some mystery, and list on eBay as one lot. Also, is that some kind of banknote along the edge of one of the tubs?

    Anyway, I seem to have more time to fuss with this kind of stuff than most people, and I don't mind turning a small profit in my spare time, but others might not think all of this is worth it.

  • YQQYQQ Posts: 1,768 ✭✭✭

    "The German coins can still be redeemed, worth about 4 euros"
    Correct, but only at the German Federal bank directly or one of its branches in Germany...
    NOT at any bank.

    Today is the first day of the rest of my life
  • bobsrbobsr Posts: 183 ✭✭✭

    Hi Techmo Boil:
    You can go to Ngc site and look at their catalog for world coins. They will give you a fairly good reference for retail values. Easy to use and you can stay on one country and just keep flipping for each coin. Take heart, I picked up a loose bag of coins several months ago, didn't look like much originally but as I separated them, I had an 1899 can 50c, an 1855a rappen and a 5 lira 1827 total worth several thousand $,s. You never know until each one is Identified and cataloged. Turns out some of the coins I thought were not worth much paid for the whole lot.
    Bob Sr CEO Fieldtechs

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