If you've recently been given the privilege of handling the estate of a loved one who was an avid coin collector yet passed away without a will, your head may be spinning at the enormous amount of work ahead of you, particularly if the coins have not been organized. Not only do you have to take care of any and all bills, you also have to figure out what to do with the collections.
Before you move forward with anything, the first thing to do is determine the value of the coin collection, which may be quite substantial. In fact, a Colorado man had amassed a coin collection worth almost $10 million when he died, and he also died without a will. But before you get too excited, it's important to understand what steps need to be taken and what to avoid doing, or you could inadvertently cause the value to significantly decrease. Here's what you need to know.
Do NOT Clean Anything
You should never clean coin collections. Part of the value of the coins comes from the patina, which is the discolored film that is produced on the surface of coins due to oxidation. Coin collectors prefer the natural color of coins, which includes the patina. Don't even rinse coins with water. It's better to be safe than sorry and leave the coins as they are.
Separate Coins by Type
There are several types of coins. It may be a good idea to separate them by type if they have not been organized by your loved one. While coins that are or have been used as currency are typically easy to determine by the wording on the coins, there may also other types of coins mixed in, particularly tokens and military medals. If a substantial amount of the coin collection includes tokens and military medals, you'll want to be sure to hire a coin grading service that specializes in exonumia (which is the collection of tokens) and military medals.
Group Coins by Country of Origin
While you go through the coins, try to separate them into groupings according to country of origin if they have that information imprinted on them. That will help give you an idea as to whether or not you need to hire a coin grading service more familiar with foreign coins. If you cannot determine which countries the coins originated from or you simply do not have the time, don't worry. A coin grading service will do it as the first step in determining the value of the coin collection.
Don't worry about separating the coins into year or face value amounts. The most expensive coin ever sold was printed in 1794 and sold for more than $10 million. The second most expensive coin was printed in 1933 and sold for almost $7.6 million. Therefore, with an untrained eye you will find it difficult—if not impossible—to determine which coins would be the most valuable from the collection.
Look for Other Collections that Involve Numismatics
If you discover tokens and military medals in the coin collection, your loved one may actually have been an avid numismatic collector. Numismatics is the collection of things like coins, medals, and paper currency. Therefore, you'll want to look around your loved one's belongings to see if there are any collections of paper currency, which includes bonds and share certificates.
Since these types of items are not generally as sturdy and fire resistant as coins, they may be hidden inside books or stored in metal boxes. If you do find paper currency, try to handle them with as little touching as possible as some may be fragile and/or smudge easily, depending on age and condition. If you need to reach out to a professional, you could try here.