Pacific Northwest Numismatic Association

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PNNA Home / Reference / Buy-Sell / Auction

Coin Buying and Selling - Sale at Major Auction

You should carefully consider the available options and their advantages and disadvantages before proceeding.

This method of selling coins also involves consignment, but with sale to occur at a public (or sometimes private) coin auction rather than through a dealer's normal stock. As in the worlds of art and Presidential memorabilia (among others), auctions can create great excitement and new price records, but usually only for rare and desirable material.


  • Potential for higher prices realized than other methods of sale.

  • Catalog and photos document your collection as a part of numismatic history.

  • Generally private and secure when dealing with a reputable auction house.

  • All major auction companies now offer convenient online bidding.


  • Potential for low prices realized, especially for common material that isn't featured prominently in the auction catalog.

  • You don't get paid until after the auction is over (usually 30 to 45 days), and some items may remain unsold. Some auction firms offer cash advances, but expect to pay interest if you choose that option.

  • Commission often 15% for buyer, and 5% for seller. (Of course this can also be an advantage if you want to make sure you know the exact commission being paid, and that you aren't getting "ripped off" by a dealer.)


  • Ask about reserves and opening bids. Unreserved auctions (without minimum bids) should only be considered for items or collections that are desirable enough to generate bids above the wholesale level.

  • Always deal with a reputable auction house that publishes high quality catalogs, or with a private auction that is highly regarded by specialists in the field.

  • Ask other collectors and dealers for advice before choosing an auction house, and check references.

  • For better material, consider an auction in conjunction with a major annual numismatic convention. Also have better material certified ("slabbed") before consignment.

  • Be sure to properly package and insure your coins when shipping them to the auction house, and ship only after obtaining permission! Use U.S. Registered Mail unless the auction house provides insurance for a different kind of shipment (such as Express Mail or FedEx).