Buying Rare Coins Online ─ 10 Common Mistakes to Avoid

Buying rare coins can be an exciting and rewarding hobby. With the convenience of online shopping, collectors have more access to rare and valuable coins than ever before. However, the online marketplace is also fraught with potential pitfalls. Understanding these common mistakes can help you make informed purchases and build a valuable collection without unnecessary risk.

In this article, we will explore 10 common mistakes to avoid when buying rare coins online.

1. Not Researching the Seller

When buying rare coins online, the seller’s reputation is crucial. Not all sellers are trustworthy, and dealing with an unreliable one can result in counterfeit coins, misrepresented values, or issues with colorized silver coins.

How to Check Seller Credibility

  • Look for reviews ─ Check online reviews and ratings on websites like eBay, Amazon, or specialized coin forums.
  • Verify credentials ─ Ensure the seller is a member of recognized numismatic organizations like the American Numismatic Association (ANA).
  • Contact the seller ─ Ask questions about the coins, their provenance, and the seller’s return policy. A reputable seller will provide detailed responses.

2. Ignoring Coin Authentication


Authenticating rare coins is essential to ensure you are getting what you pay for. Without proper authentication, you risk buying counterfeit or altered coins.

Use services like PCGS or NGC to grade and authenticate coins. They provide a certification that guarantees the coin’s authenticity.

Established dealers often have authenticated coins and offer guarantees on their sales.

3. Failing to Understand Coin Grading

Coin grading assesses the coin’s condition, which significantly impacts its value. Grading ranges from Poor (P-1) to Perfect (MS-70).

Books and online resources can help you understand the nuances of coin grading. Also, engage with other collectors to learn and compare notes on coin grading. Organizations like the ANA offer courses on coin grading.

4. Overpaying for Rare Coins

Overpaying occurs due to a lack of market knowledge, emotional buying decisions, or trusting misleading information from sellers.

How to Avoid Overpaying

Use price guides and recent auction results to understand the fair market value of coins. Take your time to research and compare prices before making a purchase.

Consult with experienced collectors or professional numismatists before buying high-value coins.

5. Neglecting to Verify the Coin’s Provenance


Provenance is the history of a coin’s ownership. A well-documented provenance can add value to a coin and provide assurance of its authenticity.

Ask the seller for any historical records or certificates of authenticity. Verify the credibility of previous owners if mentioned. Coins sold at reputable auctions often have documented provenance.

6. Misunderstanding Coin Descriptions

Some sellers use vague or misleading descriptions to make coins appear more valuable than they are.

How to Decode Coin Descriptions

  • Learn numismatic terms ─ Understand common terms and abbreviations used in coin descriptions.
  • Ask for clarification ─ If a description is unclear, ask the seller for more details or additional photos.
  • Verify with images ─ Compare the description with high-resolution images of the coin.

7. Not Considering Shipping and Handling Risks

Improper shipping can damage rare coins, affecting their condition and value.

  • Insist on proper packaging ─ Coins should be securely packaged to prevent movement and damage.
  • Use insured shipping ─ Always opt for insured shipping to cover potential losses or damages.
  • Track shipments ─ Choose shipping methods that offer tracking to monitor the delivery process.

8. Overlooking Return Policies


Return policies protect you in case the coin you receive is not as described or does not meet your expectations.

What to Check in Return Policies

  1. Return timeframe ─ Know the period within which you can return a coin.
  2. Condition requirements ─ Understand any requirements for the coin’s condition upon return.
  3. Refund process ─ Ensure you understand how refunds are processed and if there are any restocking fees.

9. Falling for Scam Websites

Scam websites can look legitimate but are designed to steal your money or personal information.

Check for Secure Connections. Look for HTTPS in the website URL. Verify Contact Information. Legitimate websites will have verifiable contact information. Read reviews ─ Look for reviews and feedback from other buyers. Avoid Too-Good-To-Be-True Deals. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.

10. Ignoring the Coin’s Market Trends

The coin market can fluctuate based on economic conditions, collector interest, and other factors.

Read numismatic publications and websites to stay updated on market trends. Participate in groups and forums to discuss market conditions with other collectors. Coin shows offer insights into current market trends and opportunities to see coins in person.


Buying rare coins online can be a rewarding experience if you avoid common mistakes. By researching sellers, authenticating coins, understanding grading, and being cautious with purchases, you can build a valuable and enjoyable coin collection. Remember, the key to success in numismatics is knowledge and patience. Happy collecting!