Coins and Currency

We offer a large selection of US and foreign coins and bank notes. If you are looking for something in particular, please feel free to contact us. 760-489-6058.  Fax: 760-745-4816  email:

We are associated with Mac McKelvey , a qualified numismatist who lives in the Escondido area.

Frequently Asked Questions: Please Note - We offer the following information as a free source of help.  Although we have been in business for many years we do not believe we always have the best answer.   If you come up with better answers, please share them with us.  If you have a pertinent question which is not answered below please contact us and we'll do our best to help you.

  1. Q: How should I clean my old coins?   A: The potential for damaging an old coin and thereby decreasing its value is great.  We recommend that you not clean an old coin until you have had a knowledgeable person examine it.  By no means should a coin be polished.  Doing so almost always destroys any significant collector value.   There are products available and accepted methods of cleaning old coins that are relatively safe and effective, but the best advice is to hold off until you get an expert's opinion on what to do.

  2. Q: I have some old coins for sale.  How do I determine their value?   A: Most reputable coin dealers will examine your coins and determine a value based on what they are willing to pay.  There is usually no charge for this service.   Traditionally, if you want a written appraisal there is a charge.  The reasons are twofold: 1.  It requires more time and effort to do a written appraisal.  2.   Once a dealer signs a document that something has a certain value he assumes a greater responsibility for defending his decision.

  3. Q: I have a coin that I want to wear as a piece of jewelry.  What do I need to know?   A: If the coin has any significant collector value this will be diminished by using it for jewelry.  We recommend you check to make sure you do not have a valuable rare coin before placing it into a jewelry mounting.  Even if the coin is mounted into a metal bezel it will become worn unevenly and a collector will be able to tell that the coin was in a piece of jewelry once it is closely examined.  It could be that you have a rare coin which should be substituted for a more common coin.   The rule about not cleaning a coin does not apply here.  If a coin is in a piece of jewelry and it is not cleaned, dirt will inevitably rub off onto your clothing.   Any non-abrasive method of cleaning the coin is acceptable, although we still do not think polishing is a good idea - even for a common coin.

  4. Q: I have an old nickel that looks fine as far as detail, but it is a very dark gray, almost black color.  Can it be restored to an original color?   A: At this time we know of no way to make the coin change back.  We are of the opinion that this color change is caused by a chemical reaction when the coin has been buried underground.  We have experimented with common coins, using a variety of chemicals and methods and have had no success.  We are afraid that once a nickel turns dark it will just have to stay that way.  Don't buy such a coin at a reduced price thinking you will be able to help it.

  5. Q: Won't a collector pay more for my coins than a dealer?   A: Perhaps.  It is reasonable to assume that a collector, being more of an end user than a dealer, would be willing to pay more for coins.  Many times, however, a collector is only looking for certain coins to add to his collection and will offer significantly lower for the coins that don't "fit."  Established coin dealers have customers that collect a variety of coins and are often higher bidders for entire collections or accumulations.  Also beware of a person who will pay a lot for one or two of your coins but not want the rest.  We know from experience that many times the few really valuable coins are picked off at below market prices in this way leaving the unsuspecting seller with nothing of value left.  If a collector only wants to buy a couple of your coins, tell them to price them, check out what a dealer will pay, and then compare.

  6. Q: I have some coins in plastic holders and the holders feel oily.  Some of the coins have a green residue on them.   A: For many years coin holders containing a substance known as polyvinylchloride (PVC) were used to house and "protect" coins.  This substance is potentially very damaging to coins.   The first thing to do is get the coins out of the holders.  This is a case where the coins do have to be cleaned.  Take all of them or at least a representative sample to a coin dealer and with their help you can determine what is best to do.   Silver and gold coins seem to come through this ordeal pretty well.  Nickels do okay.  Copper coins always seem to suffer permanent harm.  What ever you do, don't leave the situation alone.  Things will only get worse.

  7. Q: How can I store my coins safely so they won't be damaged?   A: The ideal way to store coins is to put them into a vacuum.  As this is not practical for most people, there are a few other proven methods to keep most coins safe from harm.  Plastic holders containing mylar are quite satisfactory.  There is a type of inexpensive holder made of cardboard and mylar which dealers call a "2 by 2" that has proven successful over many years.  Plain paper envelopes are also fine.  Because most paper contains sulfur which causes coins to tone, many collectors use this method of storage.   Toned coins are often considered more desirable to collectors than bright shiny ones.  Note: gold and copper coins don't seem to like paper as well as nickel and silver coins.  The things to avoid when storing coins are moisture and friction (abrasion).

  8. Q: I have some old coins still in a leather coin purse and think this is neat.  Should I keep them stored this way?   A:  No.  The chemicals used in processing the leather apparently can have a negative effect on coin surfaces.  In fact we have bought gold coins which were housed this way and they had turned very dark.  Although the color was restorable, some value was lost.  Gold is one metal that generally doesn't seem to be bothered by anything other than fire or abrasion, but leather can actually hurt it.

  9. Q: There is an ad in my newspaper that offers old coins from the US Mint for sale on a limited basis.  Is this a good deal?   A: Sometimes, but usually not.   Most often you will find that although the seller has a name that leads you to believe they are a government agency you will discover in the fine print that they are not actually connected with the government.  These companies often purchase their supply of merchandise from retail dealers and have some sort of attractive display holder made up for the coins.  They then must pay for newspaper advertising, which is quite expensive.  We have seen many of these ads and have never found one that offered the merchandise at the price a typical retail dealer would sell it for.  The economics of the process just don't allow them to do that.

  10. Q: I have a very valuable copper coin that has a small black spot on it.  Should I remove it?   Yes, in our opinion.  Just keep in mind that even when the spot is removed there will often be a small pit where it was.  We are not sure what causes the spots to appear, but are of the opinion that during the striking (minting) process coins can become contaminated with microscopic foreign matter which over a period of time will react with the environment and actually eat into the surface of the coin.  The sooner the black spot is removed the less damage will be done.  We don't have a perfect way of removing these spots and don't be surprised if your local dealer doesn't offer you much help.   Nickel, gold, and silver coins that develop black spots should also be cleaned, but they are not as likely to receive permanent damage.

  11. Q: I have a set of coins that I took to my local dealer to sell, but he offered me an amount way below the catalog value.   Was he trying to cheat me?   A: Maybe, but probably not.  Many sets of coins, especially those that were assembled from pocket change years ago, contain coins that have a book value that is several times their wholesale - and even their retail - value.  We don't know why this is but the same seems to hold true of many other collectibles.  Perhaps the publishers of the price guides want to make collectors feel good about what they have found and over the years have arbitrarily raised the book value.  As coin dealers almost always have merchandise for sale that is comparable to what you have in your collection you can readily determine if their actual asking price is unreasonable compared to what you are being offered for the same thing.  You must keep in mind, however, that some coins do not "move" well.  What the dealer buys from you could sit on the shelf for a year or more before someone wants it.  The longer the dealer's money is tied up, the greater percentage profit he needs to make when he sells the item.  We have been in business since 1959 and sometimes I think there are coins still here from our first year in business!  Typically, if the merchandise is something that has a ready market the dealer will be happy with a smaller percentage profit.

  12. Q: I want to buy some rare coins for investment, but know nothing about them.  Can you recommend anything?   A: First, establish a rapport with a dealer - one you feel comfortable with.  Make sure the prices asked for coins are within reason - no more than 10% over the "ask" price in the Coin Dealers' Newsletter (commonly referred to as the Gray Sheet).  Buy only coins that have been graded and packaged by an independent company.  The highest regarded company which offers this service is PCGS (Professional Coin Grading Service).  Find out what is the dealer's buy back policy.   If the coins increase in value you want to feel that you have someone who will buy them back from you.  By the way, don't expect the dealer to be willing to work on a 10% markup.  Although he may be willing to sell the coins at 10% over ask - or even less, his buy back price will probably be less than Gray Sheet bid.  Typically a buy/sell difference of about 20% for common PCGS coins is considered reasonable.

  13. Q: I'm not interested in owning valuable coins, but I enjoy working on collections.  Can a coin dealer help me?   A: Most shops like ours welcome true collectors for a variety of reasons.  We too are collectors, so we'll likely hit it off right away with you.   You won't put pressure on us by asking what your collection will be worth in the future.  You are putting together a collection for your own enjoyment - not to make a profit.  Some of the coins you need will most likely be some of the "slow movers" that have been around the store for too long and that a dealer will more than happy to sell.  Coin shops often are staffed by only one or two people.  By having a friend at the store a dealer has someone he can rely on to maybe run next door to pick up lunch, etc., plus there is added security in having a friendly customer on the premises.  Unless you pester the shop keeper with endless questions and banter, you most likely will be welcome to come in as often as you want and stay until closing time.   Of course all personalities are different, so a rapport between you and one dealer might be different between you and another dealer.  Pick somewhere that you are comfortable - and by all means don't become involved in the dealer's negotiations with other customers.

  14. Q: I want some gold and silver coins both as a hedge against inflation and also to have in case of an economic emergency.   Can you give me some guidelines?   A: Click the hyperlink to our Precious Metals Page.

  15. Q: How can I safely store my currency?   A: The most common problem we see with currency is caused by folding.  If you can keep your bills flat, dry, and safe from fire they will probably be just fine.  We have looked at bills that have been kept between pages of a book for many years and they do not seem to have suffered at all.   Just be careful of two things:  Keep the book in a dry place, and don't give the book away or sell it without removing the currency.  We know used book dealers who often pick up extra spending money by flipping through the pages of all their new purchases.  Another good way to store currency is in Billgard brand holders.   These are clear plastic, will not damage your bills, and cost less than fifty cents each.

  16. Q: I have some old Confederate Currency.  Is it real, and is it valuable?   A: Genuine Confederate Currency is hand-signed and hand serial numbered.  The ink used was always a brown tone.  The paper was more or less like common writing paper in quality.  The stiff brown crinkled paper we often see is always a copy.   Oddly enough genuine Confederate Currency has now increased in value to the point where it is sometimes worth more than face value.  It seems that collectors who purchase Confederate bills just don't ever want to sell them.  A common $20 note that used to fetch three or four dollars is now selling for ten dollars or more.  We recently sold a scarcer $50 note in crisp condition for sixty five dollars.

  17. Q: I have some Silver Certificates.  Can I turn these in for silver metal?   A: No.  Although Silver Certificates are still legal tender for face value not since 1966 have they been convertible into silver metal.  They do have a collector value, but generally this is not much more than face value for common issues (1934 and 1957 for example).  Some of the other series have more value.  As with coins, it is wise to take currency to a dealer to see if you have something rare.  Most dealers also carry reference books to verify the scarcity and value of currency.

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Copyright 1998 Escondido Coin & Loan, Inc. All rights reserved.
Revised: January 22, 2006