Whenever the US Mint comes up with a new concept for circulating coins, it inspires a new bunch of collectors and investors. That has certainly happened with the Presidential Dollar Series, which began earlier this year.
First impressions of the George Washington $1 coins were luke warm, but then collectors started discovering errors. In some coins mostly originating from northern Florida, the lettering on the edge was missing. Whether intentional or not, the Mint’s lack of quality control helped fuel a frenzy on eBay, in which people were selling error coins for well over face value. In the latest auction to close while writing this post, a certified error coin sold for over $164. Uncertified error coins are fetching over $50 a piece.
Even rolls in which there only *might* be error coins are selling for a slight premium, usually around $30 a roll when the face value is $25.
Ben from Money Smart Life wrote in with a question about the next coin in the Presidential Dollar Series, the John Adams $1 coin:
Being the opportunist I am, I just bought $150 of John Adams dollar coins today. Any suggestions on the best way to sell them on eBay? Should I try and sell all 6 rolls at once or one at a time? Should I sell them right away or hold onto them for a while? Is there any value in breaking apart the roll and selling them individually?
I am still waiting to hear from my bank after putting myself on the waiting list for the John Adams coins, but I’m not expecting to make much money from them. There are a couple of issues that are working against the possibility of making money on John Adams $1s:
* General feeling among collectors seems to be the Adams coin has a nicer design than the Washington, which makes it more collectible. More people will be hoarding the coins, keeping the supply among collectors strong.
* The attention given to the Washington coins, whether about the series itself or about the errors, has inspired more interest among new collectors.
* The Mint has supposedly stepped up its quality control to reduce the number of errors, the main driver behind the frenzy over the Washington dollars.
Despite this, I’ve already started hearing about doubled edge lettering on the John Adams coins. This seems to be a less frequent error than the Washington smooth edge (no lettering), so this coin will probably be the best bet for those looking to make money. But since it is more rare, it’s unlikely that you have one.
I suggested to Ben that he open any rolls he’s not interested in collecting for himself and check for errors. (Here’s a list of known errors on John Adams $1s so far.)
If you do have one of these error coins and want to sell it rather than collect it, I would put it up on eBay as soon as possible for a guaranteed return, as fervor over errors is still strong. If you find more than one and want to make the most of your money, wait in between selling them to catch any short-term price increases that may crop up due to the unpredictable market.
Since the Washington error was so common, it will likely always be available for collectors, and it’s unlikely that there will be much upside to the prices they are fetching now. It’s still too early to see how common the doubled lettering Adams dollar will be.
While this isn’t particular to Adams dollars, if you go through your rolls and find a coin struck through grease at the mint, which is considered by some as an error, you may have some luck making a profit with it on eBay. One recent auction for this type of John Adams $1 sold for $41.
Without the errors, these coins would never be worth much more than face value thanks to the sheer volume of mintage and interest to collectors.
All this being said, you could probably make a small profit on each unopened uncirculated roll by selling them now on eBay, especially if you tend to overcharge for “shipping and handling” like most eBayers. For me, this small profit (maybe $5 a roll) wouldn’t be worth it, plus I would feel like I’m ripping someone off by selling them something they can easily get at their own bank for face value. (On the other hand, perhaps people who are on a waiting list, like me, may be willing to pay a little extra.)
Before getting into selling coins on eBay, it may be worthwhile to lurk the Collectors’ Universe Message Boards. These forums are run by the third party grading service PCGS, and you will quickly learn from some of the best collectors and dealers in the world the right and wrong ways to sell coins on eBay. Watch out for spam with forum members chiming in only to tout their auctions. Mostly, the regulars criticize misleading listings and other scam-like eBay tactics and give great advice to the increasing number of “newbies” who stop by every day.
Updated January 26, 2011 and originally published May 23, 2007. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.