Investing In Rare Coins With Dana Samuelson
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Investing In Rare Coins With Dana Samuelson

ILB 34 Dana | Investing In Rare Coins

The collectible coin market is on fire. As a professional numismatist, Dana has been studying rare coins for over 40 years. On this episode, he shares about his background in the rare coins market, the economics behind owning coins and precious metals, where the industry is headed, and how investors can make money through the private ownership of gold. Is this just a cool hobby or is there money to be made? Tune in to find out.

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Investing In Rare Coins With Dana Samuelson

We’ve got another fun episode. This is with Dana Samuelson of American Gold Exchange. How was your conversation?

He was the President of the American Numismatic Society. What is that? That’s a rare coin. This is the collectibles market. There are a lot of people putting money in real estate, hedge funds, private equity and all that great stuff but the billionaires also are putting money in collectibles. Lately, the collectibles market has been on fire. We wanted to bring to you an expert in rare coins as collectibles as a potential investment. This is an awesome little interview. You’re going to enjoy this.

If you are enjoying the show, we do always appreciate the reviews you give us on iTunes or Spotify. We appreciate the support. Here’s the episode.

Welcome back to the show. Our guest is Dana Samuelson heading from Austin, Texas here on Zoom. Dana, thanks so much for joining.

Thank you. It’s my pleasure to be with you. I appreciate the opportunity to do this with you.

We’re super excited. For those of you that don’t know who Dana is, he is the Founder of American Gold Exchange and a professional numismatic. Dana, talk a little bit about your background. How did you get into the space? What does American Gold Exchange do? We are super excited about this whole area.

Numismatics is the study of coins and a numismatist is someone who studies coins or rare coins. I’ve been in this space for many years. I got my first job out of college in 1980 when nobody was hiring like what happened in 2009. I got a job working in a vault, counting, shipping and weighing. I started on the ground floor in the kitchen Sagan or a restaurant. I’ve moved up.

I got a lucky break working for Jim Blanchard, who was the gentleman most responsible for the private legalization of gold ownership in 1974. I was offered a job with Jim in 1983 as a numismatist and coined appraiser trainee. I sat in a room for two years and looked at coins, which is the only way you can learn how to do the business by doing it, appraising old vintage US golden coins.

To some people, that probably sounds boring. To me, that sounds fun.

It was a lot of fun because our country made some fabulous and beautiful gold, silver and copper-nickel coins over the years. Those were magnificent works of art and a great asset class as well. They’re not for everyone. It’s a supply and demand market but I got to spend a lot of Jim’s money with the industry, so I got to learn about the industry.

We had a pretty healthy market going into 2007 and 2008, and then the crash came, which taught a lot of people who had never bought precious metals before to buy precious metals. Click To Tweet

I did that for nine years. I went on my own for a few years and eventually moved to Austin, Texas where I started American Gold Exchange in 1998. We’re a national mail-order precious metals and vintage coin business but we’re more of a boutique. We have four account managers who are acting in a consultative manner to try and help people either with precious metals or vintage coins that they want to play in that sector.

We could have a much bigger company like some of the big telemarketer’s space but I didn’t want to have that. It’s more of a headache. I want to have fun. This is my life and livelihood. We try to take good care of our clients and be very fair and transparent. I’ve also tried to give back to the industry by serving at the professional numismatists skilled board, which is the leading organization of rare coin dealers. I was on their board for many years and their President for two years.

You know a lot about rare coins. The interesting thing about you, Dana and this interview, which I’m pretty excited about, is there are a lot of people talking about bullion and gold and silver. This is different. We’re talking about rare coins which share some key attributes and characters but it’s an entirely different market that a lot of wealthy investors love, dip their toe in and make money at it. It’s a good opportunity and extremely different from bullion investing.

That’s correct. For some of these coins, we measure them the same way we look at houses. How many comparables are there? How many nicer ones are there? How many were made? With independent grading certification services, there are two that the dealer community trusts. One is on the West Coast called the Professional Coin Grading Service. They’ve counted how many coins they’ve graded since they both started in 1996. We have known survival rates as well, so we can do much more effectively comparable than we used to be able to do in old age.

You know what the population is. There may be a coin that has a population of five. There are only five known specimens and each one has a provenance. They know the history of that coin, the pricing and the entire population of these coins. There are no surprises.

As someone like me who’s heard the name Jim Blanchard and is somewhat familiar with him but not the origin of the space, I’d love to hear back then what it was like and where the market is developed up to this point.

Jim was a history major in high school. He got into a car accident where he broke his back, so he was in a wheelchair from eighteen on. He didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life. We went off the gold standard in 1971 when Richard Nixon broke the dollar backing of gold, breaking the Bretton Woods agreement, which established the dollar as the world’s reserve currency.

Jim knew that the dollar would decline in purchasing power because of that, so he made it his crusade to relegalize gold ownership. He started a committee called the National Committee for Monetary Reform and buzzed Nixon’s second inauguration in 1972 with a biplane that said legalized gold on the back but it got shooed away by some fighter jets.

He helped spur the relegalization ownership movement, which Gerald Ford approved of in 1974, which made Americans legal to own physical gold again. We’re the only country that we removed that privilege from. Gold was still available in Asia and Europe. People said, “Where do we buy this from?” Jim said, “I’ll sell it to you.” The gold price took off in the late ‘70s and so did the silver price. By 1980, Jim had the biggest mail-order coin company in the country.

He also started an investment conference back then as well, which continues still under his successor, a friend of mine named Brian London. It’s the New Orleans Investment Conference, which is a hard money conference. It happens every October or November in New Orleans. If anyone’s interested in hard money, this is a good conference to go to learn about the precious metal space.

Jim was tightening in our business. He was innovative in many ways. He helped to establish our industry lobbying entity and Industry Council for Tangible Assets, which helps. If a state wants to put a sales tax on precious metals or rare coins, it will help to get that fight done. He was tremendous in our industry. He passed away, unfortunately, in 1999 and we lost him but he’s the godfather of the precious metals and mail order coin business.

ILB 34 Dana | Investing In Rare Coins
Investing In Rare Coins: The quality of the coin matters. The date, mintmark, and denomination matter. How many they made at the time matter and more importantly, their survival rate.

Let’s go back to rare coins. To me, as someone who’s maybe newer to the space, it’s more likened to collectibles such as fine art or wine versus buying bullion, which is more maybe as a hedge or against inflation. For someone new to this angle, investing in rare coins and rare earth metals, how would you describe it? Is that a good similarity there or would you explain it differently?

It’s a supply and demand market. That’s the most fundamental equation underneath the values. Coins were made years ago, decades ago, centuries ago. They’re surviving condition matters so we judge them on what their current condition is. There are mint quality coins and varying degrees of mint quality. There are circulated coins and various degrees of circulation.

The quality of the coin matters. The date, mintmark and denomination matter. How many they made at the time matter and more importantly, their survival rate is the most determining factor for how many are available in the marketplace. Some coins have made millions but we know that only a handful still live. Some coins didn’t make that many of them and were recognized as special back in the day. Almost all of them survive. I can give you a few examples of these if you like.

Give us one of the coolest.

In 1907, Teddy Roosevelt decided he wanted to reinvigorate the design of the $20 gold coin. He had enlisted the most famous sculptor of the day, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, to create a new design to replace the design they’d used then, 57 years, which was a classic Liberty head. The picture on the coin was a woman standing, striding into the future. On the back was a flying eagle.

He wanted it to be made in a high relief strike, which enhanced the depth of details on the design of the coin but it took 8 or 9 strikes of the dyes to get the relief up. The dyes didn’t last as long as they should. When they stacked them up into banker stacks of $20, they wobbled and fell over. They made 10,500 of these high relief 1907 saints in December of 1907. They discontinued them right away because of impracticality.

According to the PCGS and NGC population reports, almost all 10,000 of them still exist in various degrees. Most of them are either high-end circulated or low-end uncirculated conditions. Even a worn one is worth about $7,000 or $8,000, whereas mint quality coins are anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000 to $75,000 per coin, depending upon how nice it is for the grade.

The thing I love about coins is it is a collectible. The cool thing about collectibles is they’re not making any more of these. There are 10,000 of those coins and no more. There’s probably not going to be no less either. It’s about supply and demand but the supply is 100% limited. It’s a collectible that anyone can get into.

You can get a book where you can look up this coin and see what its current value is. You can buy and sell those. They go to auctions. You can buy a coin for a couple of hundred bucks, a few thousand bucks or a few hundred thousand bucks. Anybody can play. It’s a highly accessible market. They’re very beautiful, so they’re visually and historically rewarding. You have a little piece of history. Everything has a story.

I have a coin collection. I pulled out my coins and showed them to a guy who was oohing and aahing. I’m telling a story every time. For old guys, we like to tell stories. It’s a very accessible way and a cool hobby. It’s very accessible collectible investing but it’s also a potential money-maker and this is an investment show.

I was in the market in the ’90s and made a lot of money in collectibles. The market had a real run-up for a time. It went to sleep and values went down. Lately, it seems like they’re on fire again. Clue me and give me a picture of the macro picture of numismatics. How has it gone? You’ve been in it since 1980. What’s happened in the market? Give us your finger chart there for what’s happened since 1980.

Rare coins have done nothing but appreciate over the long-term very well. Click To Tweet

When I first got into the market, we were coming off of record highs for gold and silver. The market was hot.

This was the ’70s or ’80s?

It was the early ‘80s but that continued until about ’82 and ‘83. It came down but the advent of PCGS and NGC in independent grading and certification in 1986 gave Wall Street a level of comfort for rare coins. From ‘86 to about ‘89, we had a red-hot coin market.

‘86 to ‘89, that’s when I was in it. Things went up. PCGS is like a little clear brick and you send the coin off. They rate it and mount it in a very nice brick. As long as it’s sealed, that coin is rated. It has a very clear rating that is industry-recognized. That’s the point.

The coins are sonically sealed inside hard-shelled plastic holders with the grading certificate on the inside. If you try and break the holder, you’ll destroy the holder in the process, which voids the guarantee. As long as they’re in a PCGS or NGC certified holder, we know what the grade is. The other things about a coin are constant. The date, mintmark and denomination are constants. The grade is the variable. The market price is determined by buyers and sellers coming in.

There’s a website where you can look those up. Back to the market, ‘80-’86 was on fire as Wall Street got confidence and investors came. What happened after?

We had a recession in 1991. The price has got a little too high and the market came down. We had a real quiet coin market for ten years. As we moved into the 21st Century, the middle class became healthier through the dot-com bubble. A lot of people made money in dot-com stocks. Not everybody lost it when the bubble burst but then we got into a better precious metals market as well in 2003 and 2008 with two things happening.

We went to war because we were attacked and the gold price started to move up in earnest for the first time in twenty years. We had a lot of wealth effects because of the mortgage bubble that came up. The middle class was buying coins pretty heavily. We had a pretty healthy market going into 2007 and 2008 and then the crash came, which taught a lot of people who had never bought precious metals before to buy precious metals.

Millions of people who had never bought 1 ounce of gold in 2005 were buying gold in 2009 and 2010 because of the financial crisis. We train a lot of new buyers to come into the market. When things started to get healthier in 2015, a lot of those coin prices followed the market up and then down again when the gold price was correct.

In the 2008 crash, what happened to the numismatics? Did they go down as well?

The rare coin market was impaired because people were more interested in buying fundamental value than rare value. A lot of people were buying gold for gold’s sake and shunning the higher-end collectibles because of the premium that you paid for those.

ILB 34 Dana | Investing In Rare Coins
Investing In Rare Coins: The rare coin market was impaired because people were more interested in buying fundamental value than rare value. A lot of people were buying gold for gold’s sake and shunning the higher-end collectibles.

I’ve been bidding at a couple of auctions. Are values insanely on fire because I’ve been losing?

The real rare coin market and high-end rare coin market have been on fire.

What’s the deal with that?

A lot of wealthy people have money. They want to put it places where they can trust a good store of value. The good thing about rare coins is you can put twenty coins into a PCGS box, which is not very big and have a couple of million dollars or more, depending on what coins you have in that box. It takes up very little room, portable and transferrable wealth privately. There’s no buying and selling. We don’t have to report anything. You’re morally obligated to do the right thing on your taxes but this is private wealth. Especially with all the government debt, it scared some people. They’re looking for alternative places to put money. Rare paintings have been bringing record prices for decades.

The collectibles market is on fire and rare paintings are not making any more of them. They’re beautiful to look at but the values are insane. Is numismatics track the painting market at all? Does it go with some of that?

It hasn’t but it’s playing catch-up. We didn’t see our first million-dollar coin until 1996, which was a 1913 Liberty Nickel. It’s 1 of only 5 that we know survived. We changed the design from a Liberty head to a Buffalo but they made a few of the Liberty heads anyway. We know that five have survived.

How many were in the original mint? Were they only five?

I don’t know how many they struck but it was a limited edition. They only made a few starts. One of them was lost for decades. Finally, it turned up at a coin show in 2009. Between 2000 and 2010, there were about $15 to $20 million coins and over many years, that count has gone up to about $150 billion coins. Individual coins have traded for more than $1 million at auction.

It seems like the stuff that’s more investible, and correct me if I’m wrong, is the rarer stuff. If you’re purely a financial investor, do you want to go where?

If you have the ability to hold on for the long-term with the money that you’re going to put into that market, yes, because rare coins have done nothing but appreciate over the long-term very well. When I was working in 1982, my boss bought an 1804 dollar at an auction. At that time, he paid $250,000 for the coin. It’s a classic. That coin traded hands many years ago for $2.6 million. It’s probably a $4 or $5 million coin now. It’s the last silver dollars they made in the classic design. They didn’t make any other dollars until 1830.

He probably thought he was overpaying when he paid $250,000 for it but this is insane. You could buy a large house for this at the time and I’m buying a little coin.

When things are going well, the rare coin market can do fairly well, but when things are not going well, the rare coin market can move higher as people look for further investments. Click To Tweet

Another example is the Carson City Mint opened in 1870. It was only open for 23 years. Most of the coins that they made at the Carson City Mint during that time had low managers and were put right out into circulation. Survivors of higher quality are hard to find. It’s a very popular mint. The 1870 Carson City $20 gold coin is another classic rarity. They made about 3,800 of them.

We know that there are only about 75 that exist in all different qualities. One of our clients bought a circulated extra-fine $45, which was modestly circulated for $475,000 before the auction prices exploded. I was at a coin show in Chicago where different coins with the same date and mintmark were offered for $575,000. It’s got $100,000 in a year. That’s how hot the coin market is.

It’s collectibles, which is a great market to be in. Over the long haul, if you’ve got a long-time horizon, you want to own a piece of history. Is numismatics always trade stronger than bullion or does it track bullion over time? I love to see the data.

There are different classes of numismatics. My bread and butter business of the old vintage $20 and $10 gold coins I would call semi-rare. They’re scarce but not truly rare coins. They tend to track bullion price but the premium can wax and wane. We like to sell these things when the premiums are low relative to their intrinsic gold value and trade out of them when the premiums expand relative to their gold value.

The truly rare coin market is a separate entity from itself. It’s supply and demand. The marquee coins tend to get the most attention but there are a lot of secondary level coins that are getting a lot of attention because of the values that exploded so much on the marquee coins that people are looking, “Where can I participate in this market and spend $200,000 instead of $2 million for a coin?”

What are the real drivers of value? Someone is looking at this coin versus that coin. What is going to make one coin more valuable? There are some clear things but break it down a little bit more. Is it the story behind it? Is it the more limited mint? There’s the grade. What else would you say?

There’s historical significance and popularity. Some issues are more popular than others. The bigger, heavier coins tend to get more attention first. If you hold them in your hand, they’re more impressive. It’s simple but true. In 1792, before the US Mint officially opened, they made a coin called the half disme or half dime. They made a handful. Some are allegedly struck out of Martha Washington’s personal Sterling Silver. This is a tiny little coin and it’s got a scrawny little Eagle on the back that looks like a chicken. They’re rare.

A nice uncirculated example of this sold years ago for $35,000. It’s the same coin that was only bought for $350,000 but it’s not a coin that you would think of as a popular rare coin to start with because it’s a little bit obscure and it’s small. As we move into a better-financed market or more popular market, people are seeking out coins that have low manages or low survival rates. A lot of gravity goes towards the gold coin market.

There were some issues where there are only a couple of coins known to be tradable outside of private hands. Smithsonian has the world’s best coin collections. There are maybe 3 or 4 coins known but we know that 2 or 3 of them are in the museum, so only 1 makes trade in private hands. If that coin comes to market, then you have an incredible rarity.

There’ve been a couple of collectors over the years who have tried to buy a single one of every single US coin. The only person who was able to do that was a guy named Louis Eliasberg, who was a banker out of Baltimore. His collection was a fabulous collection of rare coins. Some of these historical pieces have lives of their own that we know where the coins have always been from 1870 to 1880.

It sounds like there are two kinds of investment classes. One is the less rare coins that trade at a premium to bullion. You got 1 ounce of gold coin, an Eagle or a Krugerrand. It goes up and down with the price of gold, then you’ve got these go probably accelerated. They sell at a premium. They never sell at a discount. That premium is either high or low. You buy it when the premium is low. You sell it when the premium is high.

ILB 34 Dana | Investing In Rare Coins
Investing In Rare Coins: Do your own due diligence before you step in. Make sure that you have a comfort level with what you’re trying to do. Test the waters without spending any real money, and test your dealer. See how they treat you and what the buy-sell spread is.

It’s a feast and famine market. When we’re in favor, we’re in favor. When we’re not in favor, we are not in favor. You understand that because you’ve watched this for a long time. When the economy and stock market are doing well and people feel like they don’t have to worry about anything, our market tends to suffer a bit.

We went through one of those phases with the more common coins in 2017, 2018 and 2019. I saw premiums for some of the coins that we liked to trade up to their lowest intrinsic value ever. With the COVID blossoming of the precious metals market and debt increasing, this market has expanded dramatically.

One of the coins I like as a $10 Indian was made from 1907 to 1933. There are only two common years. There are about 50,000 of them that we know survived in mint state 64 conditions. We sold these to our clients in 2019 at $995 a coin, which is a low price. They’re trading it for about $1,600 a coin, so that’s a $600 increase but it’s only a 1/2-ounce coin. It’s gone up relative to its content if it was 1 ounce for $1,200.

Is it still a buyer’s market for those? Would you be buying?

They have a chance to move into the $2,000 price level, $2,100 to $2,500, based on their rarity overall scarcity. There are not many of them. They were spent more than they were saved. There’s an opportunity there but they’re more fully appreciated now than they were a couple of years ago. We track these premiums on our website. If people go to our website, you can pull up these coins and track the premiums over their intrinsic context and nobody else does that.

The other classic coin is the very rare coin and they only seem to go up. They do go down in value. When do these rare classes of coins go up and go down in value?

It’s a function of the economy and how many collectors are looking for those coins at a given time. It tends to be a little bit of feast and famine. It tends to follow economic cycles and almost a bit inversely. Things are going well. The rare coin market can do fairly well but when things are not going well, the rare coin market can move higher as people look for further investments.

It’s a great place to park a little bit of money, especially if you want to pass things on to your kids. It’s stuff that generally goes up in value. I’m a data guy. I’d be super curious to see the data relative to the stock market and bullion. My guess is the collectibles market. The rare market has outperformed a lot of investments over the long haul.

If you think about it fundamentally, every five years, we have X many more people in the country. As the population continues to grow, the supply of these coins stays fixed or diminishes a bit. Over time, there are many more potential buyers than there are available pieces to be bought, which is where the precious pieces come for the price. That’s typically the longer cycle. The shorter cycle depends on what’s happening in the world. I’ve never seen a coin market go on fire like the rare coin market has gone in several years.

You love the American coins, which are cool too but I’m a huge fan of the ancients. I’ve been buying the over rare Roman coins and Greek coins. I’ve bought the Jewish war shekels. Are you familiar with those? They’re super worn. There are only five years they were issued. In year 5, there are only 13 known specimens or something. It’s super rare.

Here’s a 2,000-year-old coin, for crying out loud. I bought some old Greek coins that are the most beautiful coins you’ve ever seen as well. Talk about the non-US mintages. What do you know about those? The US coins are much more limited to the US market but there’s a worldwide market for very rare mints as it strikes.

The rare coin market has outperformed a lot of investments over the long haul. Click To Tweet

I’m not an ancient coin expert. Let me give you that disclaimer right off the bat but there are some very popular issues like the 12 Caesars in gold, which were the only coins that reached the 12 different Caesars. There could only be 20 or 21 of those sets put together in the entire world. Those are very limited. These are popular worldwide.

Anyone can appreciate a coin, no matter where you are, Asia or Europe. That’s 2,000 years old or older. Some of these coins are incredible works of art, considering the technology they had to work with at the time, which was extremely crude. It’s a market that I’m learning about myself because a numismatist keeps studying throughout our entire lives.

Where do you normally recommend someone newer to this space? Maybe they own bullion or like hard assets. Where’s a good entry point to get into the numismatics? Is it the semi-rare as you do a lot of trading there? What do you recommend for folks, especially in this market where it is maybe hot and hard to know where to stick the fork in?

Here are a couple of observations I would make. Number one, we are an unregulated business. Some opportunists can come into our market. Put up with the wrong dealer, you will be buying the wrong coin right out of the bat. I’m a member of the Professional Numismatists Guild, the PNG. We are the lead dealers in the business. Look for a PNG dealer or a professional numismatist guild dealer that will help you eliminate most of the problems you’re ever going to run into.

Number two, stick with PCGS, Professional Coin Grading Service and Numismatic Guaranty Corporation, NGC certified coins. Start small and don’t jump in with both feet until you have a bit of a feeling for how these points are bought and sold. They don’t have buy-sell spreads that are 1% or less like a stock. Rare coins can have a 20% buy-sell stock.

If you buy and sell it the same day, you lose 20%?

That’s possible. These are buy-and-hold coins for the most part, especially the rare ones. Look at the PCGS and NGC websites. They have a lot of information that will help you understand how coins are graded for the different quality ratings. You can see some of the survival rates there. Find a couple of dealers that you can call and talk to on the phone. With the internet, it’s very easy to do some shopping around, which didn’t exist until 1998 when the net started in earnest.

These are fundamental do your own due diligence before you step in. Make sure that you have a comfort level with what you’re trying to do. You can buy certified coins for $100. Test the waters without spending any real money and test your dealer. See how they treat you and what the buy-sell spread is. Do they deliver the coin? What does it look like in person? Try and sell it to somebody else and see what happens. That’s the true test of the market. If you buy a good coin at a fair price, it will be sellable to somebody else at a reasonable discount to what you paid for it immediately.

This stuff is all done through dealers. Is there an online market? There’s this thing called the internet that’s been invented. Is there a way for the eBay of coins or that thing going on anywhere for buying, selling and pricing?

I would look at reputable auction houses. There are 3 or 4 big auction houses that do a lot of volumes, which is where the true market is set. I have to give you a warning. Be careful of online auction platforms because we do have a small but modest problem with counterfeits. There is a problem with Chinese counterfeits coming into the US. They were faking the coins and also faking the PCGS and NGC holders.

There’s a hologram on there too. Are they replicated in the hologram?

ILB 34 Dana | Investing In Rare Coins
Investing In Rare Coins: Be careful of online auction platforms because there’s a small but modest problem with counterfeits. It’s important that you find a reputable dealer to do business with.

They can get them so that you won’t be able to tell that the coins are the problem. I’ll be able to tell it because I look at these all the time but you may not. Most of the stuff enters the marketplace through online auction platforms or private sales like Craigslist sales or other places. Stay away from that. That’s a real minefield.

When I was president of the PNG in 2016, I conceived of and helped to establish the industry anti-counterfeiting task force, which works with Homeland Security and the Secret Service to interdict shipments of these coins coming into the country. The task force has a lot of work to do because it’s a steady ongoing problem. It’s low level. That’s why it’s important that you find a reputable dealer to do business with because that’s where the market is made outside of the auction houses. We have about 300 of these in the country, so there are plenty of choices.

This is maybe a stupid question but talking about survivorship, where did these coins go? Did they get lost? Do people not realize what they have? Does it fall down the crack in someone’s house and they can’t get it? How did these get lost? I can’t reconcile that.

Most of the attrition that we’ve seen for the vintage coins has been over time. We confiscated gold in 1933 from the public. Those bars of gold that are in Fort Knox are melted gold coins. That’s where they came and went. Sometimes, they get lost. Sometimes people don’t tell their heirs where they are. They leave them in a hidden place in the house. That can happen sometimes.

I had this beautiful ancient Greek silver coin. It looks a lot like a silver dollar and I got it mixed up with my silver dollars. I’m like, “Someone’s going to get a silver dollar and find this Greek coin.” You can’t let the kids into your coin collection.

If you have coins, it’s important to tell your heirs where they are.

You bury it. What if you have Alzheimer’s? You forget where it is or you have a deep sleep you don’t wake up from and there they sit.

There’s a classic rarity. There’s an 1894 San Francisco minted dime. They only made five of them to the best of my knowledge. The mint director got 3 of them and gave 1 to each of his daughters. One of his daughters probably ran down the street and bought an ice cream cone with it in 1894. That’s a $500,000 coin now.

As a professional numismatist, I’m sure you have a collection that you’re very proud of. Tell us your favorite coin and the story behind it that you own that’s your flagship coin.

I like coins that have interesting appearances to them. I like the Indian design gold coins, the $10 Indian. I like the $20 Liberty. I minted before that a lot because they’re a classic rarity. I tend to like tarnished silver coins. Silvers are reactive metals. You call it tarnish. We call it toning. Sometimes, it can be incredibly pretty. There was a hoard of silver dollars that came to market in 1980 that were hundreds of bags of 1,000 coins of silver dollars that were minted back in the 1880s.

The sulfur in the bags causes the coins that touch the bag to react and get a film on it. As the light passes through the film, hits the coin, refracts off it and comes back off the film, you see different colors, reds, blues, greens, and yellows that are fiery and vibrant. I like toned coins that have these tarnish on them that is very pretty. A $50 coin would trade for $100 if it had pretty toning on it. Some of these coins trade for $4,000 or $5,000 each day only because of the color on it when the bezel value of the coin might be $100 now. I like coins like that.

What’s the best way for folks to hear about American Gold Exchange if they’re interested? What’s the website and the best place to find you?

Our website is or Our phone number is (800) 613-9323. Our general email address is

Thank you so much for coming and joining us on the show. It’s a fun time.

Thank you for lending a nerd like me on. I appreciate it.

We love fellow numismatists. Thanks so much.

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About Dana Samuelson

ILB 34 Dana | Investing In Rare Coins

A professional numismatist since 1980, Dana worked for some of the most influential precious metals trading companies in the nation before founding AGE in 1998. For nearly a decade he was a personal protege of James U. Blanchard III, one of the true giants of the industry and the individual most responsible for re-legalizing the private ownership of gold in the U.S.

Dana recently served as President of the Professional Numismatists Guild, an exclusive nonprofit organization composed of the world’s top rare coin and paper money experts, whose primary mission is to make the hobby safe for collectors and investors by maintaining rigorous standards of excellence among dealers. He holds a B.A. from Washington and Lee University.


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