You probably have some old money that you or your parents saved a long time ago in some of your old storage boxes. If you found it, you must be wondering whether or not it has any worth, and what you should do now.

Don’t get ahead of yourself and think that what you possess is something worth a lot of money just because it is old. Each coin and bill has to go through an appraisal process, which you can do yourself if you are informed enough.

Every currency collector had to start somewhere, and this might be your starting point. However, if you are not interested in collecting, this could be an unplanned profit. Either way, investigating the worth of a currency can be a fun activity that can have a satisfactory outcome.

Defunct VS Collectible

Let’s get back to the money you found. First, find out the name and the country of the currency. That can be easy if you recognize the language and the letters, but hard if the alphabet is unfamiliar to you. Take a picture of the bill or the coin and use a reverse search on Google. Knowing what currency you are dealing with is the first step of an appraisal.

When you know where it came from, check the date when it entered the circulation. With the knowledge of the exact time when the currency was printed or coined, you can estimate whether what you have is a collectible or defunct currency.

Defunct money has virtually no worth, as that is just the currency no longer in use. It is neither rare nor popular, it is just money out of circulation. On the other hand, collectible currency does not necessarily have to be out of circulation or old, but it is popular and rare. Collectibles have more worth than their initial price, and it usually only rises with time.

If you have a possible collectible in your possession, there are four factors and four types of value you should know about before deciding to sell it.

Four Deciding Factors of Value

Establishing the value of a collectible can be a difficult task if you are new to the currency collecting game, but it is not improbable for you to check three main factors that affect the worth. Keep in mind that all factors separately determine the worth of your currency, meaning that you could have a rare bill, but if it is in a poor condition its worth has significantly decreased.

If the three main factors show that your old money is not worth as much as you thought, the fourth factor can be your last resort. Answering the following questions can serve as a beginner’s guide to currency appraisal.

  1. How Rare is the Currency?

The rarity of the currency is defined by the number of initially minted bills or coins, as well as the uncommonness in today’s market. It can also be useful to know whether what you own is a commemorative or a general issue.

Countries issue commemorative currencies, often coins, for the special purpose of celebrating an event or a person, or as a proof of collective memory. Those currencies are often collectibles, as they are limited edition and usually even uncirculated.

The best example of a rare collectible is a two-dollar bill from the beginning of the last century. One two-dollar bill can be worth from $100 to more than $10.000, depending on the condition.

  1. Is It in Mint Condition?

If what you have is a rare currency, treat it like it is made out of glass because any damage can devalue its worth. Mint or uncirculated money is the one that shows no signs of wear and has never been outside of a collector’s possession.

The condition of money that has been circulated can ideally get close to mint but is usually in worse condition than that. As long as the condition is not poor, you can still get a few dollars more than the initial value.

  1. Is the Demand High?

Demand is the changing factor of currency value. If you have a rare, mint condition coin, there could be different prices on different markets around the world, or the coin can be worth more in a few years.

This all depends on the current popularity of the money. Similar to any other product or service, when the currency’s demand is higher, its value goes up. You can check the demand on different websites where collectors sell and buy currencies. 

  1. Does it Have Any Basal Value?

If your coin has no numismatic value, meaning that it is not rare enough and its condition is poor, it can still have value depending on the weight of precious metals that it contains. This mostly refers to gold and silver in the coins.

Four Types of a Collectible’s Value

Deciding to sell a collectible can be a logical step for you if you are not a collector. Take note of the fact that it does not mean that you are going to sell it for your estimated value. Rather, the numismatic market, like any other, has 4 types of value for the same item.

  1. Numismatic catalog value

Catalog value is an average price that most currency dealers would give you for your item. This is a price listed in most numismatic catalogs, and it is probably what you expect to get after establishing the rarity, conditions, and demand.

  1. Buy Price

Buy price is the actual worth of the currency in a specific situation. This refers to the price the dealer has offered to you, not the hypothetical price in the catalog. You should probably contact a few dealers before selling what you own.

  1. Retail Price

Retail price is the opposite of the buy price, and it is always higher. If you were to buy that same collectible, the dealers would increase the value. Additionally, you can set a retail price on your currency if you sell it directly to collectors.

  1. Wholesale  Value

Wholesale value is the price that dealers offer amongst themselves or as a discounted price for some buyers. This usually happens when a buyer buys a large number of currencies at the same time.

I Found Worthless Currency, Should I Throw It Away?

Your old money can be bought off by a bank that sends it to recycling. In the US you can send your mutilated or damaged dollars, pennies, nickels, dimes, or quarters to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Every county has an office that deals with its defunct currency.

Hiring Professional Appraisers

It would be understandable if you encountered currency appraising for the first time and you need help estimating the worth of your old money. Professional appraisers do the job for you, they use technology and their knowledge to precisely set the minimum price of your coins and bills. Their fees cost around $100 for a written appraisal, but you can find appraisers for free in the auction houses willing to buy your currency.

It is recommended that you hire an expert at some point, especially if you don’t have much experience. You can avoid being scammed by dealers and collectors, and you can get the most out of this unplanned gain.