A Closer Look at Rare Coin Values


It’s challenging to figure out the rare coin market. Have rare coin values been rising or falling? Is the overall demand for rare coins healthy, or is the industry in a slump? Even the wisest coin experts have difficulty summarizing the current state of the market.

The size of the collectible coin market is massive. Some reports show an industry that’s been sliding for years, if not decades. Other reports indicate auction sales never higher and buyers paying record-setting prices. Of course, the health of the market depends on what specific aspect we are investigating. Use these price indexes for a deeper understanding of the current state of rare coin values.

PCGS 3000 Index

The folks at the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) put together an index of 3,000 rare coins and release a monthly report. The report reflects an increase or decrease in value for the 3,000 rare coins listed in the index each month. Charts are shown in one year, three year and ten-year durations, as well as 1970 to date.

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The PCGS 3000 Rare Coin Index over the last 10 Years. Image credit – PCGS

As you can see from the chart above, there appears to be a downturn in rare coin values over the last several years. Coin experts and enthusiasts debate the validity of the PCGS 3000 index price decline. Some argue the index doesn’t represent the overall health of the rare coin market because it features only the top 3,000 coins. Without accounting for rare coins in the lower price points, the index doesn’t paint a fair picture of coin values.

Others in the industry make the point that to ignore the price performance of the top 3,000 coins in the industry would be ludicrous. It would be like ignoring the S&P 500 Index when considering the value of individual company stock. PCGS is one of the most prominent coin grading companies in the industry. Therefore, ignoring the decades of experience valuing and grading the top coins in the world would be a mistake.

Rare Coin Values Index

Another informative index to follow is the Rare Coin Values Index (RCVI). The index tracks the percentage change in 87 United States rare coins. The values of each coin are determined from a variety of reputable price guides and reported monthly as a percentage increase or decrease. Each of the 87 coins in the index receives equal weighting.

rare coin values
The Rare Coin Values Index Since the year 2000. Image credit – U.S. Coin Values Advisor

As you can see in the RCVI chart above, it’s telling a different story compared to the PCGS 3000 Index. The market appears to be at or near its peak. One factor contributing to the discrepancy between the two rare coin indexes is they track different coins. The PCGS 3000 includes the top rare coins with extreme values. However, RCVI is determined using a much more conservative assortment of rare coins. By focusing on the average collector and excluding ultra-rare, multi-million dollar coins, the two indexes will tell a much different story.

Price Guides

There are dozens, possibly hundreds of price guides publishing rare coin values. Therefore, the amount of research available is almost endless when researching rare coin values. Using individual price guides is a much more accurate way to determine coin values. Following established price indexes along with reputable price guides can be a complementary way to get a handle on the current state of the rare coin market.