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Ask Chuck: Is my currency worth anything?

Gold bullion coins
Gold bullion coins known as Krugerrands are pictured in the mint where they are manufactured in Midrand outside Johannesburg October 3, 2008. |

Dear Chuck,

Do you, as an expert on money matters, know what I should do with all the foreign coins I’ve collected from the many countries I’ve visited? They include Lei, Bani, Forint, Drachma, Schilling, French Franks, Turkish Lira, Bulgarian Lev, Macedonian Denar, Rand, Old English sixpence, penny, farthing, halfpenny, florin, half crown, threepence, Croatian Kuna, Serbian Dinar, and Peseta.

Please advise me on the best options. Cheers.

Currency Collector

Dear Currency Collector,

First of all, I am no expert on currency matters although I do have my own collection. Having traveled throughout the world teaching God’s financial principles, I have learned that money is a common language wherever I go. If someone simply rubs their thumb aggressively against their first two fingers or opens their palm and displays it about waist high, I immediately know they want money. I have also found that financial problems and stresses are universal.

My accumulated currency is leftover from traveling in various countries. Besides many of those you have collected, I have several that you have not mentioned from Switzerland, Zimbabwe, Hungary, Singapore, China, the U.K., Brazil, etc. Most were left over and cheaper to hold on to than pay exchange rates at the airport. They are interesting to me as expressions of the culture of the nations where I’ve traveled and reminders of the people who live there. Many are beautiful and exotic.

I will give you a few tips regarding how to value your currency and the way that I view my own collection.

Tips for collectors

I recommend you do some basic research to determine current values based on foreign exchange rates. It is highly probable that they have devalued if used as a currency. However, any that are rare or no longer in circulation may be of interest to collectors. I learned that my $100 Trillion Zim bill is sold online now for $100 or more depending on the condition . . . nice return so far! Since I have a zero-cost basis in this Zimbabwean currency that expired in 2008, I intend to hang on to it. Before it expired, it was worth less than toilet paper. Since it is the largest denomination ever printed on a single bill, it has great interest to collectors.

Interestingly, the government considered a $100 Quadrillion bill but never printed it. There may not have been room for all the zeros!

Here are a few other ideas that you can do with your currency collection. Divide your collection between printed currency and coins. They are generally viewed very differently by collectors. If you think any may indeed have some collector value, start a spreadsheet for the currency or coins by country. Do some research to determine the condition of each. Do not try to clean anything old, rare, or potentially valuable. Leave that to an expert.

A good place to start is with the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS). Market reports, news and articles, events, dealers, coin values, clubs, and education are listed on the website.  A link to a beginner’s guide will set your research in motion. The American Numismatic Society (ANS) provides information along with Coin World and Accredited Precious Metals Dealers. The Standard Catalog of World Coins by Krause Publications can be found at libraries or booksellers.

Coin values are defined as follows:

  • Book value – accepted value
  • Buy value – what a dealer would pay
  • Retail value – price a customer would pay a dealer
  • Wholesale value – dealer to dealer value

Some other possible options on what to do with them include to:

  • Give to family, missionaries, the church, etc.
  • Exchange them with people who travel to countries in which you have coins.
  • Frame them, or make them into jewelry.
  • Sell them.

Have them appraised, attend a numismatics trade show and talk to dealers, or learn prices by studying those offered on eBay. If you are interested in selling coins on eBay, this article may be helpful. For me, I simply check places where the currency or coins that I have are being sold and form my own ideas of the potential value. You may want to consider selling your collection as individual lots or the entire collection as one unit.

Be wise and discerning to avoid being scammed. There may be someone in your church who also collects rare coins or currency who can give you counsel. Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, gave him advice that I would use in your situation: “But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain . . . ” (Exodus 18:21 NIV).

Thanks for writing. Let me know how it goes!

We can all observe God’s presence in global economic affairs. My new book, Economic Evidence for God: Uncovering the Invisible Hand That Guides the Economy, may be of particular interest to you. May you discover new evidence of the reality of God Almighty — the One who boldly and unilaterally claims not only to have created all things but also to sustain all things.

Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, a global Christian ministry, founded by the late Larry Burkett. He is the host of a daily radio broadcast, My MoneyLife, featured on more than 1,000 Christian Music and Talk stations in the U.S., and author of his most recent book, Economic Evidence for God?. Be sure to follow Crown on Facebook.

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