Coins…Are My Foreign Money Worth Anything?

When I am appraising and purchasing collections, very often the client has various types of foreign coins within a collection.

The largest percentage of these coins are usually from Canada, Great Britain, France, Mexico and Germany.  All of these coins usually maintain their face value from the country they were minted in.  There are some exceptions to that rule. 

One such exception is a country such as Great Britain that changed it’s coinage to a decimal system in 1970-1971.  Before 1970, coins had terms such as Farthing, Shilling, Sovereign, etc.  After 1970, the coinage changed to a much similar system like ours where the lowest denomination coin became a “Pence” or close to our one cent.  They also implemented 2, 5, 10, 20, 25 and 50 Pence valuations.  In addition, they created larger value coins such as a 1, 2 and 5 Pound.

People were asked to turn in their older coinage for the newer coinage.  As always, there still remains a lot of the older coinage around.  The new Pence lower value coins have been accepted well by the British people but like our country, no one likes to carry large coins around in their pockets so the 1, 2 and 5 pound coins have had a slow acceptance.

So—–do these coins have any value here within the United States?  There are several answers to that question.  One answer is the foreign coin probably is worth it’s face value within the country it came from but not here in the United States.  Merchants obviously will not accept the coin.

A second answer is the foreign coins may have a silver content of some percentage.  These I need to look at on a case by case basis.  If they do have a silver content, then the foreign coin will have a silver melt value greater than the face value of the coin.  That is GOOD news for the client.

A third answer is the foreign coin may be very old and if so, it could have a numismatic collector value.  These I do not come across very often.  As a “general” rule, the coin must be about 1910 or older to have a chance at having numismatic value.

Finally, your local bank will not accept foreign coins in exchange for equivalent U.S. currency. I can remember years ago when they did but no longer. However, they WILL accept foreign currency in trade for equivalent U.S. currency value but you must have as least $50.00 (U.S.) worth of a single country’s currency in order for a bank to accept it for exchange.  Plus—–they will charge you a fee (varies from bank to bank) to enact that exchange.  That fee is usually around 10-15%.

So—-if you take a trip to England and Scotland and return home with their currency that is valued at $50.00 U.S. or more, take it to the bank.  Based on today’s exchange rate, the Pound Sterling is about $1.57 to our $1.00.  So, you need about 32 British Pounds or more to get you above the bank’s $50.00 exchange requirement.

Lastly, if you have foreign coins, keep them with your U.S. coins.  Experienced coin dealers/appraisers can tell you the value of each of those coins in quick fashion.

The dealer may still buy all of your foreign coins at an agreed to price.  Why would a dealer buy those foreign coins if he cannot exchange them at a bank or use them at a merchant?  Often, that dealer groups large bags of these coins and sells them on an internet service such as Ebay.  Unfortunately, their final value obtained is relatively small compared to the work he does to enact that sale.  Also, that dealer may know other dealers who only deal in foreign coins and may be able to sell them to that dealer.  Like many things in life, there always seems to be a home for everything.

Happy collecting!!

If you need additional information, just email me.

Robert can be reached at

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