Find a Reputable Dealer

Lisa discovered an art and coin collection her father owned. She isn't sure what to do with this collection. Does Dave have any ideas?

QUESTION: Lisa in Omaha discovered an art and coin collection her father owned. She isn’t sure what to do with this collection. Does Dave have any ideas?

ANSWER: The first thing you do is have it appraised by a reputable coin dealer and art dealer. You find out what it’s worth.

Let’s pretend it’s worth $200,000. Here’s what you do from there. Are you in any way sentimental about this because it was your dad’s? That’s the way I would look at it. I would say I would pick out a couple of those that meant something to me and reminded me of him, and I’d keep a couple. And I’d keep a few coins and things maybe to pass down to another generation—nieces and nephews or kids or whatever.

The rest of it, I’m going to look at it, and then the way you analyze it is this: You say this is worth $200,000. If I had $200,000 cash in my hand, what would I do with it? Would I buy art and coins, or would I do something else with it? If the answer is I would not buy art and coins, then you would sell the art and coins, which is, by the way, the conclusion I would come to in my personal life. I’m not interested in collecting art or coins personally.

Unless you really learn something about that world, it generally turns out not be a good investment. The only way it’s a good investment to invest in what we call collectibles as a category is if you make it a hobby and you learn something about the collectibles. An example of that would be I have a fairly large gun collection, and I am a gun guy. I do know a little bit about that, so I’m buying guns very strategically to be part of that—not really as an investment program—but at least I will make money on them as a part of my hobby.

To find a reputable dealer, I would probably have to jump online and start some research in your area. The good news is on something like art, there are people that will specialize—you’re about to learn everything I know about this, which is not much—in types of artists—the grand masters, North American artists of a certain timeframe, those kinds of things, so you need to find someone who knows something about this particular type of art.

The same thing might be true of coins, although coins are probably a little bit easier to put some value on depending on the type of coin it is.

I would be stuck, personally, with going online and doing some research. Or if I knew somebody—I actually know two people in the art world, and I probably know about six people that are in the coin world—and I would probably call them and ask them for recommendations as to who might give me an accurate appraisal. That’s a market value appraisal, not an insurance appraisal, meaning what can I actually sell this stuff for? Then you can look at that and say, if I had that much money in my hand, would I keep it in art? Would I buy art and coins? If the answer is no, sell it other than the keepsakes that you choose to hang on to.