Nick Dorado emailed me with a problem: Too much money! He literally had pounds and pounds of coins collected and saved by his grandfather. He stored them in a safe deposit box for years, always wondering if he had a rare penny or other collector's item that would be worth far more than its face value. Or, perhaps he was paying storage charges on bags of coins that could be better spent on bus fare! We decided to find out. I arranged an appointment at Harlan J. Berk Ltd., a respected Chicago coin dealer and member of the Professional Numismatists Guild. If you're in the same situation, you can find a local member of the guild by going to its Web site . Visiting a reputable coin dealer is important, because you never know which coin might be the rare and valuable one, or if you're getting paid an appropriate price for your coins. Of course, you could use the annual industry book published for collectors. But most people who inherit coins saved by family members don't have any idea about what to look for in matching coins to the book illustrations. They all seem pretty much alike to an amateur. And coin prices may change frequently.
Nick arrived at Harlan J. Berk toting a satchel full of coins. They'd been stored for years in purple-velvet Crown Royal drawstring bags, plastic containers and wilted brown paper lunch bags. The collection also included some large-sized bills -- paper money left over from an earlier era. It was an impressive hoard, but would it be worth anything? Harlan Berk, Nick and I discussed the possibilities, while Berk's right-hand man started sorting the coins with amazing speed and no apparent rhyme or reason.