If you have ever searched a coin online, one of the first Google suggestions was likely a link to an Etsy Store for someone selling the coin for thousands of dollars.
You may have been excited and confused to see the price. Could this coin really be worth thousands? More, than likely, it’s not.
Etsy is an online shop where users can sell items they have made or sell used items. There is a great market for antique items on Etsy, but coins are generally way overpriced.
Here is a screenshot of a Google Search for a 1979 Susan B. Anthony dollar:
The coin listed is not worth $49,999.98. Even for someone who overpays for this coin, $10 would be a ridiculous price. Susan B. Anthony dollar coins are still widely available in good condition. I could go to my local bank and get 10 of these right now.
There are two prevailing theories for why these listings exists.
Theory 1: The sellers hope buyers don’t know any better.
Many coins are bought for ridiculous prices because buyers don’t know how to price coins correctly.
The idea that someone would spend almost 50 thousand dollars on a coin without doing any research is crazy. But, I suppose these Etsy sellers only need one gullible buyer to make an immense profit. Selling $1 for $50,000? Ka-Ching!
Just because a coin is old, or not often seen in circulation, does not give it inherent value. Always research the price of a coin before you buy.
Theory 2: Money laundering.
I am but a humble coin collector, not very up-to-date on organized crime, but I have heard the idea floating around that these sellers are part of drug money laundering schemes.
The way this would work is sellers list coins for high prices, pay someone to buy the coin, and then the money is returned. The money is now “clean” because it has been used for a valid transaction. (If you want to know more about money laundering watch Ozark on Netflix.)
In some ways this makes a lot of sense, coin collecting is more art than science. Art has always been used for money laundering. Any item that has a highly speculative value can be used for these kinds of schemes.
I’m not sure if this theory holds up, however. Someone looking to launder money could do much smaller, less obvious values. Do people laundering money really worry about Etsy fees cutting into their profits?
Add a comment below on which theory you think is more accurate, or share your own!