Where can I buy large batches of cheap uncleaned coins? I'd like to get them before they get to eBay.
I do not recommend buying uncleaned coins. But, I get this question a lot so I am answering it once here (Rather than every week via separate e-mails.) Here is a link to letters about what is usually found in lots of uncleaned coins.
Wouldn't everybody prefer to buy wholesale!? Rest assured you are competing with many other people with the same idea.
Coin hoards are not found in the U.S., but abroad, and most pass through several hands before they get to you in the U.S.. Finders usually deal with nearby dealers in Europe or the Middle East first. Then the coins sometimes come to major U.S. coin shows to be sold to U.S. dealers. Some buyers travel regularly to shows in England and Europe. I have been to minor shows in England where detectorists had thousands of terrible coins for sale. Over time, you could build up a relationship with a local and have him ship you material. There is a lot of trust built up over time between wholesalers and dealers. Don't think it is easy to simply shortcircuit the usual process. (And, why do you think buyers who know a good source for wholesale coins would share their source with you?) It is not that easy to buy a diamond wholesale either.
If you persist in wanting to do this, buying groups of lousy coins on eBay or from websites of European dealers is probably your best way to buy uncleaned coins if you don't go to major shows. But, be aware that there are tens or hundreds of uncollectable coins for every really nice coin found in "uncleaned" batches. You will end up with a lot of junk, and others who tried this before you will recycle their junk to you if you are not careful. Reasonable coins can easily cost less than $5, so why not bid on a group of several pictured coins (say, on eBay) at some low bid and, if you win, you will have some coins to identify that you can actually read!
Major firms often have "large lots" at the end of their auctions. These lots are usually sold to dealers, and enough coins are included to total a few hundred dollars or more. These are true wholesale lots. They won't usually be uncleaned coins, rather a group of coins of value too low to be sold individually by firms that sell coins for $100 each and up. If your goal is to learn to identify coins, some of these groups would make excellent learning material, because they are usually lots of identifiable coins. It is not unusual for clearly identifiable, but very common, late Roman coins to average only $2 - $5 in huge groups. Be aware you would get lots of duplicates.
Almost all major firms do this. Look at their on-line auctions at the end of the ancient coin section. But, if you have not seen the lot, you may well be outbid by a knowledgeable dealer who is attending the sale and knows precisely what the lot is really worth.
I hope this helps give the general picture. I don't do this myself, and people who do usually don't talk about how they do it. Why would they? Don't you suppose people with twenty years in the business will protect their sources?
Let me repeat: Please do not e-mail me for more details about where to buy coins inexpensively, or coins wholesale. I really don't know much more and wrote this web response to avoid answering numerous individual e-mails about buying coins cheaply!
Here is a link to responses written by people who have bought uncleaned coins.
Return to the question on page 3.