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>> If the precious metal content of the coins is known, you could do a search of historic prices of bullion and calculate what the lowest value was for the bullion content of the coin. It's highly unlikely that the coins ever sold for less than bullion value. This would establish a lower (but greater than $0) bound on the cost basis. <<

Yep, this is pretty much what I was thinking. I'm pretty sure the IRS would accept this as a reasonable cost basis if they accept the date of purchase.

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