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More to clad coinage than meets the eye

Clad coinage was not welcomed by collectors.  The copper-nickel clad coins were new and different, but were soundly rejected by numismatists.

Ken Bressett commented, “It all but killed the interest in collecting out of circulation.”

Twenty-five years after the introduction of clads, the American Numismatic Association claimed there was nothing to collect in circulation. 

The coins certainly did the job they were created to do – get out and circulate – but even though these coins had been around for many years, collectors simply were not interested. The coins were not silver; they were made in large quantities, sometimes in the billions; and many found the pieces with the copper core to be quite unattractive.

This long series of United States coinage had been neglected and ignored for many years, even though there was so much to study, to learn and to enjoy.  My book, United States Clad Coinage, published in 1992 by Bowers and Merena, attempted to fill the void of information.  Besides giving a background and history of the events leading up to clad coinage, information on collecting, varieties and scarcities was covered.

Some collectors, becoming involved with clad coins, discovered that many of the coins were difficult to find in top grades, or even nice condition. Billions of coins dated 1965, 1966 and 1967 were struck, but a collector could search for a long time and not find any in true Mint State pieces. A few of the coins simply did not turn up in change after months of looking.

After the alleviation of the coin shortage, production dropped off in 1968 and 1969. The 1968-D quarters turned out to be hard to find in change. When I checked change and bank rolls while doing research for my book, I found more 1968-D half dollars than quarters – even though half dollars had disappeared from everyday change and contained a 40-percent silver alloy.

Roosevelt dimes, never number one on the collecting hit parade, also had a number of coins that were hard to find in change. The 1969-P, 1971-P, and 1973-P did not show up with regularity. It should be pointed out here that using the “P” indicates that they came from Philadelphia. Actual “P” mintmarks did not appear on the dime until 1980. Prior to that date, all Philadelphia issues with the exception of the war nickels, had no mintmark.

And if a collector could locate half dollars, the 40-percent silver issues were tough, especially the 1970-D, only foundin mint sets.  While researching, however, I found a discrepancy in the mintage of the sets and the total mintage of the coins, a difference of 111,866. Were the extra half dollars melted, or quietly released to circulation?  I have heard stories of 1970-D half dollars turning up in bank rolls.

Yes, clad coinage has its scarcities.  There are error coins struck in the wrong metal. Dimes and quarters dated 1964 and struck in clad material are known, along with 1965 dimes and quarters struck in 90 -percent silver.  A 1965 half dollar struck in 90 percent silver exists.

There are interesting varieties. A few proof dimes from various years were made without the “S” mintmark. There were 1982-P dimes struck without mintmarks and 1989 quarters without mintmarks. A few Kennedy half dollars of different dates do not have the designer’s initials, including the well-known 1982.  I once received one in change at a baseball game.

Proof sets were not made during the advent of clad coins, but Special Mint Sets were stuck to fill the void, 1965-1967. The coins are not proof quality, but have a better appearance than the run-of-the-mill circulation coins.  The issue price for these sets was $4 – a price not embraced by collectors, who had previously purchased proof sets with silver coins for $2.10.

The 1965 sets were sealed in soft plastic, along with a blue plastic medal inscribed in silver, “United States Special Mint Set.” Sets of 1966 and 1967 were housed in hard blue plastic holders. I once saw a 1966 SMS sealed in the soft plastic used in 1965, complete with the blue medal.

The clad coins were still not avidly collected until the state quarters began in 1999. People began checking their change again.  Varieties and mint errors appeared, with one dealer offering a special collectors’ club for those interested in these coins. New holders and albums appeared to hold sets of the 50 state coins.

Young collectors began building sets of state quarters; older collectors discovered the Washington quarter series after many years.  After the great silver melt of 1979-1980, when silver prices hit $50 an ounce, more than a few of the so-called “common” quarters were suddenly hard to find. I noted dealers arriving at conventions with tables full of Mint State and high grade Washington quarters, and seeing the tables empty quickly by the end of the weekend.

Collecting out of circulation made a comeback. New collectors found the Washington quarter series dated back to 1932 and could be collected in many different ways. Certain dates of clad quarters were difficult to find, after years of circulation, and some were not nicely made to begin with, such as the 1982 and 1983 issues.

Quarter collecting will likely remain popular for years, with the advent of the new America the Beautifyul quarters in 2010.

But what of the other series?  Kennedy half dollars have always had fans, for sentimental reasons, among people who still remember the President. Roosevelt dimes, on the other hand, have never been that widely collected, especially after the silver issues stopped.  A collection of clad dimes can be a challenge, if a collector is fussy and wants well-struck, Mint State coins. 

A specialist in clad coinage can accumulate a meaningful, historical collection with some cash outlay, a lot of looking and a bit of patience. The clad specialist will want to include a number of the experimental pieces made when silver was being removed from our coinage.

The INCO pattern coins, depicting Paul Merica, can be included, along with the Franklin Mint medals struck in the different alloys that were considered to replace silver. DuPont issued a “detaclad” piece inscribed, “This token was made from explosion bonded detaclad.” One or two Martha Washington patterns of the 1965 era also should be included in an advanced collection.

Beautiful, Mint State coins of the early clad years can be included, if the collector is lucky enough to find any after a lot of hunting. Varieties, such as the proof and circulation coins lacking mintmarks, can be part of the collection, and maybe a coin struck in the wrong metal, such as a 1964 clad quarter. Special Mint Set coins must be included; a few SMS quality coins of 1964 are known. Clad fans and historians will want to find all of these pieces.

United States clad coins, a much neglected and disliked part of American numismatics, can form a collection that tells the story of a turbulent time in American numismatics.

This is the second part of a five-part series on U.S. clad coinage. The first part appeared in the Jan. 5 issue.

More Resources:

• Subscribe to our Coin Price Guide, buy Coin BooksCoin Folders and join the NumisMaster VIP Program

2010 U.S. Coin Digest, The Complete Guide to Current Market Values, 8th ed.

State Quarters Deluxe Folder By Warmans

Standard Guide to Small-Size U.S. Paper Money, 1928 to Date

Strike It Rich with Pocket Change, 2nd Edition

 

 

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