I had a telephone call this week from a collector who apparently has accumulated rolls quantities of state quarters, which were struck 1999-2008. If the D.C. and Territories issues are included, that would add six more issues and the date of 2009.
We didn’t get into the specifics about how many rolls he had or which states were represented in his collection.
What the caller wanted to know was what was in the uncirculated rolls that he said he had gotten from a bank. Specifically he wondered how many coins in a roll might be MS-63 and how many MS-65, etc.
He was very disappointed when I told him that there was no way to tell.
The caller was under the impression that every single coin that comes off a Mint press is absolutely identical. I told him that quite the contrary, any coin made with a mechanical process is slightly different from any other. I did not dive into my memories of college statistics and bring up the concept of tolerances and the like. Of course, how much of this I might remember is problematic.
If the coins in the rolls are not identical, could I give him information as to what the average grade was likely to be in each roll?
Again, I told him, there was no way to tell. There are probably some MS-65 pieces in each roll along with some MS-63s as well as others, but whether there are any or a lot was not something that can be reduced to an average, especially if the coins have had more than one owner.
I told him rolls tend to be valued by the lowest common denominator because over time, the contents of a roll are examined and any truly breath-taking coins are removed. The older the roll is and the more owners it has had, the greater the likelihood that the coins inside would end up on the low side of the Mint State scale.
The caller resigned himself to the idea of having to look at every single coin in every single roll if he wanted to have an accurate idea of what he owned.
He also said he needed to grab his loupe and brush up on this grading skills.
The whole conversation is a demonstration of the hands-on nature of coin collecting. You need to get your hands dirty to truly understand coins. If you handle enough coins, it is amazing how dirty your hands can become.
The heyday of roll collecting was 50 years ago as I was getting started in the hobby. The market for rolls peaked in 1964. By the early 1980s, the whole habit of saving rolls had pretty well died out.
There are some exceptions to that. Every time I see an ad for uncirculated cent rolls from the 1960s and 1970s I cringe at the high prices for I know I could have had those issues in industrial quantities had I but sought them out.
Is the caller a blast from the past, or a harbinger of the future? That is worth thinking about.
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