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Coin Clinic: Bicentennial Lincolns missing ‘VDB’ initials

By Richard Giedroyc

Five years later it is unusual to find any 2009 Lincoln cent coins. On the lower right shoulder of the 2009 Formative Years standard front [obverse] Lincoln cent is VDB. Is this common? I cannot find the VDB on the other 2009 series.

Victor D. Brenner designed the obverse of the Lincoln cent first introduced in 1909. His VDB initials appear as you described on each 2009 cent regardless of the reverse design. There are 2009 coins of any of the four reverse types on which the obverse is missing the cheek area due to an overpolished die, has a “floating eye,” or a spiked chin. An overpolished die could result in the designer’s initials absence on a coin. I am unaware of any study of 2009 No VDB variety cents.

My son was in Toronto with a $20 Canadian silver coin that I had asked him to try and spend. He told me, “I was in a mall which had an antique store so I went in and asked about the coin. The manager told me he would be happy to take the coin at face value if I wanted to buy anything. As it happened, I didn’t. He also told me I’d probably have trouble spending it at regular stores as they had probably never seen one and probably wouldn’t take it.” Unfortunately he didn’t try to spend it anywhere else. I would have tried every store I went in. But then, I like to write stories about such adventures. I asked him to go in a bank and exchange it for $20 paper on his next trip. Will report on that when it happens.

Reader Tom Garcia is keeping us informed as he learns if Canadian commemorative coins will be treated as legal tender in Canada.

In the “Numismatic News” issue of Oct. 14 a reader wrote that he bought a coin as a very good and was disappointed when it came back graded Fine-12. Isn’t Fine-12 better than VG? Most people would be happy of that happened, not disappointed.

I am surprised at the number of readers who have asked if the worn coins depicted in the Oct. 14 Coin Clinic column are for sale. There may be more of an interest in collecting well-worn coins than is generally understood to be the case.

I recently obtained a 1921-D Morgan dollar that I sent to a third- party certification service for grading. The coin was returned to me as an About Uncirculated-58, VAM-1W1. I have been unable to obtain any information as to the population and/or the approximate value of this Morgan dollar. Any assistance you could provide as to the population or value of this coin would be greatly appreciated.

There are two sub-varieties of VAM-1W. Sub-variety 1W1 has a die break in the wreath near the “I” of “United,” while 1W2 has an obverse break between the BU of “Pluribus” and a reverse break above the second “S” in “States.” The service you used is one of several services that offer a population report of the number of coins graded. If the service gives the population of the coins of this variety they have examined this will give you some idea of the scarcity of your coin. If the variety does command a premium above other varieties of the same date you should be able to find like variety coins for sale online. This should help you establish the value for your coin.

Are there two varieties of the 2005 Buffalo nickel, one of which indicates it is a female, the other indicating the animal is a male?

There appears to be a numismatic urban legend regarding this, but it appears to be the public’s misunderstanding of the design rather than a flaw or a variety that encourages this myth.

Why is it that dealers are willing to pay more for coins encapsulated by one grading service over like coins of its closest competitor?

I purposely excluded the names of the two firms named in this inquiry. The consistency and accuracy of the grading is close if not equal between these two entities, however the reputation of one exceeds the reputation of the other. Since dealers believe they can sell the coins encapsulated by one company for more than they can the coins encapsulated by the other the dealers in turn will pay more for these coins.

There have been and still are a number of third-party certification services. Two of them have outstanding reputations that overshadow the others. Are they the only two such services that do consistent and accurate grading?

I’m not going to drop names here, but there are some services that serve the telemarketing and mass market industries, and others that do excellent work acceptable to experienced coin collectors. Unfortunately not all of the services that do excellent authentication and grading have received the publicity necessary for collectors to recognize that they do good work. The bottom line when buying should still be to buy the coin, not the encapsulation regardless of the service that examined the coin. You make the final decision.

I recently listened to a home shopping network program on television where coins were being sold. The salesman showed some certified sets of Presidential dollar coins, then made the comment only a million collectors can own a set because this is all they made. Just how many collectors are there?

It is questionable if there are a million collectors interested in collecting Presidential dollar coins, but the salesman can make the claim no matter how outlandish it may appear to be. Regarding how many people collect coins, that question has been asked for years. There are likely many collectors who have never joined a coin club or otherwise associated with the organized hobby. This makes it difficult to estimate the number of active collectors. The number of collectors belonging to the American Numismatic Association, as an example, is only a fraction of the number of people on the mailing lists of several major coin auction houses.

The Wikipedia article entitled “Coin collecting” says that “Coin collecting can be differentiated from numismatics in that the latter is the systematic study of currency. Though closely related, the two disciplines are not the same. A numismatist may or not be a coin collector, and vice versa.” The Wikipedia article entitled “Numismatics” says that “This article is about numismatics as an academic discipline. For collecting, see [the Wikipedia page on] coin collecting.” Their definition of “currency” includes every form of money, not just paper money as collectors define it. As I understand it numismatics and coin collecting are synonymous. “Numismatic News” includes historical articles on the history of coins of a nature that could certainly be described as scholarly, as well as the everyday concerns of collectors such as grading, new releases of the U.S. Mint, prices of coins sold at auction, etc., as well as the monthly “Coin Market” price guide. The American Numismatic Association focuses on the everyday affairs of coin collecting; the American Numismatic Society concentrates on academic research; but both have the word numismatic in their names.

Definitions of anything may vary depending on the source. The objective of a dictionary is to ensure the spellings and definitions of each word are used consistently. My understanding is that a numismatist is someone who studies coins as artifacts, while a coin collector is one who collects them. You don’t have to be a collector to study coins, nor does a collector have to ignore the history and science surrounding them. Taking the definition of coin collecting one step further, where do you draw the line between hoarding and collecting? The study of coins can help date an archaeological dig site, identify rulers out of the past, help define former political boundaries or trade routes, and more. “Numismatic News” presents articles of interest to both collectors and numismatists, since often the two interests are intertwined.

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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