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Coins of set total more than set itself

This article was originally printed in the latest issue of Numismatic News.
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Why is it that if you add up the individual prices of the coins in a proof set, it is much higher than the cost of the set?

In the world of commerce, the sum of the parts is a multiple of the whole. If you went out and bought all the parts to a car to assemble yourself, it would cost several times more than buying a complete car. The same is true of coins. The extra cost is for the labor involved in breaking open the sets, packaging the individual coins, and associated storage and handling costs. For the same reason, new issue cents cost a minimum of 25 or 50 cents when purchased as singles from a dealer because of the handling costs – but he’ll sell you a roll for $1.50.

What is a “private treaty” sale?

This is a term that you don’t hear much any more, except perhaps at country auctions. It’s used for any private sale, where a buyer and a seller agree on a price for some item and complete the transaction. Technically almost any purchase you make is a private treaty sale, although the term usually is reserved for a sale where there is at least some bargaining back and forth between buyer and seller.


I have an unstruck blank or planchet that I can’t identify. Can you help?

Unless the planchet is for a regular U.S. coin it may be difficult, especially if the edge is not upset, to produce a raised area where the rim of the coin will be. The problem is that anyone who has access to a punch press can produce a simulated blank. Producing a planchet with the raised rim is more difficult, but even that can be faked.

Just what is meant by a “mint bag” of coins?

Bag sizes are standardized to contain 1,000 dollars, 1,000 halves, 2,000 quarters, 10,000 dimes, 4,000 nickels or 5,000 cents. These quantities are rooted in history whereas now the Mint sells smaller bags to collectors and ships bigger bags to the Federal Reserve.

Did the first United States Mint at Philadelphia issue coins in bags, or just how did they go about it in the early days?

According to Adam Eckfeldt, in the period around 1796 the Mint distributed cents in bags of 1,000 and boxes of 5,000. Since 1,000 cents in a bag would have weighed 24 pounds, and the 5,000 cents would have weighed 120 pounds, the boxes obviously were heavy wooden crates. Later cents were distributed in the wooden kegs in which the planchets had been received, with evidence showing up to 18,000 coins to a keg, or about 432 pounds of coins.

The Mint used $1,000 in face value as a unit of measure in bagging silver coins. What unit did they use for gold?

The Mint standard for gold was units of $5,000 face value or 250 double eagles, 500 eagles, 1,000 half eagles, or 2,000 quarter eagles. A unit had to weigh within one-hundredth of an ounce before it was released, and the exact weight was obtained by mixing coins that were slightly heavier or lighter than standard.


What’s the story on the miniature coin bags?

As nearly as I can tell now, the bags were sold through 1973, but sale was discontinued in 1974 because of the speculation in 1974-S cents. The 1973 and 1972 bags of 15 coins (five each from the three mints) sold over the counter for 25 cents and by mail for 40 cents. The 1971 bags each had 20 coins of one mint and also sold for 25 cents. In 1970, bags of 25 cents were made up for each of the three mints (Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco) and sold at a slight premium.

In reviewing old issues of Numismatic News, I noted that for a number of years after 1976 the Mint reports included listings of the Bicentennial coin sets. I thought they halted production in 1976?

They did. The figures, which were sometimes labeled and sometimes not, covered the number of sets sold from the surplus that the Mint had on hand and did not indicate new production. No Bicentennial coin was struck after 1976. Mint Director Mary Brooks struck the last Bicentennial coins on June 22, 1976, at the San Francisco Assay Office.

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