What is your take on the special silver American Eagle coins now being increasingly offered by the US Mint?
If you are collecting them for the pleasure of collecting, then enjoy them. If you are buying them, hoping for a financial gain, remember these are coins made for collectors, not to be treated as a way to buy and sell silver based on their bullion value. As long as someone is willing to make a market in these special products their value may be protected, but if this wanes they will likely follow the dramatic value decrease as happened to the so-called Brown Box Ike dollars of 1971 to 1974 and others before them.
Generally speaking, if I buy a coin from a dealer at a show, but then want to return it for a refund, will the dealer accept it, or are purchases made at shows considered final? (Assuming, of course, that the coin has not been removed from the holder and the return is postmarked within seven days of the purchase, which is the minimum return period any dealer would offer.)
When you purchase a coin by mail you are purchasing the coin sight unseen. You can examine what you are buying at a coin show. Just as with any other retailer you need to ask the dealer for his or her individual return policy when a coin is purchased over the counter, regardless of where that counter may be. Expect this policy to vary from dealer to dealer. Should a coin prove to be a counterfeit the return time is unlimited for legal reasons, however even then you need to keep the coin in the original holder to prove it is the same coin. Make arrangements with the dealer if you plan to send the coin to an independent grading and certification service, so if the results are less than expected the dealer will accept the return despite the holder having been removed.
What happened to the market for the Blue Pack and Brown Box Eisenhower dollars?
When the Mint ceased producing Eisenhower dollars after 1978, interest in the series declined. There appears to be more interest in the very high grade business strikes today than in the made-for-collector special issues. The 1973-S Brown Box Ike, as an example, sells for a fraction today of what it sold for during the 1970s soon after it was issued.
Wasn’t there a “side cut” that passed as a half pistareen?
The side cut was a profitable clip for the shady element. A pistareen was cut into four parts – a triangle from the center and three curved edge pieces. The triangle was melted down for its silver content and each of the three arcs was passed as a half pistareen in the West Indies for a handsome increase in value.
Can you recommend a strategy for investing in coins?
You need to separate the collector in you from the investor. The investor is never afraid to take a profit, while the collector wants to collect. If you can’t bring yourself to sell your coins, no matter what the excuse, you are not an investor. Regarding what to buy, an investor can speculate in coins valued solely for their intrinsic (bullion) value, or in coins with a track record of appreciation due to collector demand. Collectors collect.
Why do some coins increase noticeably in value, while others of about the same mintage do not?
It is the “famous” coins, those that have received publicity, that are typically in demand. It takes supply and demand, not just supply alone, to encourage price appreciation. When a coin of serious consequence comes into a dealer’s inventory, or is offered at auction appropriate publicity is focused on the coin to draw the attention of potential buyers.
How does the social structure of the coin hobby compare to that of other hobbies?
The clubs and hobby/trade publications appear to be significantly better structured for coin collectors than for many other hobbies. In the United States we have local, regional and national organizations, with potential for more online clubs as well. We are fortunate enough to have the American Numismatic Association as a national coin collector organization, with the American Numismatic Society focusing more on the academic or true numismatic aspects of coins.
Is there one coin book that appears to stand out from the others?
Regarding which book appears to have had greatest impact historically on the U.S. hobby I would suggest it is the Red Book, Richard Yeoman’s “A Guide Book of United States Coins.” However, having a library is essential for all collectors.
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