I’ve heard the telephone company used to have a lot of problems with the $5 gold pieces. Can you fill in the details?
Seems hard to believe today, when a $5 gold piece is rarely seen outside of a coin holder, but back in the 1920s callers using pay phones frequently got the gold coins mixed with their nickels and had to ask the company for a refund. This was especially true right after the Christmas season when many of the coins were given as gifts. The gold color apparently wasn’t universally noticed, a lesson that might be transferred to the Sacagawea dollar.
I have an 1892 Columbian half dollar that has a doubled date. At one time it was listed in the Red Book, but I can’t find any current information on it. Can you help?
I’m afraid I’m going to have to disappoint you on this one, as the only Columbian half with a repunched date is the 1893, which has “93” punched over “93.” I have seen the 1892 date you describe, but the doubling is due to die bounce (machine doubling damage) to the coin, which reduces rather than increases the value. It apparently was carried in the Red Book until it was learned that it was damage, rather than being a minting variety. Thus, it is not a recut date, nor is it a repunched date.
I have a gold American Eagle coin that has a distinct die crack on it. Does this increase or decrease the value, and is it unique?
Die cracks (a raised irregular line of coin metal) can and do occur on the gold coins, as well as others, and I have had several reports of them on the gold Eagles. But, because of the base value of the piece, the die crack would not add any significant additional value. Die cracks, like all die varieties, are almost never unique. Once the die changes – in this case cracking – every coin struck after it will show the identical irregular raised line of coin metal.
I’m concerned about the possibility of my coins being damaged by fire, although they are in a safe. Will burning or melting insulation in the walls of a safe damage my coins?
I’m not aware of any problems with safe insulation that might affect coins, as safes are designed to hold valuables of all kinds. Fire damage is going to depend on the fire rating of the safe, which is based on keeping the contents cool enough to avoid charring paper. The rating and insulation used would vary from safe to safe, so the best thing would be to study the literature and ask questions of the vendor, but I don’t really see that you have any cause for concern in a properly rated safe.
Wasn’t Farran Zerbe one of the first to collect minting varieties?
While very probably not the first, he was at least one of the first prominent collectors to seriously collect them. Zerbe is quoted in 1926 as saying, “I have seen many mint products of this and other countries that were misstrikes or freaks and have a considerable collection of them.” Prizes included an 1863 Indian Head cent that was triple struck, showing two dates. This may be the same coin that was on the cover of one of Frank Spadone’s books.
Were the Clark, Gruber gold coins struck on planchets that were reeded before being struck?
A reeded, unstruck planchet was recovered from the rubble when the Clark, Gruber mint building was razed in 1907, picked up by Farran Zerbe. The coins were struck in open collars.
Have there been any efforts to revive lacquer as a coin preservative?
Many old-time collectors preserved their coins by giving them a coating of lacquer. However, this fell out of favor after World War I. Right after World War II, one firm attempted to market a liquid plastic and the thinner necessary to use it to coat coins. Coins were also embedded in clear blocks, but neither caught on. Today’s collectors simply don’t seem to like coated coins, and they are sharply discounted if they appear on the market. Some Europeans still do it, as it protects the coin almost indefinitely. Like other fads, it may well come back as collectors search for better ways to preserve and protect their coins.
Were there or weren’t there any of the Oregon Trail commemorative half dollars struck in 1928? I’ve seen conflicting stories.
I have a feeling I’ll wish I hadn’t tried to explain this one before it is over. The U.S. Mint in its June 1928 report listed 50,028 Oregon Trail halves. These were reported elsewhere to be 1928 dates – which the Oregon Trail Committee chairman promptly and strongly denied in writing, saying they were dated 1926, as were the originals. However, in 1933, the committee released (sold) 6,028 halves dated 1928. The presumption would be that the coins struck in 1928 were in fact dated 1928 (normal Mint practice) and that the other 44,000 were unsold and melted.
Do you have any mintage figures for the large (2.5-inch) Crane Co. medal struck in 1930 for the 75th anniversary of the firm?
Luck is with me on this one, a rare event for medals. The company ordered 115,000, later billed as the largest number of a single medal of that size ever struck, and they were given to every employee – and every customer – of the company.