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Real $20 gold coins have similar weight

This article was originally printed in the latest issue of Numismatic News.
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I’ve seen you mention that a privately minted gold $20 should weigh nearly as much as a government issue coin. Please explain.

This question comes up frequently because of the thousands of copies of the Blake $20 gold coins that are in the hands of the public. The point I made was that if the piece were actually struck in gold (rather than brass or even white metal), they would weigh about what a regular issue $20 gold piece would weigh. A U.S. gold $20 coin weighs 33.436 grams. One troy ounce is 31.103 grams, so a normal $20 private gold piece should weigh about 1 troy ounce. Most of them were slightly underweight because the gold was below the .900 fineness standard of the government coins. So, if the piece you are checking doesn’t weigh anywhere near 33 grams, then it is a copy. One more reason for having and using a scale.


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If you won’t tell me what my coin is worth, sight unseen, who will?

A coin or bank note is just like a house or a car. You have to see the piece to determine the value. The only solution, if you haven’t learned to at least estimate the grade of your coin and are unable to read a price chart, is to take the coin to a local coin dealer and ask him to appraise it. Be prepared to pay for the service if you don’t sell the coin. Above all, learn from what the dealer tells you.


I’ve been told that when they used to bid for coins at auction, bidders were allowed to bid by the piece or by the lot. How did that work?

Up until the 1950s, there were two ways of bidding on coins at an auction. Pieces were offered in lots, with each lot numbered. The preferred method of bidding at the time was to bid based on a single coin in the lot, regardless of the number of coins. For example, if there were 100 coins listed in a lot and you offered a bid of $10 it meant that you were actually bidding $10 on every coin, or $1,000 for the lot.

I have a cent that has a blurred appearance on both sides. Also, there is a thin layer of metal extending in from the rim that partially covers the letters around the rim. What has happened to my coin?

I was shown two virtually identical coins with this effect. Both of the coins were altered by hammering them between two blocks of wood. The metal driven into the field from the rims is a key clue here. This was a very popular alteration back in the 1960s when you were likely to run across one or two a month.


I sent my coin to two different grading services. Each one put a different grade on it. Since the first service is wrong, I’d like your comments.

You would be surprised at the number of times I get dragged into a dispute  similar to this. I can’t make a comment without seeing the coin, so it’s impossible to answer. The writer didn’t stop to realize that there is just as good a possibility that the second grading service is the one that’s wrong, or even that both are wrong.


What is an absolute coin auction?

By including the term “absolute,” the auctioneer is saying that all lots offered will be sold to the highest bidder, without reserve.

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