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This week’s letters (02/05/13)

 

1951 dime find opens 2013 on positive note
Received a 1951 dime (P) in change yesterday. A great way to start the new year.
Tim Coltrin
Glendale Heights, Ill.

U.S. Mint isn’t meant to turn profit on operations
OK friends, all this squabbling over the fact that it costs more to make cents and nickels than they are worth is just plain silly. The U.S. Mint exists to make circulating coins in support of commerce, not as a fund raiser. Because it uses cheap metals and can meet costs with some left over sometimes is nice, but not a motivator. The U.S. government exists to help the nation run, not to make a profit on its operations. Is any other agency expected to make a profit? Eliminating these coins would just increase costs by rounding up prices, and that is not good for anyone. When inflation increases someday, and these coins are no longer used by the public, then they can be eliminated. Until then, relax, would ya?
Mark Parsons
Berthoud, Colo.

Nic-A-Date product helped identify 1918/7-D nickel
Enjoyed your article about nickels. I actually did find a 1918/7-D nickel back in the 1960s. I had read somewhere that the “D” mintmark was tilted, which was a diagnostic. I had one and I applied Nic-a-Date, and sure enough the 1918/7 was very pronounced to the naked eye. I always heard the stories that acid-treated nickels were worthless, but I kept the better ones anyway. I finally sold it on eBay in December 1999 for $77. I added to the proceeds and bought an ANACS-certified G-4 coin.
Just wanted to let you know at least one was found thanks to Nic-a-Date.
Name withheld

Why is it a problem to modify vending machines?
Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s I worked in a factory that had vending machines that took 50-cent pieces. In fact we could get 50-cent pieces in the change machine. So why are they having trouble now changing machines to take them?
Ralph Klinker
Monroeville, Ind.

Revisiting collection reveals foreign treasures
Although I’ll never be a “high-end” collector of rare coins and varieties, I still treasure the few semi-key coins that I’ve managed to find or pick up at auctions over the years. I enjoy seeing their values rise, even though they might only be worth $50-$100; but I was really surprised at the last two I just found.
For years I have salvaged the occasional foreign coin from a roll of U.S. coins or pocket change, and many people have given them to me when they travel overseas. I have also bought a few small collections from people, who usually got them from their fathers who served during WWII, Korea, etc. All of these coins had been sitting around in jars until I went through them the other day. To my surprise, I found a low mintage 1926 2-franc coin from France valued at $50 and a 20-centavo coin from Mexico that has an off-center strike. Go figure.
Daryl Conley
Address withheld

A little time, effort, money can make for good finds
I must say that adventure still waits for those with hearts that dare. Many say that all the good coins have been found and truly the only way to collect older coins, i.e. silver, is to buy on eBay or some other outlet. But let me tell of my adventure.
I like to buy rolls of half dollars just because I like all “funny money,” as it is something to save for a rainy day! Those golden dollars, halves and $2 bills really add up. But recently, I purchased five rolls of halves from my local bank, got back to my desk and started breaking them open. Much to my surprise, one roll was all 1967 40 percent, another was all 1969 and half of another roll was mixed 40 percent coins. Later I purchased two rolls from our utility company and found one 1967.
Just goes to show, if you dare to take the time to look, put out a few dollars of “investment” money, you might be happy with what you find.
So I have to say, “happy hunting” to all of you.
Frank Dolezal
Slater, Mo.

Trillion dollar platinum coin is silly idea
I think the recent idea of issuing a trillion dollar platinum coin to eliminate the issue of the national debt (borrowing) ceiling is right on target. It is as silly as voting on the debt ceiling.
The government is obligated under the 14th amendment to honor all its debts. Period. End. It doesn’t need congressional approval to do so, regardless what Congress thinks.
A recent poll says it all, head lice are viewed more favorably than congress. Politics aside, if a trillion dollar coin is issued, what goes on it? I think it would be appropriate if one side has the image of Alfred E. Newman with the motto “What Me Worry?”
Ron Thompson
Decatur, Ga.

Strike it Rich book aided in copper 1983-D cent find
Many things led to my discovery of a 1983-D Lincoln cent on a copper plainchant.
It all began in the summer of 1967, even though it would be another 16 years before this error was actually made!
My Uncle Franklin bought me a California gold token out of the revolving coin case at Woolworth’s five- and 10-cent store. That one moment sparked a little kid’s interest in numismatics.
My father took notice and said he’d give me a $10 allowance if I promised to spend half of it on coins. How could I say no to that? A weekly trip to the local coin shop was the norm. Franklin half dollars were big and silver and affordable. So that’s what we got.
Years went by and deep mirror proof-like Morgan dollars were my thing. But then one day in the spring of 1995, my stepmother came over with a Lincoln cent she got in change from the local supermarket. She said it looked “fuzzy.” After inspecting it I told her she had a brand new 1995-P doubled die!
I immediately jumped in the car and went up to the store. After a lot of begging and pleading I got them to sell me 17 rolls of new 1995 cents. After the search, I ended up with 47 doubled dies! I then realized there is an abundance of errors in Lincoln cents and it would be worth searching for all errors.
So I got a 16 power magnifying loupe, a good table light and a couple coin books. In 2006, the first edition of Strike it Rich with Pocket Change was published and that reference was, and still is, an invaluable help. That book prompted me to buy a small scale, and I began weighing all 1982-D and 1983-P and 1983-D cents. Ever since then every one that comes my way gets weighed.
There is yet one more person that helped me find a transitional error and that would be my wife. Barbara lets me do all this crazy, hour on end searching and even counts the searched coins that will be returned to the bank. What a tremendous help she is!
So, to sum it all up, there are some amazing coins in circulation to be found. Whether you’re just getting started in searching or you are a seasoned professional, you can and will find nice error coins.
Yes, you will encounter many dry spells when it seems like nothing will turn up. That’s when you will find a nice 1972 double die or a yellow brass zinc cent, or even something more valuable. Good luck hunting!
Jeff Young
Ohio

ANA can lead charge for standardized coin grading
Please let all those engaged in our wonderful hobby of coin collecting know that they are welcome to use the six-level copper color grading system published in the Nov. 27 Numismatic News “Viewpoint” column. I only ask that they acknowledge the source when appropriate.
It appears the four intermediate color levels offered by this scale may help address F. Michael Fazzari’s caveat regarding color grading (see Jan. 1 NN “Viewpoint” column). He points out that a coin’s color can change over time. The four intermediate grades offered in this system are wide enough to accommodate some amount of additional toning before the grade needs to be changed. Never-the-less, coins can potentially change color by any amount, so I recommend hobbyists “buy the coin, not the slab” when adding to their collection.
One factor this color scale doesn’t address is how to designate atypical color variations. One recent writer to the NN editor mentioned a difference between natural toned colors as compared to overly dark ones. Personally, I like a very technical grading system, so when I encounter a coin with unusual toning that fact will be noted in the grade. Extra dark coins might be labeled “dark toning” or even “discolored” if it’s unusually bad. On the other side of the coin, attractive toning would also be noted. It’s generally been my preference to note separately anything out of the ordinary. It would be interesting to hear if other hobbyists have different approaches that work well for them.
There were a couple issues raised by Fazzari in the Jan. 1 issue that I would like to discuss here. These are subjects that I have been thinking about for some time now, and they include ones that highlight certain odd discrepancies existing within the hobby today.
Foremost in my mind is the lack of standardization in grading standards among the major independent grading services. Now, this is not a huge problem because most of the differences occur on the margins.
Fazzari has pointed out some of these in his various articles – coin color, the amount of friction allowed on MS-grade coins, and the amount of doctoring allowed on “unaltered” coins being three prominent ones. But it really doesn’t make sense from a collector’s point of view for there to be variations like this. The situation has the potential to sow confusion and discourage collectors who need to have confidence in the value of items they purchase.
It seems like the ANA would be in the best position to organize an effort to standardize coin grading. I’ve spoken to various senior ANA members on this subject, including the ANA Education Committee, but they don’t seem inclined to take on what they believe is a controversial issue. Perhaps it is — there are many different stakeholders involved – but I still believe we need it.
The ANA could create an independent grading panel made up of the best graders and other key stakeholders. This panel would be charged, not with dictating grading standards, but with codifying existing grading practices. They would codify the grading standards in most prominent use, and meet once a year to update the standards since grading practices change over time. These standards would be published and available to everyone.
Members of the numismatic community would choose to use the grading panel’s standards, or not, as they prefer. But I believe over time most people would gravitate toward them because they would ultimately represent the most objective and fair standards available.
As an aside, let me take this opportunity to make another pitch for my solution to the problem of grading MS coins with light friction. The solution is really fairly simple – begin using the new grades AU-60 through AU-63. These grades give you the best of both worlds, so to speak.
The AU designation tells you the coin has slight friction, while the numeric 60-63 designation tells you the coin has the appearance (and value) of a mint state example. You can unambiguously grade a coin as a desirable AU-63 and much nicer than an ugly MS-60. Think about it. Most the experienced collectors I’ve discussed this with agree it’s a quite elegant solution.
Fazzari also mentioned the adoption of decimal grades. I am uncertain exactly what he refers to, but if it’s about converting to a 100-point grading scale, or some other change from the current 70-point scale, let me say this. I’ve taken graduate-level classes in applied statistics and have some small experience in measuring systems like our grading scale. It’s my belief that changing from our 70-point scale would give the appearance of added precision without actually providing it.
In other words, a 70-point scale is just as good as a 100-point scale for numismatic purposes. There are a number of reasons for this, which I’m not going to go into detail here because that would make this letter too long. But for starters, consider that the coin grading scale is really two scales — one for circulated coins and one for mint state coins (there is another for proofs of course, which overlaps the MS scale). There is no logical reason why the circulated and mint state scales have to be connected.
Gregory Kipp
Address withheld

Rolls, bags of coins from Mint show lots of damage
I have spent much of the past 10 days sorting and storing rolls of Kennedy half dollars, Washington quarters, and Lincoln cents, all purchased from the U.S. Mint and bearing Phiadelphia or Denver mintmarks. In a word, most of the materials are garbage, and here’s just a sampling of the quality issues I’ve seen in these rolls:
1. Large, black marks appearing as streaks, predominantly in the fields. This suggests grease or other grime not properly cleaned from planchets.
2. Nicks in the fields, as well as on some of the raised devices.
3. Heavy carbon spotting on Lincoln cents. These appear on the fields and on the raised devices, and of the 50 rolls I sorted, about 40 percent had these carbon spots. Some coins had five or more large spots, some measuring 0.2 in. (5 mm) in length.
4. Heavy discoloration of Washington quarters and Lincoln cents. At first glance, these look like water spots, but under high magnification, they are integral to the metal.
5. Rim dings, particularly on the Kennedy halves.
I’ve also handled about a dozen 2012 proof sets in the past week. The quarters appear to be perfect, and in fact, would very likely grade as 70 deep/ultra cams, but as for the rest of the set, I wouldn’t be surprised to see 60s or “genuines” were I to submit them. The biggest problems appear to be discoloration on the Presidential dollars and Lincoln cents,. mostly on the obverses. In one case, one of the Lincoln cents had about 20 spots, which appear as dark, discolored areas.
I know there are readers of your publication who state they are tired of reading about complaints, but I assure you I am considerably more tired of seeing signficant quality control problems from the Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco mints. The party line at the Mint is they are in the business of manufacturing coins for commerce, but were that truly the case, why then are they selling uncirculated rolls and bags at such high premiums? Is this the best the U.S. Mint can produce?
Name withheld

Need a change? Consider collecting foreign coins
The lead article on page 1 of Numismatic News for Jan. 22 begins, “It’s the new year. Time for a new collecting path.” It then goes on to discuss U.S. coins and then speculating in silver by buying silver rounds, which I do not consider collecting coins or a numismatic activity.
In the course of a year you print many readers’ complaints about the practices of the U.S. mint, saying they are limited in collecting. Obviously they could look at older U.S. coins than new issues, as your article suggests. But how about the endless world of foreign coins? They are inexpensive and full of variety, education and interest.
I have collected foreign coins for about 75 years, as long as I have collected U.S. coins. For some years I have built a small representation of coins from each country that I visit for the first time. I buy representative current coins of each country I have visited before with the date of each visit as a souvenir of that visit. Plus, when I see something particularly interesting I can’t resist buying it.
I do still keep up with buying most of the current U.S. mint issues, one of each, no speculating, as I still enjoy my U.S. collection.
So my suggestion to collectors who are frustrated for any reason with collecting U.S. coins is to look abroad where there is lots of fun and interest no matter what the collector’s budget. And Krause has lots of great publications by which the collector can educate him or herself about foreign coins.
R. W. Barker
Midland Mich.

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