Taking a look at upcoming sales of various Mint products, my eye was drawn to two offerings to mention in the May 6 issue of Numismatic News.
The first is the May 8 availability of the proof Buffalo one-ounce gold coin. The second is the May 13 availability date of the annual uncirculated coin set, also called a mint set by collectors.
Certain Mint products tug on the threads of memory. Others do not. The mint set falls in the first category. The Buffalo gold in the second.
I am not trying to pick on gold, but my early hobby memories do not involve much of it.
The first reason, I suppose, is there was no Whitman album that I was aware of for it. The second is that even earning money as I did on a paper route, gold was not cheap even in a world where the official price was $35 an ounce.
I did buy a Mexican 2 pesos, just so I could claim to own a gold coin. It is a restrike to skirt the American laws of the time that made the ownership of new gold coins (and gold bullion) illegal.
It became legal to own gold at the end of 1974 while I was in college, but that is another story.
The 2-peso is not particularly appealing in its own right, because it is so tiny.
However, it did help teach me math.
The coin was 1/25th of a 50 peso, which contained 1.2 troy ounces of the precious metal.
So by a little handy-dandy pre-calculator arithmetic I could figure out that it was four percent of 1.2 ounces, or 0.048 ounce.
At $35 an ounce, that worked out to $1.68, which is an amount of money within reach of my paper route. And, of course, there was a premium over the basic gold value to be paid, but I do not remember what it was.
I still have the 2-peso. It is worth $62.40 now.
It was worth buying and it gave me a great appreciation of coin dealers who can do calculations very quickly.
Mint sets, though, are more warm and fuzzy in my mind.
The very first one I bought from the Mint was the 1968 issue. It had just one 40-percent silver half dollar, the 1968-D, and then quarters, dimes and cents from Philadelphia and Denver.
The only thing somewhat exotic about it was that the set included a San Francisco cent and nickel. That was the first time the mintmark had been used since 1955. Its revival was an interesting, even exciting, event.
There also was a Denver nickel. Philadelphia did not strike nickels that year.
I eagerly mailed my parents’ $5 check to cover the $2.50 each cost of two sets. I had written the check. Dad had signed it. I had given him the $5 in cash. That’s how excited I was. I wanted two sets.
With the benefit of hindsight, I should have bought two more 2-peso coins, but mint sets were more personally relevant.
When you order the 2014 Buffalo gold proof or the 2014 mint set, what will be in your thoughts?
Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2013 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper “Numismatic News.”