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This week’s letters (02/14/12)

‘Viewpoint’ overlooks one crucial facet to collecting

I’m responding on the Jan. 24 “Viewpoint” that Mike Davis wrote. I agree with most of what he said. I have noticed that ever since 1999 and the state quarter program started many people saw easy money. Before you knew it there were thousands of coin dealers and most of them didn’t know anything about coins. They just wanted to sell you a set of quarters take your money and move on. I call these people the one and done dealers. I’ve been in this hobby for 36 years, 10 of them I collected coins then began selling coins and now have a very nice business.
I have a library that, when a customer comes over, I can pull four or five books out about one coin and that’s not counting the computer programs. I get a kick out of the looks on peoples’ faces when they see this.
My first set of coins was Franklin half dollars proofs graded and cameo. It took me many years to build that set and while I was doing that I was also filling in books with the best coins I could find.
My opinion is 80 percent of today’s sellers don’t want to be bothered with questions. They just want to make a quick buck. That’s where I see our great hobby with a big problem. These people don’t even see or know what they’ve done but now the new buyers I meet are always on their highest guard when talking with me.
I tell people I will do many things that most dealers have stopped and if they do buy from me I let them know that they can call me with questions. I love what I’m doing and I love to learn as much as I can so by helping them I’m helping myself and I’m gaining their trust by helping them out, so it’s a win-win for me.
Today I only collect one coin, Washington quarters from 1932 to 1964 graded MS-66. You can’t be a collector and a dealer. It will not work.
I get all of the magazines. I see what they say a certain year is worth, but try to find one. The graded coins are always high and when a seller gets a superior coin in a MS-66, he wants double. I’d like to know where all the papers and magazines get their prices from but even more I’d like to see them buy a coin for what they print.
I have contacts all around the states from the big boys to the little guys. It just seems that the graded coins are getting out of hand plus they keep coming up with ways of taking your money. Let’s be real. You get your coin graded and its expensive.
Davis also talked about the U.S. Mint. It has gotten carried away with too many coins.
Yes, our hobby has many bumps, but if you can find one dealer that will help you I’d say even if his coins cost $5 more, stay with him. If you look for one coin and the lowest price, you are only helping the people that are now hurting us. Spend the extra and in the long run these people will start to disappear and as they do your dealer will more than likely be able to work better with you because he doesn’t need to constantly fight the one and done seller. Please think about this before you buy your next coin. Ask the person you are thinking about buying from to see if they can answer three or four questions about the coin, or see if they just want another one and done deal.

Greg Mellon
Coatesville, Pa.

Eagle anniversary set could prove quite valuable

While I agree with most of Larry Long’s Jan. 12 letter to the editor, “Collectors should focus on classic coins not Mint fads,” I believe the 2011 five-coin anniversary set will be as rare 100 years out as many of the classics are today. My rationale is based on statistical surviving specimens of three modern issues.
The American Eagle is a world class coin with some low mintages. Second, the U.S. Mint doing some unusual things relative to several modern issues. The coins I will discuss have low mintages, but more important are the few surviving specimens in the original Mint packaging.
The 25th anniversary set contains two coins with a mintage of 100,000. Already the key reverse proof and uncirculated 2011-S are being sold separately, out of the original Mint packaging. The other coins are as well, but they are not the primary focus. Those few kept in the original Mint packaging will likely become classic collections.
Similarly, of the original 75,000 limited edition 2000 Millennium coinage and currency sets, I would be surprised if there are even a few thousand remaining in the original packaging. The 2000-D Sacagawea dollar, the more popular coin, has a burnished finish. Either coin outside the original Mint capsule loses its identity as there were also 519 million Sacagawea 2000-D and 9.2 million 2000 American Eagle business strikes.
The key points:
1. With the rise in silver, many of the American Eagle 2000-W were sold from set for bullion value (compare silver prices in 2000 versus 2010-2011.
2. Independent Coin Graders encapsulated and serialized 10,000 coins.
3. Numismatic Guaranty Corporation and Professional Coin Grading Service slabs are more numerous.
4. The burnished/prooflike Sacagawea coins sell for $50 in lower grades to $250 if in MS-68. Few exist in deep prooflike, and range from $300 to $650.
5. The few sets graded at Mint State sell for multiple hundreds of dollars. One dealer has offered an MS-68 for $1,750,000.
My primary point, the surviving specimens in the original Mint packaging will be a few thousand. Also, outside the packaging in ICG, NGC, PCGS, or ANACS slabs there is little chance to match the Federal Reserve Note number with the coins.
As mentioned, the Sacagawea dollar seems to be the primary dealer focus, however 100 years from now, the 2000-W will be the classic because of attrition.
In closing, I have followed this closely for the past six years and there is little awareness by collectors, hobbyists, investors and dealers to the 2000 Millennium coinage and currency set.

R.T. Murphy
Hampton, N.H.

Wheat cent finds are fewer, farther between

I have just finished my figures for my roll searching and I would like to share it with other readers. During the year 2011, I searched through 718,850 cents. I found a total of 2,824 wheat cents. The wheat cent is getting to be obsolete. Roll searching for pennies now is like pulling eye teeth. They are few and far between.

Bob Atwater
Conway, S.C.

FUN offers new coins, trip down memory lane

I thoroughly enjoy your weekly reports. They are a highlight of my week. I like to hear from the other collectors. They so effectively counter the investors that have plagued our hobby. Thank you, collectors.
I, like a lot of you, boarded a jet and went to the FUN show. My wife likes the Perry’s Hotel at Daytona Beach and she knows that she can get me there during the FUN show week. We first visited Perry’s 39 years ago on our honeymoon. I will never forget holding my wife’s hand and seeing the ocean for the first time.
That is crazy because we live in Pennsylvania. We had to graduate from college, get married, jump into our blue 1967 Volkswagon and drive there to see the ocean for the first time. We are definitely not part of the investors club that tries to destroy our hobby.
We have done the FUN show for the past five years, including the Tampa one. My wife also likes to do Disneyworld. I prefer to go to Perry’s as soon as possible, so I can view my coin purchases and walk the beaches and swim with her. She still looks great in her swimsuit.
Like a lot of collectors on the floor, I was bound and determined to fill in my Dansco holes with coins that the Red Book says they’re worth. After an hour or so, I found no coins in this criterion category. So I went to my regulars.
Steve Musil had an 1849 silver dollar with a semi hole in it that I had to have for $145. Steve had left the table, so I did not have the heart to ask his daughter for a discount.
Then I found myself at a table that had a 1953 proof set for sale for $180 in one of those square boxes. That was down 30 percent from previous prices and it was next on my list of proof sets to get. So I bought it. I asked the man if it was good to put it into one of those nice red or black plastic displays. He said that a dealer would pay more for the ugly square box.
I did not know what to think. I know collectors have found themselves in this position before. I told him that I would go searching for one of those plastic display things anyway. After all, I am the collector and would like to be in control of my destiny. I asked if he would like the square box back, afterwards. He said yes. I purchased a plastic case not from 1953 and spent a while putting the coins in it, back where the food is too expensive. I found the seller and gave him the square box back, with the paper, plastic and rusted staple in it and he said thank you. The thank you was worth the difference.
I still had some money that I would prefer not to spend and went to Rich Uhrich, as he always has nice coins that I want for a lot of money. I picked two of his coins and asked him which would be the better buy. He said that it was a no-brainer.
That is when it is good to work with people you like and trust. I would have a brain like the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz if I let him decide. We chose the 1865 25-cent piece in VF-35 for $250. He was the only one that day to give me a discount without my begging.
I was elated and broke. I enjoyed my coins for a day, as I decided not to go to the show the next day, as it was my 39th wedding anniversary. I spent the day happily at Disney World with my wife.
I conned my wife and son into going back to the FUN show the next day before we headed to Perry’s. They submitted to my plea. Mary and I both wanted our son to see the show. We knew it would be like seeing the Grand Canyon or Yankee Stadium for the first time. You all know how that went. He will understand later. Had he shaken hands with Abe Lincoln, I believe we could have pulled it off.
I traveled the floor with my pittance of negative money and ended up at Tom Shell’s table. I got some very nice coins there for a reasonable price. Tom is the most honest coin man I have ever met.
Then I found a table that sold old British coins. I bought a 1792 British half penny with some luster for $20. The dealer told me that from about 1788 to 1800, the British were in a like depression to what the U.S. had in 1837. I was previously intrigued to buy some of those tokens, so it was a sale. I viewed it twice a day, with my other coins, while we enjoyed Perry’s for the balance of our vacation.

Name withheld
Pennsylvania

NN articles, letters provoke more opinions and debates

My mailman brings me this fantastic magazine every week that I love to read cover to cover. I like the letters section the best. This is where the readers write in and complain about everything from the ANA to the U.S. Mint and, as they say in the country, “I gotta crow to pick with some of the articles.”
Two guys were discussing the Coinstar machines a while back. I’ve never used one and don’t intend to. Firstly, they take 10 percent of your money and second, they don’t do a very good job separating the coins. I’ve found 302 dimes in cent rolls that I’ve searched. Six of these were in one roll. Another gentleman was happy to find 408 wheat pennies in a box. My best wheat penny find was 1,657 in one bag ($50 worth).
Dave Harper asked if it was worth searching rolls anymore. I think it is. He also asked about the copper pennies in rolls. I just went through two bags and got 3,468 coppers out of them. The good thing about these is 19 rolls were all copper and mostly red-brown uncirculated pennies from the 1960s. I think someone had these stashed away somewhere.
In the “Mint Statistics” column, the headline was “Weak Demand Looks Puzzling.” It doesn’t look puzzling to me, and I’ll tell you why. When the Mint got a new director to replace Moy, the first thing he did was raise the prices on all collector coins anywhere from 20 to 90 percent. This inflated the prices to a point where they are no longer a value to collect. I personally quit ordering from the Mint and I know quite a few others that did the same thing. Since then, I’ve gotten six order forms and fall catalogs wanting me to order. I’ve also noticed they run a full page ad in the Numismatic News. I’ll bet all of this mail and advertising costs the Mint a pretty penny. All the Mint would have to do to increase their sales is just adjust its prices.
Let’s analyze the uncirculated mint set now. Everyone knows there is no silver nor gold in that set. There’s a penny that costs 2 cents to make. There’s a nickel that costs 7 cents to make. There’s a dime that costs probably a nickel to make. There’s five quarters that cost probably a dime each. The half dollar couldn’t cost more than 20 cents to make. And there’s five 1 dollar coins that cost 13 cents each to make. That comes to a total of $1.49 times two for the Denver and Philadelphia mints. That makes $2.98 total for the set. The Mint sells this set for $31.95 plus $4.95 shipping and handling. It says it’s losing money? The Mint could sell the set at face value and make money. The prices I used here came out of this paper.
I want to disagree with Ken Potter on a couple of Mint errors. He reported that the frosted proof platinum Eagle was an error in two different articles in Numismatic News. He stated in the third paragraph of the Nov. 8 issue that the Mint had made these for review purposes. I contend this is not an error. The fact that the coins got out to the public was a human mistake, not a Mint error. The second one I want to talk about is the gold dollar coins that got into the public without the edge lettering on them. Seems like an employee carried them out and sold them. This would be classed as a crime, not a Mint error. As a matter of fact, I think the government should confiscate all those dollars since they didn’t go through proper Mint procedures to get to the public. I also have reservations about the high/low leaf on the stalk of corn on the Wisconsin quarter. Looks like an employee was playing around there too.
Another thing I would like to express my opinion on is in the advertising section. Two or three people insist on advertising unsearched wheat pennies for sale. Now, the Mint quit making the wheat penny 53 years ago. Does anyone in the world believe that there are even five wheat pennies in circulation that have not been searched over and over and over again? No.

Bob Davis
Bristol, Va.

Collecting found coins yields growing results

I wrote a letter last year about coins that I found on the road while I ride my bike to and from work. During this past year, I found a total of 122-3/4 coins. The total value was only $6.58, but I enjoy the “hunt” for coins.
One of the more unusual coins was a broken penny (about 1/4 of it was missing). There was also a Jamaican 25-cent piece, an Asian 5 piece, a 1984 quarter that was folded back on itself. There was also a quarter that was run over so many times that you cannot tell the obverse from the reverse.
For the people who like statistics here are the breakdowns. During the calendar year 2011, the total of 122-3/4 coins included 13 quarters, 18 dimes, 16 nickels and 73-3/4 cents.
During the calendar year 2010, the total of 121-1/2 coins broke down to 12 quarters, eight dimes, 12 nickels and 88-1/2 cents.
July was a big month for finding road coins. On July 14, I found all four denominations: 1, 5, 10 and 25 cents. On July 16, I found a one-day record of 11 coins (10 pennies and one nickel).
However my best road find for the year was not a coin but a ring. On Oct. 4, I was crossing the intersection when I noticed something in the road that looked like a ring. My first thought was “no way” but I parked my bike and waited for traffic to clear. I picked up the ring and put it in my pocket. When I looked at it later in the day, I saw it had six small stones and “14 K” engraved inside. It was a good-sized man’s ring. Over the next couple of days, I took it to a jeweler and they confirmed it was gold and six tiny diamonds. The diamonds were not worth anything but the gold was worth $220. A local coin shop offered $230. As an educational opportunity, my wife took the ring to a “cash for gold” shop. The young lady weighed it and offered $80. She was pushing for a sale. She increased the offer to $89. When my wife said no, the clerk phoned the store manager and got a today-only price of $142. Obviously, we did not sell to them. I did sell it to the coin shop and now I am looking for just the right coin to invest in with the ring cash. It will be interesting to see what 2012 will bring.

Name withheld
Des Plaines, Ill.

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