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Antique malls can be cherry-picked

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News

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Some coin collectors, including myself, enjoy going to antique malls to find coins worth more than the listed price and to purchase them. Of course, one needs to have the skills to grade coins accurately and to avoid purchasing counterfeit coins.


When I go to antique malls, I take my 7X loupe to make sure I can buy an undervalued or an undergraded coin. Cherry-picking refers to buying a coin which, for some reason, is really worth more than the price you pay for it. The more coin knowledge a coin collector has, the more apt he or she will be to purchase an undervalued numismatic specimen.

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Another name for cherry-picking is the thrill of the hunt. If one can purchase a coin for $100 and it is worth $500, this makes the thrill of the hunt very exciting.

I would like to share with you a recent coin that I purchased at an antique mall which still excites me. I must have looked at 50 or more coins that day, but one caught my eye and that is the 1826 Bust half dollar pictured in this article. Would you believe that this coin was virtually toned black all over and it was very difficult or next-to-impossible to grade?

What kind of physical wear was hidden under the ugly silver sulfide tarnish? I could not tell for sure, but for a price of $110, I thought it was worthwhile to buy it.

When I got home, I conserved it by removing the black silver sulfide tarnish. It took me three conservation methods described in my book, Coin Chemistry, second edition, to remove all the tarnish. The first two methods that I used removed the bulk of the tarnish, but some deep black spots were still evidenced. The third method removed the spots using the electrolytic technique that uses an aluminum plate to reduce the silver sulfide to atomic silver.

Now my 1826 Bust half dollar is tarnish free and the beauty of its conserved, non-oxidized silver surfaces are evident.

I grade my conserved coin, with some weakness in the strike, a solid AU-53 valued at approximately $550 as a retail price. This date variety, No. 4668, a fancy “2” with a close date, is shown in Walter Breen’s Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins.

The coin is now stored in an Intercept Shield case to keep the coin from becoming tarnished again. I firmly believe that good coin care is so important while we own them. We fortunately now have the technology to keep our numismatic properties from becoming tarnished, which is a form of corrosion.

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