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Back to basics in 2011

If my telephone call volume is any indication, the pause to celebrate the holidays ended yesterday.

Average collectors were on the line to ask questions about coins.

One caller thought he had discovered an error Sacagawea dollar. He had one that had no date on it.

I suggested that it might be a coin struck in 2009 or 2010 with the new Native American reverses on them and the dates on the edge. Sure, enough, the coin was a 2010, because it had the design of the Native American wampum belt on it.

The collector was still mystified. It was the first of the post-2008 designs that he had come across and he had taken it to a coin dealer who told him that he didn’t know what it was because he didn’t handle the current dollar series.

What’s the lesson here? With the rapid rate of design changes, getting updates in Numismatic News and annual standard guide books like Coin Digest are essential.

Another caller had just inherited a batch of Lincoln cents from a friend, who also had been a collector and had died recently.

In searching the coins, the caller found not one, but three, 1943 copper cents.

I asked him if he had a magnet handy.

By golly, he did, and he took it off the refrigerator. (not all callers have a magnet)

Sure enough, all three coins were attracted to the magnet, proving that the coins were simply steel cents that had been copper-plated as novelty items.

The lesson here? Stay interested in collecting and keep reading the weekly Numismatic News Coin Clinic for handy tips like the use of the magnet.

Dig beneath the headlines about the bullion boom and you find that collectors are still doing what they have always done: find something they haven' seen before and ask questions about it.