I had a telephone call a couple of days ago from someone who identified herself as, let’s say, Mrs. Smith.
I know I am in deep trouble when a caller chooses to uses formal titles in this day and age.
She wanted to know what the values were of her 1936-D Buffalo nickel and another dated 1935.
I told her that they probably would bring her 50 cents apiece.
She was clearly disappointed.
In reply, she asked how she could learn to grade them.
I responded by saying learning grading was fairly time consuming and the official guide is quite long.
As an alternative, I asked whether the nickels were kept in a holder.
She said they were not.
I said there was little likelihood that she would dramatically improve the value of her nickels then by learning how to grade.
She seemed quite let down by the news and then asked, “Isn’t the silver value more than that?”
I told her there was no silver in the nickel. The coin was made of a copper-nickel alloy.
But she wouldn’t let go.
Well, haven’t those metals gone up in price?
Yes, I allowed, but by great coincidence they give the nickel a metallic value of 5 cents currently.
She was somewhat slow in bringing the conversation to an end, so I asked, “Do you have any dimes, quarters or half dollars struck before 1965?
She replied that she had some of those.
Aha, I thought, at last I have some good news for her with these.
I said these coins were worth about 22 times face value.
I waited for some sort of exclamation at finding some coins that had significant value.
I didn’t get it.
I don’t know if she didn’t hear me or if she just didn’t understand what face value was because she came back with the question: “Will you tell me their values?”
OK. 22 times face value means that if you have $1 in these silver coins they are worth $22.
“Do you have any silver dollars dated 1935 and before?” I asked, hoping to add a little more good news.
She did not. She still seemed a little put off and ended the conversation without a thank-you.
I guess those nickels are a serious disappointment to her.
Buzz blogger Dave Harper is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."