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Letters to the Editor: May 5, 2020

Hunt Continues Despite Series ‘Roadblocks’

I have always wanted to assemble a complete collection of one or more coin denominations, but it seems there are at least one or two roadblocks in each coin series. For example, the 1916-D Liberty dime, the 1916 Standing Liberty quarter, or the 1909-S VDB Lincoln cent, just to name a few. Going back into the 19th century gets even worse, with more and more “key dates” needed to complete a collection.

Recently, I completed my Liberty nickel collection with the purchase of an 1885 NGC-certified AG-Details specimen. It actually looks a lot nicer than the grade might suggest. I had also managed to acquire an 1886 back in 2013. It is un-slabbed and has some porosity, with what I would call G-4 details. I paid $175for the 1885 and $170 for the 1886, still well below the “Red Book” value of $375 and $225. I am happy with both and very happy to have completed my collection. By the way, I had also purchased the other key date, 1912-S for $98 in G-4 (my estimation) back in 2015. I do have complete collections of Washington quarters, Mercury dimes and Buffalo nickels, but these I bought from an individual back in the 1990s so there was no “thrill of the hunt” in putting these together.

I started going through my collection, trying to decide what or if there was another set of coins that I could reasonably expect to complete, when I noticed there were only about a dozen Barber half dollars missing from my collection. If memory serves, and it sometimes doesn’t, I think I may have started to fill this set some years ago but then got distracted. I started looking at all the dates and mintmarks to see if there were any “unobtainable” dates and was pleasantly surprised to see that all were within my meager price means, all under a couple hundred bucks in G-4. The only exception is the 1892 Micro-0, which is a variety, so I could be content with a “complete” set, sans this rare variety. The 1892-O is the highest of the key or semi-key dates at $300 in G-4 but chances are I could find one for less.

One other thing that lured my eye back to my Barber halves was an email shout-out from an eBay seller whom I had purchased from before. A quick search of his inventory turned up an example of just about every missing date in my collection and many key dates as well. I was able to get three semi-key date halves with mintages under 1 million, for around $20 each along with a 1915 (mintage $138,000) for $65 and a 1913 (mintage 188,000) for $53. This was not an auction, but rather a “Buy it Now” sale with the option to make an offer, which I did on all five coins. Judging by the high-resolution photos, they should all grade in the Good to Very Good categories. It was tempting to buy more – in fact, I could have just about filled my collection – but I am a collector on a self-imposed budget!

Going back to my earlier statement, some other sets that won’t cost more than your car or your home are the aforementioned Washington quarters and Indian Head (Buffalo) nickels, with the exception of some of the Doubled Die and other die varieties and two more half dollar sets, the Walking Liberty and Franklin halves. Neither of these has any coin listed at over $200 in G-4. In fact, it would be relatively east to put together a complete set of Franklin halves in MS-65 without spending over $200 on any one of them, except maybe the 1949-D. I have a few MS Franklin halves, maybe I’ll make that my next goal.

By the way, I am only lacking the 1895-O to complete my Barber dime collection. I am still on the hunt for an affordable piece.

Daryl Conley
New Mexico

‘Error’ Term Should Not be Confused with ‘Variety’

As one who enjoys teaching and instructing coin collectors on coin varieties, I find that almost all novice collectors do not understand the difference between error and variety. Thus I was surprised, to say the least, by the content of the March 31 issue’s “Item of the Week.” I read and was dumbfounded to see that the author of that great column would use and clearly not understand the difference between the numismatic terms “error” vs. “variety.” The focus of that column was the 1938-D over S Buffalo nickel. This coin is not an error coin. Everything said in that article would have been fine if the simple knowledge below would have been used. In other words, everywhere the term “error” was used should have read “variety.”

Simply put, a variety is created before any coin is struck. The coin dies themselves contain an incongruity or peculiarity beyond the original intended coin design. A doubled die is not created from striking planchets twice, like some think from the term “double,” as the many tons of pressure form the initial strike would obliterate the detail upon a second strike. A doubled die is created when the die itself is made. Small dates, Wide AMs, repunched mintmarks and over-mintmarks, etc., are the result of die changes or variations from the original intended die. The “Red Book” defines a die variety as “any minor to major alteration in the basic design of a coin.”

An error coin is created when a coin is struck. Generally, these errors are made where no two coins are exactly alike – unlike the 1938-D over S Buffalo nickel variety. The “Red Book” defines an error as “a mismade coin not intended for circulation.” Common error types seen are blank planchets, off-center strikes, chain-strikes, clips or clipped planchets, and broadstrikes, among others. Errors are generally worth less than varieties.

Ron Brown
Address Withheld

Promote Coin Collecting

Everyone who gets coin magazines should leave them at doctors’ offices, laundromats, etc., after they are done with them to help promote coin collecting. Everyone needs to be reminded about a great hobby.

Patrick Slaughter
Iron River, Mich.