Quick email advice can be helpful or it can be misleading.
Which is it in this case?
This morning, after a snowstorm, I was catching up on three days’ worth of email.
This was in my inbox:
"OK. I need advice. I have MANY half dollars. I can’t decide whether to keep them or take them to the bank to turn them in. None of them have silver and are clad coins. I attended a coin show last week and was told by a dealer that they have NO value and I should take them to the bank and cash them in. What is your suggestion?”
No name or location was provided by the email, but that probably is unnecessary to the question at hand.
How would you respond?
This is the short email I fired off to the sender:
“My advice is to take all 1971 and later halves to the bank and cash them in.”
This is what most collectors would probably write.
Clad coins generally have no numismatic value.
The exceptions are when they are part of collector sets or are in rolls of all uncirculated coins.
But even uncirculated clad rolls are frequently worth no more than face value.
The writer of the email does not say whether he is a collector.
I assume not, but I have doubts.
He knew enough to go to a coin show and ask a dealer his opinion.
He said the halves had no silver in them.
He also knew enough to find my email address.
Was this the result of some Google inquiry, or did he have a stray copy of Numismatic News laying around?
I suppose I could have asked for more information in my reply, but I did not.
I simply made the assumption that I had all the facts I needed.
Even though the half dollar is long dead as a circulating coin, this email shows that there is some residual respect for the denomination.
The writer perhaps can’t bear the thought of simply taking them to his or her bank.
I remember my parents had a small emergency fund that was comprised entirely of half dollars.
They never called it that.
But they also never dipped into it for any daily household expenses that I was ever aware of.
Perhaps there is an American folk memory out there that earns the half dollar a little more respect than its clad composition deserves.
If that is the case, it makes me happy.
(And if you wonder why there was no blog yesterday, the answer is that the heaviest single snowfall in 130 years kept the office closed yesterday.)