Numismatic News readers share their questions with Coin Clinic's Alan Herbert.
What minor 20th century U.S. coin has increased the most in value over the years?
This question ignores the gold, so the answer would have to be the 1918/1917-S quarter overdate. Right now the coin lists at $320,000 in MS-65 with a full head. The 1922 No-D cent tops the cent list at $180,000. The 1927-S quarter is close behind, currently at $165,000 in MS-65.
Why do so many non-collectors automatically assume that the older a coin is, the more it is worth?
Traditionally anything old is valuable, and the public applies this to coins as freely as to antiques. Knowledge is what separates the true collector from the masses. Moral: the more you learn, the better you are as a collector. For the skeptic, a quickly compiled list of modern rarities that far exceed the values of ancient coins will help.
Why do silver coins carry a premium over silver bars that have a higher silver content?
Since most U.S. silver coins are only 90 percent or 40 percent silver, this is a good question. The principal reason is that coins are of recognized value. Bars must be assayed or subjected to other tests, which adds to the expense of handling. It?s far easier to counterfeit a bar than a coin.
n Why is there such a low premium on 1955 and 1955-D dimes?
For years the 1955 and 1955-D dimes suffered from the last year syndrome. Since everyone knew that the San Francisco Mint was closing, the public and collectors held onto every dime with that date. For almost as many years, the two were priced lower because of the more-than-ample supply. In the last few years, the fact that both have low mintages in their own right has pulled them slightly out of the common-date category.
Have other countries used our coins as legal tender in the past?
Venezuela purchased 100,000 cents in 1835, and later in the year placed an order for another 1 million cents and 1 million half cents. Most of the cents were delivered, but only a few of the half cents made it. Panama, Honduras and Cuba used our coins, especially the dollars.
Isn?t the 1909-S VDB cent the key coin of the Lincoln series?
Well, yes and no. I might note that as but one example, the 1909 VDB proofs are a much rarer coin. Only 420 of the proofs were struck, compared to the 484,000 circulation strikes of the 1909-S VDB cent. Current values (2007) give the very low mintage proof a $6,000 price tag, down from $6,100 in 2001. At that time the proof had twice the value of the SVDB, but in the interim the SVDB has shot up to $7500 in MS-65 grade. Even in the circulating coins, the 1914-D ($22,000) and the 1914-S ($10,000) outrank the ?09-S VDB in the same MS-65 grade, but all of them are pikers compared to the 1922 cent without mint mark which currently lists at $180,000.
Several years ago a 1961-D nickel worth $2,500 was mentioned in
Numismatic News. What made it so valuable?
Sounds almost like one of the ?Come on? ads in the mass media, but the $2,500 price tag was for a full strike 1961-D nickel with six full steps, a very rare piece because the majority of the 1961-D (and several other date) nickels are poor strikes.
What was the first U.S. cent to exceed the $100,000 mark in collector value?
The 1792 cent pattern with silver center plug sold at auction at the Great Eastern Numismatic Association convention Sept. 20, 1974 for $105,000, setting a new record for the lowly cent. For the regular issue cents, the 1793 Chain cent brought $120,000 in Auction ?80.
The silver in a dollar was worth more than face in 1873. How did it compare after 1878?
In 1873, the dollar contained $1.004 in silver. By 1878 it had dropped to 89.1 cents, in 1885 to 82.3 cents, dropping below 80 cents in 1886. In 1893 it was down to an average of 60.3 cents and in December only 54.3 cents. The value dropped to as low as 47 cents in 1900, even lower by 1910, and by the 1930?s the silver dollar contained less than 30 cents worth, actually dropping in 1932 to 20 cents. It was enough to put most of the U.S. silver mines out of business.
Wasn?t there a 1964 Kennedy half dollar which sold for $18,000?
All in all a remarkable sum for a coin which was (at the time) only five years old. The Kennedy half dollar was glued to the outside of an envelope which was postmarked on March 24, 1964, the first day of issue of the new Kennedy half dollars. The coin was purchased and affixed to the envelope by John M. Baker. It was sold for $2,000 in 1967 and then sold for $18,000 at an auction held by the Collectors of Certified Coins on September 27, 1969. The piece sold to John Marquardt, who indicated after the sale that he had been prepared to go as high as $30,000 to buy the piece, which was one of two that Baker had cancelled on the first day of issue.
Why don?t you quote values in your price charts forn circulated Ike dollars, or on most recent coins?
Principally because most recent circulated coins - Ikes included - aren?t worth more than face value to collectors. As they get older, and scarcer, you will find the values being added to the price charts as the values increase to the point where lists are warranted.
Was there ever a time when it was possible to convert a silver dollar into more money by turning it in to the government?
If you think the idea of something for nothing is a pipe dream, consider this: In 1863 it was possible to walk into the Mint with 100 silver dollars, and walk out the door with $104 in small change, legally. The point was that the standard silver dollar contained .7736 of an ounce of silver. Two half dollars, four quarters or ten dimes contained .7240 of an ounce of bullion, so more were required to match the silver in a dollar. The money making method was written up in a rare numismatic publication of that era, and referred to transactions at the San Francisco Mint.
Has the U.S. dollar been devalued?
Several times. Among them, on Oct. 18, 1973 the gold value changed from $38 to $44.22, or a 10% devaluation.
One often sees figures giving the dollar value of gold as far back as the 13th century. Since the dollar didn?t exist back then, just how did they go about figuring the dollar value?
The answer lies in another currency which existed and was relatively stable for the 500 year period ending when the United States came into being in 1776. The British pound varied only slightly in value between 1250 A.D. and 1776, so the value of the pound in 1776 dollars was used as the established base, or a figure of approximately $21.50 an ounce.
I?ve seen a number of times that California gold was worth only $16 an ounce, when gold was priced at $20.67. What was the problem?
Pure gold was worth $20.67 a troy ounce, but gold dust or nuggets from California contained silver and other metals which reduced the actual fineness of the gold.. After considerable discussion the ?average? value of gold dust from California was established at $16.
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