Skip to main content

This week’s letters (12/25/12)

I remember the precious metals boom that ended in 1980 as if it were a long time ago. During the boom years, I was perpetually broke, unable to buy many coins. When the boom hit, I did not own enough coins to profit much. I watched as prices rose daily.
  • Author:
  • Publish date:

Some prospered, some lost in 1980s metals boom
I remember the precious metals boom that ended in 1980 as if it were a long time ago.
During the boom years, I was perpetually broke, unable to buy many coins. When the boom hit, I did not own enough coins to profit much. I watched as prices rose daily.
I had wished for more money to buy gold and silver. I couldn’t convince relatives to invest in metals, so the boom and bust passed with little financial impact on my family.
My most vivid memory of the boom was the days immediately before the January 1980 crash. The price of silver hit $50 per ounce and gold was about $850. I went to a favorite coin shop to sell the few silver dollars I owned.
At the coin shop, a long line extended from the counter to the street. When I arrived at the end of the line, I immediately thought about going home because I did not want to wait all day to sell my paltry holding. I also thought that everyone in line was waiting to sell and that no money would be left by the time I reached the counter.
As I was about to leave, the coin shop owner yelled at the top of his lungs: “Is there anyone who has anything to sell?” Shocked, I was the only one in line who answered the call to sell silver near $50 per ounce! Who would want to buy at such a high price?
I yelled back: “I have something to sell!”
The dealer ordered: “Come on up!”
While walking slowly to the head of the line, feeling guilty about cutting in front of everyone else waiting, I heard people mumble:
“What a fool he is to sell” and “Why would he sell now?” Three minutes later, happy, I walked out of the coin shop with my small pile of cash.
About two work days later, the crash came. What happened to all the investors who had been standing in line at the coin shop to buy? Did they buy and then watch their new investment fall off of a cliff? Or did they leave the coin shop empty handed on the day of the long line?
Bruce Frohman
Address withheld

Mintage too low for Korean commemorative
I noticed in the Nov. 20 issue of the Numismatic News that a representative from New Jersey is calling for commemorative coins to honor Korean emigration to the United States for the year of 2018.
It is stupid to limit quantities to a total of 20,000 gold $5 coins and 10,000 silver commemoratives. Whatever party this guy belongs to, he needs to be voted out of office pronto. Of those proposed coins, how many will be proof, mint state, and in coin sets? These totals are ridiculously low and will create instant rarities.
Does this legislation require co-sponsors in order for the United States Mint to coin these commemoratives? Let’s hope so because those quantities will sell out in five seconds leaving the vast majority of collectors irritated on the telephone and website for hours with no prospects of placing an order. These commemoratives will be worth tens of thousands each before sundown the day orders are placed. Let’s hope cooler heads prevail and this legislation is never brought up for vote.
The English, Germans, Irish, French, Italians, Poles, Spanish and Chinese emigrated to the United States eons before the Koreans. Of course this is my opinion and we all know what opinions are, don’t we? And let’s not forget the Native Americans who emigrated to North America perhaps as long as 30,000 years ago. Let’s hope the world ends in December according to the Mayan calendar. Problem solved!
Marco Ramius
El Paso, Texas

Ikes popular in Ohio but hard to find
In the last issue I received of Numismatic News, there was Item of the Week article on 1973-S Ike dollars.
I liked to share this info with you. The demand for Ike dollars is high here. I’m selling sets for $21 in XF condition, less the 1973. Not many Ikes around, and the last amount I purchased was over $500 worth. Most of the 1974, 1977 and 1978 are hard to find.
Brant Fahnestock
N. Ohio Coins-Stamps-Sportscards

Coin folder holes get tighter over the years
I would suppose that there is a good reason that nowadays coin folder holes are so tight you are unable to get the coin into the slot easily.
Fifty-plus years ago when I started collecting, coins fit into the holes easily, and the folders cost 35 cents The folders now cost in excess of $5 and the holes do not take the coins easily.
Bill Lonergan
Santa Susana, Calif.

It’s time for a numismatic joke
I had a conversation with some friends today that turned very funny. Hope you can use it in the paper.
I was talking to a friend today about scrap metals and how much they bring. Another friend came up to us and asked what going on? I told him we were talking about collecting aluminum and copper to sell.
I told the first friend that my second friend was a penny hoarder and was waiting for the government to stop making pennies so that he could trade them in because the copper in some pennies was worth twice the face value. My second freind said that he did collect pennies but liked collecting quarters better. So I asked him, you’re a two-bit hoarder?
Greg Kepics
Address withheld

Movie is wrong saying Lincoln was on coin in 1865
This evening I saw the just-released film “Lincoln.” The film, set in January 1865, portrays President Lincoln’s efforts to get Congress to pass the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which outlawed slavery. At one point in the film, Lincoln visits two men who I gather worked for one of his congressional opponents, one of whom tells Lincoln that “he won’t even let us use half-dollar pieces because they have your picture.”
Lincoln did appear on a commemmorative half dollar – 53 years after the time portrayed in the film. And President Calvin Coolidge appeared on a commemmorative half issued while he was in office. But the notion that Lincoln appeared on a half dollar minted in 1865 or earlier is, of course, easily disproven by even the most elementary research.
I feel certain that I heard this line in the film correctly. But I’d welcome hearing from any of your readers who can confirm or disconfirm it.
Name withheld

Limited edition silver proof set is a scam
I think that our government is just milking the coin products. Yes, I too don’t find any logic of why the 2012 limited edition American eagle proof set is in place and also the price is just way too high.
To me if they were going to do this kind of set, then they should have done a new process, like reversal proof on the silver proof set or the silver proof eagle with a “W” or even matted silver proof set.
But to recycle the already coin set and put it into another plastic holder and then charge us another 20-plus buck is just getting really low. I hope that the buyer will not fall into this kind of scam that the U.S. Mint are doing.
Mark Ng
Address withheld

Nothing special about silver limited edition set
Amazingly, just a week or so after they “sold out” of silver proof eagles (“W” mintmark) they “found” 50,000 more proof coins to offer in this “limited edition” set (and the packaging material as well). Clever way to goose sales of silver proof coins, and at a higher price.
But other than it being a more “desirable” set of silver coins all in one package, I do not see any coins that could only be found in this “limited edition set.” Am I missing something that makes any of these coins unobtainable in some other “package?” What won’t they think of next!
After taking a closer look at some of the America the Beautiful 5-ounce silver coins, I instead decided to spend a bit more money to buy the 2012 Australia Koala silver 5-ounce proof coin. The 2012 Koala is absolutely stunning, while the U.S. 5-ounce coins are amazingly dull looking (almost ugly!), with little redeeming value beyond its silver content.
Instead of spending an enormous amount of time turning out more and more varieties of coins in different packaging forms (with some of the most egregious marketing tactics I’ve ever seen) in an attempt to squeeze every last dollar out of the collector community, the Mint should have made 5-ounce silver proofs and totally skipped the dull, “collector” versions of these 5-ounce bullion coins.
Steve Gregory
Address withheld

Talks with Rulau focused on world coin price trends
Living and working in New Zealand for a number of years in the 1960’s I became a regular contributor to the newly published World Coins magazine thanks to Russ Rulau.
He contacted me because I was running advertisements for my New Zealand Numismatic Company out of Taumarunui, a small agricultural community located in the center of the North Island. Ultimately, I began submitting what were then called “Trends,” my area being New Zealand, Fiji and British New Guinea. After several years, I was ultimately asked to contribute to what was to become the Standard Catalog of World Coins catalogue.
In those days our correspondence was via aerogrammes, so there were often weeks between communiques. But he always remained unusually helpful and most grateful. Our paths never crossed, even when moving back to Jamestown, N.D, but we maintained in contact through the mails, always about the same subject - trends - and I remain to this day thankful for that long distance friendship.
Robert A. Perrin
Inman, S.C.

Black Friday crowd at Michigan coin show
Went to the Michigan State Numismatic Society show on Nov. 23 and encountered quite a sight when I arrived, about 150 people waiting at the door to get in. I knew it was Black Friday, so I stood back and watched the crowd move in. What a pleasant site it was to see.
The show was packed most of the day, but I was able to pick up a couple nice Buffalo nickels and Seated Liberty coins. Glad to see coin collecting is going strong here in Michigan.
D. Ward

Rulau helped with info on Jernigan medals
I was sorry to read about the passing of Russ Rulau in the Dec. 4 issue of Numismatic News. While I never met him, a number of years ago we were corresponding with each other on a regular basis.
He had written an article concerning Jernigan’s medals, which were minted by Henry Jernigan, a goldsmith in London in 1737. These silver medals, valued at approximately 3 shillings, were actually tickets to a lottery of which the prize was a silver wine cistern (made with about a quarter ton of silver – about 8,000 troy ounces of silver).
In his article he mentioned he had a few of the medals, but indicated he had never seen any others. I wrote to him telling him I had a number of them including one which I thought was pewter. He asked if I could send them to him for him to study, which I did.
It turned out my pewter copy was actually made of lead, and he had never seen or heard of one made of that material. He even listed it as unique the 2nd edition of United States Tokens, 1700-1900 as an addenda listed under the state of South Carolina (The reverse had a palmetto tree on it.). He did do a second article based on what I sent him and further research.
He also listed this medal as being made in copper, though I have never found any.
Russ had a lot of things going for him and was involved in much research on coinage. I only wish I had half his energy.
Mark Eckell
Columbia, Md.

Color matters when buying early coppers
I read with interest Gregory Kipp’s Nov. 27 “Viewpoint” about adding more color information to grading standards. His suggestions make sense to me, and I would carry the idea one step further.
When an early copper coin has no red, we call it brown. But when you are considering a brown coin for purchase it makes a big difference whether the “brown” coin is that clear and easily inspected milk chocolate color versus the almost-black color that requires especially good light to inspect. I’ll go for the milk chocolate color every time, and will pay more for it than for the too-dark color.
I’ll let Mr. Kipp decide what letters to use to designate this distinction.
Name withheld
Sealed mint sets didn’t stop Hurricane Sandy
You might do collectors a service by informing them that what had been thought of as “sealed” from the U.S. Mint is not sealed.
Hurricane Sandy made that evident to me. My proof sets and mint sets stored in a safety deposit box at the local bank were destroyed by water.
I had always believed that the “sealed mint sets” meant “sealed.”
William Berl
Address withheld

Special meaning behind two Canadian coins
I found two Canadian coins at a Coinstar machine. One is has Prince Edward Island 25 cents with a landscape scene with a date of 1867-1992. The second one is an airplane that is like a Lindbergh era style plane, has date of 1999.
I am guessing these are regular circulation, but I was wondering if they are special?
Mike Brewer
Berea Ohio
Editor’s note: The first is the Canada 125 series, which celebrated the 125th anniversary of the country in 1992 and the second coin was part of the Millennium series of circulation coins.

More Coin Collecting Resources:

Get the 2012 Coin of the Year, and begin your collection of the award winning Mint of Israel Biblical Coins Series all at once for one low price!

• Subscribe to our Coin Price Guide, buy Coin Books & Coin Folders and join the NumisMaster VIP Program

The Essential Guide to Investing in Precious Metals