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Coin Clinic: Be careful how you use mintage statistics

How reliable are the U.S. Mint reports as a source for mintage figures?
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2014 U.S. Coin Digest

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By Richard Giedroyc

How reliable are the U.S. Mint reports as a source for mintage figures?

The annual reports are sufficiently accurate that they are used as the original source for mintage figures published in coin books. Don’t confuse mintages with the numbers available today. On occasion the statistics may not give an accurate portrayal of the coins either. As an example the 1805 1-cent coin was reported to have a mintage of 941,116 pieces, however scholars believe the mintage includes cents dated 1803 that weren’t shipped until 1805. There were 12,000 business strike 1895 Morgan silver dollars reported, yet none of these are known to exist today. The mint reported 12,400 1873-CC No Arrows Seated Liberty dimes struck, yet the Eliasberg specimen is considered unique today. Were the others melted? Be careful how you use Mint mintage statistics.

Are U.S. Mint reports collected, just as are coins?

There are numismatic bibliophiles who collect U.S. Mint reports, auction catalogs, and any older publications on coins. Dealers who specialize in numismatic books may occasionally have these reports. in their inventory.

How can I tell if a coin has been retooled?

Retooling involves “improving” the design elements and fields on a coin. In other words, perhaps your coin was in Very Fine condition, but by reworking the worn details the coin might now pass for Extremely Fine or better. This might be OK for a display item, but it is a deceptive practice done in an effort to sell a coin for more money than warranted. A retooled coin should sell for less than a coin in the same condition that has not been enhanced. Watch for short raised lines where the details may have been reworked. Remember, a worn coin lacks some metal, not just design details. The remaining metal has to be artificially raised to recreate worn detail. Also watch for surface smoothing in the fields. When in doubt compare the coin in question to another coin of the same type.

Did “Numismatic News” offer a silver bar as a subscription premium at one time?

It was our sister publication, Coins magazine, that offered a silver bar with IOLA in large letters on the reverse, during the silver bar boom in 1974.

What would a million dollars worth of Morgan dollars weigh?

The amount would weigh in at a total of 71,643 troy pounds, or 58,930 avoirdupois pounds.

In an old magazine I saw an ad for Jefferson nickels, sold with “shaved” or “unshaved” chin. What’s the explanation?

I suspect your source would have been dated in the 1960s, when anything and everything out of the ordinary on a coin had a nickname and a corresponding “price.” In this instance, the “unshaved” design was from a worn die with a roughened surface from contact with the abrasive nickel alloy. Value over face, now that we know more about minting – zero.

Any idea how many different U.S. transportation tokens are known?

An outdated source indicates 5,500, so my guess would be that a figure around 6,000 would be safe.

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