Although I have been writing about something other than coins, I continue to expand my collection. Most of the items I have been buying are ordinary like the uncirculated National Parks quarters struck in San Francisco. I also have been filling some of the holes in my albums. Nothing really extraordinary. I did pick up a 1915-S Barber quarter and an 1883-S Morgan dollar, both in about extra fine (XF) condition. I like the coins but these are not something to write about, until now.
Almost every series has at least one key coin. The one coin that is not that difficult to find but if you are trying to stay within a budget, it is something you hope to find at a good price. For these coins, I am just looking for a coin that appeals to me regardless of the grade. Sometimes, if it is a good buy, I can drop my standard just a little. After all, I love bargains.
In this case, I dropped my standard a little to pick up a coin that would only grade very good (VG) to fine (F). Not only did I get a good buy but when I received the coin it had a nice look that the online images could not convey.
My new purchase is a 1932-S Washington Quarter.
1932-S Washington Quarter (obv)
1932-S Washington Quarter (rev)
Between the 1932-D, which I own, and the 1932-S there were fewer Washington quarters struck in San Francisco (408,000) and Denver (436,800). Granted, it is easier to find higher quality quarters struck in San Francisco, but to find a decent quarter that survived from having only 408,000 minted is a very good thing.
And I paid less than the value listed in various price guides!
With this purchase, I can now say that I have a complete set of silver Washington quarters in my blue albums. Next, I will work on completing the Standing Liberty quarter set so that I can say I have every quarter of the 20th century.
In the hunt for something interesting, I stumbled across two listings on eBay for a two error dies from the Denver Mint being sold by noted error expert Fred Weinberg. These Lincoln cent dies are not dies with errors but dies with part of the design still visible.
Dies from the U.S. Mint makes for an interesting collectible. Standing about 2½ inches tall and about 1¼ inches across the base where it is loaded into the coining press, it is really an unremarkable piece of metal. Weighing 192 grams (about 6.8 ounces), the only distinguishing marks on the die is the serial number stamped on the base.
Before being discarded, workers at the U.S. Mint are supposed to completely grind off the design so that it cannot be used to strike counterfeit coins. Even though it is not cost effective to flood the U.S. economy with counterfeit Lincoln cents, the U.S. Mint does not want to take the chance someone will try. Once the design is removed from the die it can become a collectible.
Close-up images of the dies make the visible design look more dramatic than in person. After all, the images were likely taken with a macro lens on a die used to strike a coin 19.05 mm (0.750 inches) in diameter. Even so, the idea was fascinating enough for me to submit bids high enough to win both dies.
The first “error” die was used to strike the obverse of 1993-D Lincoln cents. This die is not completely filed down since it does show some of Lincoln’s hair. Although not a large area, there is enough of the incuse portion of the die’s section to be able to identify it as hair and providing a good guess as to where it would be on the coin. The sticker in the image was placed there by the seller. I decided to leave the sticker.
View of the 1993-D Lincoln Cent obverse die
Serial number for the 1993-D Lincoln Cent obverse die shows the D for Denver, 3 for 1993, and followed by a sequence number
Close up of the 1993-D Lincoln cent die showing part of the hair design still visible.
The other error die was used to strike the reverse of 1994-D Lincoln cents. In this case, the “error” is very subtle. There are two lines that would have been where the bottom two steps of the Lincoln Memorial would have been. Based on the placement, these would be to the center-right of the Lincoln statue in the monument. In the image, it is at the bottom of the “R.” I do not know why the “CR” is written on the die but I am not removing it, for now.
View of the 1994-D Lincoln Cent reverse die
Serial number for the 1994-D Lincoln Cent reverse die shows the D for Denver, 4 for 1994, and followed by a sequence number
Close up of the 1994-D Lincoln cent reverse die showing a small section of the steps to the Lincoln Memorial still visible
I do not know how Fred Weinberg finds these items but they are fascinating. The next time you go to a show you should check out his inventory. He finds some really interesting errors that have to be seen to be believed.
Looking down on the Lincoln Cent “error” dies. The 1994-D reverse die is on the left, The 1993-D obverse die is on the right.
2016 Canada Lucky Four-Leaf Clover 1 oz Silver Coin
When Patrick was 16, he was captured by Irish pirates and was taken to Ireland as a slave to look after the animals. After six years, he escaped his enslavement to return to his family in Great Britain. After becoming a cleric, he returned to Ireland follow his vision that he was called to help the people.
Patrick was not welcomed when he arrived but worked with the society to convert them to Christianity. Although most of his writings portrayed that he was probably more successful than he was, but after working with the people, first in the northern regions of Ireland, he did find success. He once wrote that he baptized thousands of people and some have written that he baptized hundreds on a single day. Using the native three-leaf shamrock to describe the Holy Trinity, Patrick was promoted bishop and apostle of Ireland. He died on March 17, 461 in Saul, where he founded his first church.
For thousands of years, the Irish have observed the day of Saint Patrick’s death as a religious holiday, attending church in the morning and celebrating with food and drink in the afternoon. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade was celebrated in 1762 when Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City.
With Saint Patrick’s Day, talk about “the luck of the Irish” and associate the shamrock of four-leaf clover as a lucky symbol. I was thinking if there are coins or currency that would bring you luck. After searching around online for lucky coins there was a common theme: something that is special to you. Here is a composite of the types of lucky coins:
Coins from the year of your birth: I have helped several people buy proof and mint sets of coins from the year they were born. On one of my father’s milestone birthdays, I bought uncirculated coins from the year of his birth and had them slabbed in an NGC multi-coin holder when they were still being offered.
Coins from a country special to you: On one of my wife’s milestone birthdays, I purchased a Canadian proof set from the year of her birth. Although she was born in the United States, her parents were from Canada and it has become a special collectible.
Coins that have a special meaning: A friend keeps a Morgan Dollar in his top desk drawer. The desk used to belong to his grandfather who kept that coin as his “emergency dollar” during the Great Depression.
Coins found during a happy or coincidental time: A client once showed me a 1958 Cuban peso that he found on the street in Miami that he keeps as a pocket piece. He decided that since it was the same year his family fled Cuba, it was a fortuitous find.
Coins of a specific design: Sometimes the design may be added to the coin. I once met someone who had several Love Tokens from his relatives he says it is his family’s way of watching over him.
A silver sixpence in her shoe
1962 British Sixpence
A more specific coin that is supposed to bring luck is the British sixpence. According to the Victorian poem, to bring luck to the marriage, the bride is supposed to wear “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a silver sixpence in her shoe.” The lucky sixpence would be placed in her left shoe by her father to wish his daughter good health and great wealth for the couple. Although the sixpence was discontinued in 1971 when the United Kingdom converted from the old system to decimalization. The tradition remains popular in the UK and to a certain degree in the U.S. except a silver quarter is used.
Feng Shui Coins
Then there are Feng Shui Coins. These are Chinese lucky coins that are supposed to attract wealth and success. Feng Shui coins are round and have a square hole in the middle. The round shape represents the heavens. The square is a symbol of the four corners of the earth. For luck, Feng Shui coins should be tied together using a red ribbon or thread. The red ribbon is said to activate the power of the coins to protect your existing income and attracting more money.
The number of coins tied together is important. One coin is believed to promote loneliness and will leave you empty. Two is better but does not have the power of rebirth that three does. Three coins tied together represents the heavens, earth, and mankind. Four represents death and not something that would promote Feng Shui. The Chinese do not know why five is not lucky but this is accepted. While three is considered proper Feng Shui, making it more powerful would be three-times-three, or nine, coins.
For luck, you can hang Feng Shui coins on the on the inside of your front door, not the outside. You want the luck inside. Do not hang your Feng Shui coins on your back door because it will luck to leave your house.
You can place three Feng Shui coins on top of items to bring them luck. When you do this, it is important to place the Yang side facing up to invite the luck to protect your item. The Yang side is the side with the four characters.
When giving a gift, attach three Feng Shui coins to the package to bring double happiness. It tells the recipient that with the gift you are also wishing them wealth, prosperity, and happiness. Doing this will add to your Feng Shui for giving generous and unselfish wishes.
Numerology and currency
Numerology is the belief in the divine or mystical relationship between numbers and the physical world. Many people practice a mild form of numerology called a “lucky number.” For those who believe in some type of numerology can turn to the serial number of currency to add to their collection.
One of the more expensive aspects of notaphily is the collection of patterns numbers. Typical patterns are as follows:
Solid: every digit the same
Ladder: numbers that count up, like 12345678, or down, like 98765432
Low or High numbers
Radar numbers: when the serial number repeats forward and backward, like 12344321
Repeater numbers: when the serial number is repeated, like 12341234
Super Repeater: pairs of numbers that repeat four times, like 36363636
Double Quad: two pairs of four numbers, like 88889999
Seven of a kind: both in a row or seven of the same number
Notes that represent dates can bring luck such as one that has your birthdate. For someone born on March 17, 1977, finding a note with the serial number 03171977 or even 19770317 could be very lucky. Since the numbers reset for every series and there are 12 Federal Reserve branches used as a prefix, you have quite a few chances of finding these.
The BEP also sells lucky money that includes the Lucky 7 set. These notes have a serial number that begins with three 7s. You can also buy notes in special Chinese holders with serial numbers that begin with “8888” and “168.” In Chinese, the “eight” sounds similar to the word for “prosper” or “wealth.” Selling the Lucky 8888 note is to help promote prosperity and wealth.
The “168 Prosperity Forever” note plays on the Mandarin pronunciation of the number that sounds similar to “prosperity forever.” If the BEP used the Cantonese pronunciation, they would have the use the serial numbers beginning “768.”
Go find your lucky coin and may you have health and prosperity.
How would you like to find one of these at a flea market?
There are buying options for numismatics that go beyond online auctions, shows, and shops. You may be missing some opportunities if you do not consider exploring other collectibles markets. Since my business interests have me working in other areas of the collectibles markets, here are some of the places I have found numismatics and had fun at the same time.
Estate Sales and Auctions
In my current business, I am able to buy inventory from estate sales and estate auctions. Most estate sales are either the lifetime accumulation of a deceased loved one or a forced sell-off of assets mainly as part of a court-ordered restructuring. An estate sale company will come into a home, stage it for a sale, add prices to everything and open the house for the public to buy what they want.
Adding prices mean tagging the items with a price that the company running the estate sale thinks is a fair price for the item. This tagging also has these sales also called Tag Sales. When it comes to tagging, some companies are better than others. After they pick the better items, the rest of the house is tagged either at prices too low or prices too high because most of the estate sales company do not know about the items they sell. They might use an average price of similar items they sold in the past or they just pull prices out of the air.
Estate sale companies have little to know expertise with coins and currency which is reflected in their prices. I cannot tell you how many times that I have walked into an estate sale and seen common date Morgan and Peace dollars priced at over market value.
Case of foreign coins at a flea market
Unfortunately, many of these companies are not interested in learning about how to price coins. During a recent estate sale, I found quite a number of Walking Liberty half dollars. Most were in the VG-XF range. Some were better dates but none were the 1921 key date coins. Using the Numismedia Fair Market Value pricing guide I came up with a bulk price that I feel was fair for the entire lot. Unfortunately for the company, it was less than 50-percent below their price and about 20-percent lower than the fair market value. I am a reseller and I need to be able to make a profit. The manager on site acted as if I told him his baby was ugly.
When I presented my offer, I told him that I understood the coin market and would explain how I came up with the price. I showed him the Numismedia Fair Market Value pricing guide and explaining that it is a retail price guide. Confused by the differences in grade pricing he questioned how to grade coins, I show him the condition of the coins compared to the images in the PCGS Photograde app. After being confused by everything he said that he would take a chance on his price and turned down my offer.
I returned to the estate sale on Sunday afternoon about a half-hour before closing and noticed that none of the coins sold. I lowered my offer to a small percentage above its melt value. The offer was declined. A week later I found out that the coins were brought to a local coin shop. Imagine their surprise when they were offered a price between my two prices.
If you go estate sale shopping for coins, be prepared to be patient. Even though it is not their merchandise, they act as if it is their personal property. Most will be reasonable if you are reasonable with them. I would recommend reviewing the “Negotiating” section in my post “How Are Coins Priced (Part II).”
Silver halves and Peace dollars found at a recent flea market
Estate auctions are very different than what most people are used to if their only experience has either been at coin shows or eBay. If you attend a live estate auction, there is a possibility to purchase bargains. But like any auction, two people can also drive the price of the coin higher than fair market value. Most auctioneers understand how coins are priced and how bullion-based coins should not sell below their current melt value.
In my experience, gold and U.S. Mint packaged items usually sell at prices greater than fair market value. I cannot tell you why a 1977 Proof Set would sell for $15 when it is valued at $8, but it happens at these auctions.
If you are not involved in this market, there is a world of online estate auctions that hides in the open. Online estate auctions are hosted on sites that are not quite well known outside of those of us who work and shop in this world. These auctions are simply a company imaging and posting the inventory online, managing the auction, collecting money, and making sure everyone is paid. Most companies will hold absolute auctions that run for 7-10 days with all items starting at $1.00.
For those who do not know, an absolute auction is one where the lots sell at whatever the price is when bidding ends, also known as the hammer price in reference to a hammer that is used during live auctions. Winners will also pay a buyer’s fee which average 15-percent of the hammer price.
Although it is possible to find bargains in these estate auctions, many times I have seen numismatic items sell for more than fair market value. This is not good if you are a re-seller but sellers are doing well.
Antique Shows and Flea Markets
I go to a lot of antique shows and flea markets. I will set up a table at a few flea markets in a month and do a big show at least every month. One big I regularly participate is D.C. Big Flea, the mid-Atlantic’s largest antiques show and flea market. The show attracts 400-700 vendors, depending if they can use the entire center, with a variety of antique, vintage, and collectible items.
German Notgeld found at a flea market
Although I will buy and sell some numismatics, I do not bring numismatics to these shows mainly because they do not sell as well as other items. But when I have a chance to walk around the tables, I can find a number of cases with numismatic items.
Buying numismatic items at these large shows can be problematic. One of the biggest problems is that the vendor might have bought the item at full price and has overpriced it to gain a profit. There was also the time that a vendor had bought a roll of American Silver Eagles, placed them into AirTite holders and was selling them at a premium similar to the collectible Eagles struck at West Point with the “W” mintmark. When I questioned his prices and showed him that he was charging a 100-percent markup based on the per-roll price at a known distributor, he bluntly told me how unhappy he was with my questioning.
Most dealers will not try to swindle you based on a false narrative of value. In fact, many appreciate the education including the pointer to online resources. They will negotiate, and if you are fair with them, they will be fair with you. Sometimes, you can find items that you might not see on a bourse floor. During the last show I attended, one dealer had a case with a lot of German Notgeld, most in Extra Fine and Uncirculated condition.
During a previous show, I found a dealer who emptied boxes of tokens, trinkets, buttons, and medals on a large table. It was a treasure hunter’s dream! Although I did not have time to do an extensive search, I did find a few small New York-related items that I had never seen before including a merchant token for a business I know existed into the 1970s.
Although estates sales and auctions, antiques shows, and flea markets could present problems because most of the dealers are not as knowledgeable, if you come armed with knowledge, patience, and be on your best behavior, you can find some good bargains.
Pocket change find of three 2017-P and a 1941 Lincoln Cent
Although I have a number of stories to post and have a few articles started, I continue to look for coins for various reasons. Sure, some of the coins I find are not part of a collection I am working on. But there are a few that when they appear in my pocket change get stored in my desktop bank.
After buying lunch, the changed included four cents. When she handed the change, I looked into my hand and noticed three very shiny, red Lincoln cents and one very brown cent. A quick glance of the red cents showed three 2017-P Lincoln cents. These are the new, one-year issue Lincoln cents with the P mintmark honoring the 225th anniversary of the U.S. Mint.
For the brown cent, I had to stop a moment and turn it into the light to see it closer. The first thing I noticed is the wheat ears reverse. Nowadays, to find a wheat back cent almost as rare as finding a pre-1965 coin in change. A quick flip and an adjustment of the bifocals reveals it is from 1942, a coin still rattling around in circulation for 75 years.
1976 Washington Quarter with my favorite, the Drummer Boy reverse
While marveling about finding a wheat back cent, I move some of the other change around and noticed the distinct Drummer Boy reverse of at 1976 Washington quarter. Although there have been quite a few new designs over the last 20 years with all of the different programs, I still reach back to the 1976 Drummer Boy reverse as my favorite modern circulating coin design.
The wheatie and the Drummer Boy quarter have been dropped in my special bank. As for the 2017-P cents, they will go back into circulation for someone else to enjoy.
A dateless Buffalo Nickel with acid stain from a pocket change find
As a longtime numismatic blogger, I am on many mailing lists and receive many press releases and announcements. Since there are many other good numismatic news-related outlets that will publish these stories, I will leave it up to them to bring you that news. Sometimes, the announcement is interesting and worthy of a spotlight.
Whitman publishing, the people who give us the Red Book and the famous blue folders and albums, is looking for pictures of your problem coins. Here, let Dennis Tucker, Publisher at Whitman, explain:
Whitman Publishing Wants Your Imperfect Coins
(Atlanta, Georgia) — Whitman Publishing is looking for sharp, high-resolution photographs or scans of “ problem” coins to illustrate in upcoming books. Hobbyists who share their images will be credited in the books’ acknowledgments.
“Most of the time we show Mint State pieces with strong details, to give our readers a good understanding of each coin type or die variety,” said Whitman publisher Dennis Tucker. “But coins with problems can be educational, too.”
The publishing firm is looking for coins with: PVC damage; bag marks; scratches; edge bumps, nicks, or dents; holes; or extreme wear.
Image files should be at least 300 dpi at two times actual size. Scans and cell-phone photographs are acceptable as long as the image is high-resolution and clearly illustrates the coin’s problem.
This was the last of the quarter-finals of the Jeopardy! College tournament. One would think that even if you were not in tune with the working of the U.S. Mint like we collectors that the word “coins” would be a big enough clue. At least one person had the right department!
It’s the weekend and the weather is warming here. I won’t get into a “get off my lawn”-like rant!
Jeopardy! hero graphics courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment.
A few weekends ago, I was out picking when someone offered to sell a box of lapel pins and buttons. Most of the buttons were modern political mainly from the 1988 election through the 2008 election. There was a mix of both major parties along with a number of local and state races, primarily from Virginia.
The box was nothing remarkable. It was originally for high-priced basketball shoes from a well-known company in the western United States. Alongside many of the political buttons were lapel pins and some sports pins. I also noticed some buttons with cute sayings. While being stuck in the fingers I was thinking that I could buy the box and use it as junk filler at a show. Just like coin dealers have junk boxes, those of us in other collectible areas have our versions of junk boxes. In this case, I can lay them out in felt-lined trays and let buyers pick over them for a dollar each.
Flag and ribbon pins always sell. So do buttons that say, “I usually don’t wake up grumpy, I sometimes let him sleep.” This gets the ladies to laugh and look at some of my other items.
After setting up the card table I use to work on this type of sorting, I dumped the box in the middle of the table. Expecting to have to sort through a few hundred pins and buttons when I noticed a 2×2 flip on top of the pile. It was a coin sitting that was sitting in the bottom of the box now at the top of the list of things to look at.
At first glance, I noticed it was not a U.S. coin and thought that it just could be an uncirculated copper-nickel coin until I looked closer. Shifting my glasses to get a better view there was no mistaking the reverse design as a Mexican Liberatad. The 1984 Libertad is clearly marked “1 ONZA PLATA PURA” (1-ounce pure silver) with the obverse declaring it from “ESTADOS UNIDOS MEXICANOS” (United States of Mexico).
I found a beautiful, uncirculated 1984 Mexico Libertad worth more than what I paid for the box!
Obverse of a 1984 Mexico Libertad
Reverse of a 1984 Mexico Libertad
Edge lettering on a 1984 Mexico Liberdad
Although I love large silver coins, I have never owned a Libertad. Did you know that the edge of the Libertad has edge lettering? It reads “INDEPENDENCIA Y LIBERTAD” (Independence and Freedom). The distinctive mintmark of the Mexico Mint is on the reverse and has an overall great look.
Yesterday, I wrote about sales of 2017-P Lincoln cents selling at nearly 20-times face value online. These are coins in production that the U.S. Mint will continue to strike until December 2017 at a pace that should yield over 5 billion coins.
At the end of the post, I wrote:
Maybe it is time for the American Numismatic Association and Professional Numismatic Guild to issue a statement warning the public. If these organizations are about protecting the collector, here is a clear case of price gouging that they should show concern!