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Happy 2016

Welcome to the New Year. Have you heard the expression “New Year, New You?”. Is that true for coin collectors as well?

For collectors of brand new mint products the New Year always brings something new to collect. New commemoratives will come out that depict events from 50, 100, 150 or more years ago.  Some examples from the US Mint for 2016 include the National Park Services commemorative and the Mark Twain Commemorative coins. There will also be gold coins commemorating the coins of 1916 – The Mercury Dime, Standing Liberty Quarter and the Walking Liberty Half Dollar. These coins should be spectacular and very popular.

So we know that modern coins bring new things to the collector, but what about folks who don’t collect modern mint pieces? Do you, or I, change our collecting ways in the new year? Should we? First of all, if you’ve never made a road map or outline for your collection, then you may want to consider trying it. A quick set of goals will make collecting more enjoyable. Consider these questions:

-What series of coins will you collect?

-What grades will you accept?

-What price ranges?

-What will you NOT buy?

-Will you buy only slabbed or only raw or either?

Thinking about these things will help you find the coins you like and know when to make a purchase and when to pass on a coin. I recently had a customer make the change to only buy certified coins. And only within a certain grade set. And only within a certain time period. And only within a certain size (or denomination). Now when he is at a show or a shop and he finds something that does not meet all his criteria then he will pass on it without any regrets.  But if it meets all his criteria then he feels comfortable with his purchase.

Another customer has decided to go in an entirely new area of collecting. He previously didn’t do any foreign coins but now has fallen in love with ancients. This is his knew target. He is starting to learn and buy a little bit here and there and is enjoying the process. If you’ve been considering a different series, now may be the time to start. It can really rekindle your passion.

So what about you? New Year, new you?

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Commemorative Bullion – Silver Edition

The US Mint makes commemorative coins annually. These coins are often well advertised and active collectors would recognize most of them if they saw them at a coin shop. But there are entire series of commemorative coins that most collectors will never see unless they actively seek them out.

Silver

America The Beautiful

In 2010 the US Mint started the America The Beautiful (ATB) quarter series. Each state and the territories will have a state park put on a circulating commemorative quarter. You may have seen these in your pocket change. What you are not likely to see is the 5 ounce silver version that the mint is creating concurrent with the quarters. The 5 ounce versions are still a quarter face value.

Fort McHenry Bullion version of the 5 ounce silver quarter.

Fort McHenry Bullion version of the 5 ounce silver quarter.

These large silver  coins have very low mintages and come in both a ”bullion” and ”numismatic” version. The bullion version does not have a mint mark. They come in tubes of 10 and most of them have mintages below 35,000 pieces. The bullion version has a bright satin finish to them.

The numismatic version has a mint mark, they come in a custom box, and have a ”burnished” finish to them. Most of these coins have mintages below 25,000.

The price for these coins vary greatly depending on the source. You can pick many of the bullion pieces up for a slight premium. Currently silver is around $16 ounce and you can find many issues for $20 and ounce ($100 each). On the other extreme the most popular coin is the Hawaii with mint mark. This coin trades up to $600.

Silver Eagles

Silver Eagles are the most well known and highly collected of all US Bullion issues.  So much so that some of the bullion issues are trading at double the price of silver (1986, 1996). In 2001 the mint started to produce ”Burnished” uncirculated coins. These came in special boxes and have the “W” mint mark. The burnished UNC coins mostly trade in the $40-$80.

There is one error in the Silver Eagle series. It is a 2008 dated coin with a reverse of 2007. This type of error is commonly referred to as a ”mule”. The difference is subtle. In 2008 a serif was added to the coins. The error version is san-serif. It trades for $450+.

The mint also creates the Proof version of the silver eagle. Many of these trade in the $40-$75 range. In 2006 the mint produced it’s first ever Reverse Proof coin. With a mintage below 250,000 pieces it trades in the $200 range.

In 2011 the mint produced a 25 year set with 5 different coins. It includes an “S” mint UNC and a reverse proof. These two specific coins have mintages below 100,000 and also trade in excess of $200. In 2013 the mint came out with the first ever ”enhanced proof”. These coins trade in the $75 range and are a good value relative to the 281,310 mintage.

It will be interesting to see what new twist the mint will put on the Silver Eagle series moving forward. One thing is sure, it will continue to be a popular series to collect.

 

 

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Commemorative Bullion – Gold Edition

The US Mint makes commemorative coins annually. These coins are often well advertised and active collectors would recognize most of them if they saw them at a coin shop. But there are entire series of commemorative coins that most collectors will never see unless they actively seek them out.

Gold

In  2007 the mint started producing the presidential dollar series. In this series they release one coin for each president (for presidents who served non-consecutive terms the get two separate coins). The US Mint releases 4 coins per year. As a companion to that series they release the ”first spouse” series. These coins have a $10 face value and are one half ounce of .9999 fine gold.

Some of the presidents were not married at the time of their presidency. Most of these coins have a depiction of a classic US coin. There was an odd exception when in 2012 Alice Paul was placed on a coin.

The first year of the coins saw mintages averaging around 18,000 for proofs and 17,000 for BU coins. The mintage dropped significantly in year two, with proofs averaging 7,000 and BU averaging 4,000. The most recent mintages are even smaller with mintages under 2,000 for BU coins and under 3,000 for proofs.

Most every coin from this series trades at or near the gold prices, despite the low mintages.

goldladies

In 2009 the mint made a one time issue called the Ultra High Relief. It is exactly one ounce of gold. The coin is unusually small in diameter but thick. It has the design of the St. Gaudens $20 High Relief coin. The mintage exceeded 114,000 pieces. The popularity, however, has kept the coin trading well above the price of gold. Currently gold is around $1150 per ounce and these commemorative bullion coins are trading near the $2,000 range.

highrelieff

This may become a trend. In 2015 the mint produced a different high relief coin. It has a completely new design and is also one ounce of pure gold. The coin had mintage limited to 50,000 pieces. These coins were issued around $1500 and are trading around $1,800 as of this writing. This coin has a face value of $100, making it America’s first $100 gold coin.

hihhgrelieft

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The Kit Carson Cent

1826onecent

Kit Carson is known as a frontiersman of the early American era. Few people make it through the history of time to be remembered by the generations that follow, Kit Carson is one of those men. But at least one man thought Christopher “Kit” Carson would be lost to history. When Carson was a teenager his father died. He was given to be an apprentice of a saddler named David Workman. Carson would rather try his fate in the wilderness and ran away. The year was 1826. Mr. Workman responded with a public reward for his valuable hand. Apparently Mr. Workman didn’t think very highly of the young boy, but would happily offer a bounty of one cent to whomever brought him back!Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 4.16.13 PM

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The coins that aren’t


It is common for people to search for coins from the year they were born. Usually they are looking for the largest coin they can find, a dollar or half dollar at least. What people don’t know is that not all coins are made in all years. This leads to the phone conversation that goes something like this…

“Old Pueblo Coin”

“I’m looking for a silver dollar from 1975”

“You can stop looking, they didn’t make any.”

{Silence}

“Really?! Thank you for telling me. Have a good day.”

 


I wonder how many places they called or how long they looked before we gave them the correct information. Do people intentionally not give them accurate information? Do people not know? Are they looking on the internet?

images

There are many examples of coins NOT being made for a period of time. One of the more recent examples is the 1975 Ike dollar, JFK half dollar and Washington quarter. Since it is the 40th anniversary of those coins not existing, let’s look at them. It was the advent of the Bicentennial of the United States. To commemorate the bicentennial they decided to produce special designs for the quarter the half dollar and the dollar and circulate those coins for two years, 1975 and 1976. These coins carry the date 1776-1976 on them. This means that there are no quarters, halves or dollars dated 1975. They did make a proof set in 1975, but only the smaller coins (the 1c, 5c, 10c,) are dated 1975.

imagesSo if you are looking for a gift for a 40th birthday, anniversary or reunion, you can buy a proof set, but don’t expect to find a 25c, 50c or $1 with the date 1975, they don’t exist. Happy Birthday to the coins that are not.

 

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2015 State Park Quarters

We just got the proof 2015 “America the Beautiful” State Park Quarters. The Nebraska, Homestead quarter is already out. But this is our first view of the other coins. It may not be an honest way to look at the coins (that being proof versions), but we are going to handicap the field based on our first impressions.
Proof versions can be very misleading versus the uncirculated coins. You’ll see what I mean as we look at the first coin. One more note, you can click on the name of the park and it will take you to the park’s official page.

 

Homestead, Nebraska

Proof Version. Homestead, NE

Proof Version. Homestead, NE

Uncirculated Version. Put out the fire!

Uncirculated Version. Put out the fire!

This coin features a humble wood sided home, with a water pump out in front. On either side of the home there are ears of corn. The proof version of this coin looks very handsome, as buildings often do on a coin. But what will it look like uncirculated? We already know that since the coin is in circulation. It basically looks like a house that is on fire. Many of the modern coins seem to have this problem. It appears that they were made to be proof coins with disregard for what an UNC will look like.

Bombay Hook, Delaware

Bombay Hook, Delaware

Bombay Hook, Delaware

These coins are going to the birds! Two of this years designs have a bird as the main subject matter. I’m sure someone will write in and let me know what type of bird this is, but I don’t know a Crane from a Loon from a Heron. Overall this coin looks nice, but I am concerned about how it will translate to a circulating coin. The landscape in the background may interfere.

Kisatchie, Louisiana

Kisatchie Park, Louisiana

Kisatchie Park, Louisiana

These coins are going to the birds! Oh, did I already use that line. Sorry. Once again I am not sure what type of bird flies here, but I’m getting hungry for Thanksgiving! The artist for this coin was able to design it in a way that made the bird look like it is in motion. Many coins attempt this but do not succeed. This coin should show well in the circulated versions since there are not competing images in the background of said bird!

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina

Blue Ridge Parkway, NC

Blue Ridge Parkway, NC

I will admit that a parkway was not the first thing I think of when I think of a national park. This coin looks pretty cool in proof, but I highly doubt it will look good uncirculated. I don’t know if they could actually translate the vast park down to one coin, but if you look at images of the park, you may agree with me that the coin doesn’t do the park justice.

Saratoga, New York

Saratoga, The coolest Quarter Ever!

Saratoga, The coolest Quarter Ever!

And now for the coolest quarter of all. On a scale of 1 to 5 it is Chuck Norris. The Saratoga National Park has two hands and a sword with “British Surrender 1777” on it. The first reason this coin sticks out is because it does not have an animal, building, plant or monument depicted. The second reason is because IT HAS A SWORD. That automatically makes it cool. But not only that, it actually looks really nice. I think it will look handsome in person, but perhaps not as handsome as the proof version. I am looking forward to the 5 oz silver version.

 

 

 

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Insurance, Coins and Deductibles

What do you need to have, hate to buy, don’t want to use, but are glad you have it when you need it? No, not an umbrella…insurance!  This post is not an in depth study of insurance practices and coin collecting, but it is a quick reminder to check your policy. Here are some things to check up on.

  • Do I have coverage for my coins
  • What do I need for evidence in case of loss
  • What are my deductibles

moneybag

Many homeowner and renter policies have some type of coverage for coins or jewelry. That coverage, however, is often very limited in nature. Depending on your coverage it may be $500-$2000. This may cover your needs, if not you may need a special rider on your policy. A rider is additional insurance for items not normally covered.

The next thing to look into is what type of proof of value you need to get to the insurance company. They will need to know what you have and what it is worth. But they will want evidence of value. Some ask for receipts. Others will want an appraisal. Others may ask to physically see what you have.

One more important thing to know is what your deductible is. The deductible is an upfront charge from the insurance company when a claim is made. You pay the deductible to the insurance company and then they settle the rest of the claim. (This is to stop people from filing claims willy nilly). Here is a tricky thing for you to look into, make sure your deductible is the same no matter what type of claim it is. Many policies will have a different deductible for an act of nature versus a burglary. So look at your fine print and ask your agent if there are different deductibles on your policies. You may think you have a $500 deductible, and then when you have a theft find out it is $1500!

Those are some quick pointers that will hopefully help you be prepared. Here’s to making our insurance agents rich and to hoping we never have to make a claim!

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PCGS Price Guide

I have written about the many rip off artists that are wolves in sheep’s clothing. But what happens when your trusted advisor turns out to be a sheep, but the Benedict Arnold of sheep?

The tele-marketers harm the coin market. They give everyone in the industry a bad name. They cause confusion. They misrepresent item’s values.  So I would like someone to tell me how that is different than PCGS’s price guide.  It causes confusion and misrepresents the true value of coins.

Here is what I mean. Today I had a gentleman come in with some high grade Lincoln cents, all PCGS graded. He used the PCGS price guide to value them. Many of the coins are modern (1940s and newer). Many of the coins are not listed in any reputable price guide. So I did some research of recent auctions to try to find prices. Many of the coins on his list were selling for half (or less) of the PCGS price guide.  What good is a guide that is wrong by 50%? Perhaps the weatherman would like to answer that question.

The problem of coins being overpriced in guides is nothing new, but PCGS has positioned itself as a highly trusted brand. So when they portray values, collectors believe them. I’m wondering if there is any brave souls in the industry that are willing or able to tackle this problem. It is a black eye to coin collecting. It isn’t as bad as what the stamp dealers did in the 80’s, but numismatists need to be careful so we don’t go down that same road.

It is very confusing for new collectors to understand value when the first thing they are told is to only buy certified coins and to only trust NGC and PCGS. Then they look at the PCGS price guides and buy based on it. But what happens when they go to sell the coins? No coin dealer likes to be in the position of trying to explain to a collector why their coins are worth 20%-50% of what they paid for them. PCGS doesn’t have to worry about the pricing, they aren’t paying those prices.

As a community it would be helpful if more collectors (hello ANA!) would cry wolf on price guides put out by the “independent” coin grading companies. PCGS and NGC- please just grade coins and don’t set prices. It is a conflict of interest and it causes confusion and misinformation in the marketplace.

Posted in: Coins, Consumer Awareness

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1903 O Morgan Silver Dollar

Despite the nearly 4.5 million coins produced at the New Orleans mint in 1903 it is a coin that is very rare. But that rarity has had one major bump in the road. Most of the 1903-O Morgans were melted down. Through the early 1960’s the 1903-O was actually considered the key to the series (setting aside the proof only 1895 issue).

1903o

1903 O Morgan Dollar. NGC MS64.

In the 1963 US Red Book  the 1903-O listed for $400 in Extra Fine and $1,500 in Uncirculated. By way of comparison the  1893-S  listed for $125 in XF and $1,200 in UNC.  Between 1962 and 1964 the US Treasury released many uncirculated bags of the coins. This had what you would call an adverse effect on the price of the coin. In the 1964 US Red Book the 1903-O listed for $15 in XF and $30 in UNC.  Ouch.

Although some have suspected upwards of 300,000 of the coins were released it seems unlikely since NGC has only graded 7279 pieces to date.  What is interesting is that of those, only 121 are in circulated condition. That is a whopping 98.4% in uncirculated condition! The largest portion of which are graded MS64 (37%). Contrast this with the 1893-S Morgan. NGC has graded 2,695 of the 1893-S Morgan dollars, of which a scant 27 pieces are in uncirculated condition.

Today the  1903-O in VG lists for $270 and in MS60 it lists for $365. There are not many coins that have that small of a spread from VG to UNC.  The 1903-O is still a hard coin to come by. If you ever find one circulated, you’ve found a truly rare coin. It is in fact a conditional rarity.

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Should I buy A Slabbed Coin or Raw?

Decisions, Decisions, Decision.owl

A common question that we get is whether or not it makes sense to buy a coin certified or raw.  The answer is going to vary based on what your collecting goals are. It is also a matter of individual taste, knowledge and experience. I know collectors of ancient coins who refuse to buy any coin that has been certified.

Parameters

I believe that having a game plan always makes for a more pleasant collecting experience. Setting up the parameters for when you will only buy a coin slabbed or when you will only buy a coin raw will help you know what to do. There can be some grey area, but let’s try to make the best black and white line that we can.

  • PRICE- Setting up a price basis is probably the easiest way to decide whether you want a raw or slabbed coin. This works for any collector level. You can be experienced or inexperienced and you can have a big bank roll or a small bank roll and it makes sense. The only thing that will change is the number. For example you may decide that you will not spend $500 on a raw coin. In that scenario you would only buy slabbed coins if the price exceeds $500. Perhaps your price point is $100 or $1000. It is up to you, but going into it knowing where you are want to be price wise will help you make a good decision.
  • CONDITION – The next place to look is grade. This will most likely only apply to higher grade coins. 81sslabThere is no reason to buy a raw Morgan as an “MS67”. You do not want to get into the habit of using the grading companies as crutches. You want to be able to confidently grade coins yourself. However, when it comes to high grade uncirculated coins the reality is that the grading companies control the market. They determine what is a 66 and what is a 67.
  • PRICE JUMP  – This one may be the most flexible way of looking at the issue. If a coin has no or little price variation from one grade to the next then you most likely don’t need to buy it certified. But let’s say we are looking at a coin that in XF is $120 and in AU is $450. If the dealer has the coin priced as an AU and you are not convinced it is, then perhaps you should lay off the coin or try to work out a deal where the dealer will get it certified and you will pay the fee and pay his price if the coin comes back an AU.
  • AUTHENTICITY- There are certain coins that have a higher propensity of counterfeits. This mostly encompasses rare dates and more expensive coins. So this ties into our first point about price. Not many common coins get counterfeited. At the same time you may be perfectly comfortable spending $1000 on a raw coin, but say you are looking at a Hawaii or Spanish Trail commemorative half. These are two coins that have many known counterfeit types. You may buy all the coins raw, except those two.
  • GOALS- If your goal is more of an investment than a hobby then you may just want to look for certified coins. If you really prefer filling holes in a coin album, you may choose to buy only raw coins.

All these things are factors when you collect coins. They all work together. Your level of knowledge, experience, and price sensitivity will determine what you decide to do. One thing I’d like to point out again, take time to learn how to grade. Don’t let the modern coin market dictate or diminish your level of knowledge.

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