Old Pueblo Coin – Tucson, AZ

The Coin Geek

What is MPC?

In 1946, shortly after the end of World War II, US military bases around the world got a whole new type of currency. They are called Military Payment Certificates. It was common, until then, for US enlisted men to get payed in foreign currency. This often created a black market where soldiers preferred trading cigarets  and other physical items instead of currency.



The first series of MPC was numbered 461. This series had 5 cent, 10c, 25c, 50c, $1, $5 and $10 notes. The highest denomination for any series was $20. Most series have similar designs for each denomination, and would change color schemes with each denomination.

MPC were originally printed by the Tudor Press Corporation of Boston and later the Forbes Lithographic Company, also of Boston. It wasn’t until 1964 that the Bureau of Engraving and Printing started printing MPC.

Like any currency, counterfeiting was a concern. To combat the issue Military Payment Certificates were switched out ever 18-24 months. The change over, or C-Day, would happen over night, in a 24 hour period, without warning. The old MPC would no longer be used and the counterfeiters would have to try working on the new ones.mpc1

Despite the fantastic designs, MPC are generally an infrequently collected item. They have a small, but fervent, collector base who meet annually at “MPC Fest”.  What this means as a new collector is that it is an easy series to start collecting and working your way through. Many of the notes can be acquired for less than $10 in decent condition. In fact, the hardest part in many instances is actually finding the notes. This means you can enjoy years of collecting, of enjoying the hunt, without breaking the bank.


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Why the Baseball Hall of Fame Coins were a good buy

Most mint products go down in value. It is a fact of life. If you look over the greysheet you’ll see a couple decades of coins that the Mint sold for $35-$45 and now list for $25-$30.

But if you were one of the lucky ones to get in on the Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative coins you got some handsome coins and a good value. The Baseball hall of Fame coins already have appreciated in value. This doesn’t mean they will stay there. Many mint products go up in value right after they

baseballare issued. During that time there is some scarcity as those who couldn’t get through the mints poor website try to get the coins on the secondary market.

The reason the HOF coins will do well is because they are a popular topic, good design, and a first of a kind (possibly one of a kind) shape. Who knows if the mint will every make ”bent” coins again. The mint has the ability to take a topic or design and really botch it. This time the hit it out of the park. Having a concave glove design on one side and a convex ball design on the other side was brilliant.

Currently you can find the dollar coin for $100 or so online. This may still be a buying opportunity, as I think these coins are likely to trend like the 2001 Buffalo $1 did. The Buffalos currently trade at $150.  It is rare to find a modern mint coin that I’d say is a good buy at $100. Only time will tell if I’m right, but every once and a while you need to swing for the fences.

And if you are not a big hitter, the mint still has the half dollar available for $22.95 and $23.95 depending on if you get the proof or unc.

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When spending is saving and saving is spending

Americans love to spend money. We also love to save money. But these two things, saving and spending, cross paths in a very special way when it comes to coin collecting and tangible assets.

Have you ever had your spouse say to you ”I saved money” as they spent $150 at the department store? This type of saving is really spending. They saved money based on the mystical and mythical “MSRP”.  They spent less money then the original sale price. But they spent money on items that will likely be useless or at best donated to Good Will (which is recommended for old clothes).

Compare that to buying coins, or silver or gold or other commodities. When you do this you spend money, but you are really saving money. In other words you have a store of value for the future. This bit of wisdom came from a customer who was selling coins for a sick friend. The friend had a group of proof sets and mint sets with Silver Eagles…a typical mix of coins we see daily. Ten years ago she was thinking about selling them but she told her friend to save them. Why? Because she was a collector? No, because she knew her friend would simply spend the money and she would not have that money saved up for the future. If she keeps her coins together, then she will have that store of value.

The main point here, really is to save money for a rainy day. The specifics are that if you can put it into a physical asset, it will help you stop yourself from spending the money on other things, which is a huge temptation if you simply have it in a savings account or bank account somewhere.

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Bad Taste in Coins

One of my favorite things about coins is that there is not one ”right way” to collect coins. You can collect based on country, time period, topic, size, metal type or any other way you can think of. So it may sound critical to say that someone has bad taste in coins. But I’m sure most of you will agree with me. Most coin collectors have people in their lives who love them and know they love coins and want to buy them a gift. Around the holidays you may have received little bags or ”treasure boxes” full of gold or silver coins, just don’t leave them on your dashboard. If you have not figured it out yet, we are talking about chocolate coins.

Chocolate coins don’t taste good. I don’t know why. Maybe they spent all their money on packaging. Maybe it is last years stock. Maybe it was the drop in the value of the currency relative to the cocoa market, but for whatever reason chocolate coins usually taste bad. I’ve tried fantasy pieces (Harry Potter), Euros, US coins of all denominations, Australian, British…you name it, I’ve tried it…and I’m always disappointed.


To add insult to injury (if you only collect coins and not currency), this Christmas I found some chocolate bars shaped like currency that actually were really good. So currency collectors can rejoice…but coin collectors, you’ll have to let me know if you ever find a good tasting chocolate coin…but for now I’ll stand by this post that chocolate coins leave a bad taste in your mouth.

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Of Pennyweights and Grams

If Math makes you queasy, you may want to skip this post and move on to your favorite sports site. There are weights and measures involved in gold and silver that confuse consumers. You can’t blame consumers, this stuff is confusing. And occasionally there is intent by shop owners to deceive. Here is what you need to know. Gold and silver are measured in a unit called a ”Troy Ounce”.  This is different from the ounce you may weigh at home on a postal scale or to measure food. That ounce is called the Avoirdupois and is 28.35 grams. The troy ounce is 31.103 grams. This is the magic number that we use to determine how much silver or gold is in an item. Jewelers have a tendency to use pennyweights. It takes 20 pennyweights (dwt) to make a troy ounce.

In other words a pennyweight is 5% of a troy ounce and a gram is 3.2% of an ounce. Why is this important to you? Because someone using pennyweights can offer a higher price for an item, and yet pay less. Did I lose you? If I offer you $20 per gram for 14k gold, and they offer $25 per pennyweight for 14k gold, then here is what you just got offered per ounce: The $20 per gram equals is $1,063 per ounce. The $25 per pennyweight is only $854 per ounce.  The $20 per gram is almost 25% more than the $25 per dwt.

This becomes very important when people call around to get pricing on silver or gold. I always recommend people go in person to get prices on items. One reason is because of the confusion between pennyweights and grams. A second reason is that someone can tell you one thing over the phone and actual pay a different amount after they weigh your jewelry.

Okay, so we didn’t really do that much math….maybe next time!


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The Furies

The Furies


On a stormy July night in Tucson, Arizona, a crowd of locals cram into the Paramount Theatre and sweat through the world premiere of the movie “The Furies”. It is 1950 and the Paramount Theatre does not have air conditioning. It had rained on the parade before the premiere and the 2,500 people that crowded into the theater got to see Barbara Stanwyck, Wendell Corey and Ms. America 1949, Jacque Mercer, a native of Arizona. Not present was actor Walter Huston, who died in April of an aneurysm. The Furies was his last film.furiescover

It was only a month before in June that Tucson Mayor Joseph Niemann had declared July 1st to July 22nd as the “Furies Festival of Tucson”. This launched a grand attempt between Paramount studios, the city of Tucson, and local businesses to bolster the local economy, and promote the film. The movie was shot in and around the Old Pueblo, Tucson’s nickname.

It was late 2009 when in a normal transaction at Old Pueblo Coin yielded an unusual find. There was a group of green notes with cancel punches through them. They were in $5 and $50 denominations. The backs say “Furies Money” and read, “GOOD ONLY AT FURIES AUCTION, JULY, 1950. World Premier ‘The Furies,’ Tucson, Arizona”. A giant “TC” is in the center. In the film, TC Jeffords creates his own currency (TC notes) and starts paying people with them! With 2 native Tucsonans and a third person on staff with 40 years here in Tucson, we were all surprised at these notes and unaware of the movie and its local consequences, until this point in time.

tc5revAt first glance they look like movie prop currency and in fact they were used in the movie and were an integral part of the story. The face of the note depicts a bare breasted woman riding a bull and the denomination in each corner as well as the words “IOU FIFTY DOLLARS” across the top. It is “signed” by TC Jeffords, the main character of the movie. The center of the note reads, “AMICUS HUMANI GENERIS”. This translates to “A friend of the human race”. All the notes are punch cancelled “PAID +7.22.50 91.11”.

The notes are both referenced and used in the movie, as “TC’s” and are used to pay people that TC and his family deal with. They play a major role in the overall theme of the movie. In the end … well, I won’t ruin the movie for you, but as you can guess, “TC’s” don’t hold their value.

IMG_5316The Furies Festival here in the Old Pueblo was a big deal. Tucson businesses were taking out full-page ads in the Tucson Daily Citizen, the local newspaper, advertising that they would give their customers Furies money with every purchase. They promoted “Furies Value Days”, “Furies Money-Saving Festival”, and don’t forget about the “Fabulous Furies Festival of July Values”! The Furies Money was being given out at a dollar-to-dollar ratio. If you bought a sofa for $59 from Rueben’s on Congress Street you got $59 in Furies Money. Although we only have seen the $5 and $50 notes, it is assumed that $1’s, $10’s and $20’s were made, possibly even $100.’s. In fact, the Furies Festival Committee pleaded in the paper “HELP! HELP! We cannot keep up with the demand for $1.00 Furies Bills . . all who have been able to collect a number of these can help us greatly, if you will take them to any store and exchange them for bills of larger denomination”.The Furies money and the Furies Festival were to culminate in the Furies Festival Auction, to be held July 22nd at Randolph Park. The happy consumers could bring their Furies Money to the auction and bid on items. The auction featured over 200 items; from household goods, clothing and watches, to the climax of the auction, with the main prize being a brand new Convertible Hillman Minx automobile sold by World Wide Motors.MinxMkIVcoupeAfter a wet and sweaty premiere, the people were looking forward to finally getting to spend their Furies Money in the auction, which started promptly at 7 p.m. Here are some excerpts from the Tucson Daily Citizen:“Furies Auction under heavy criticism. Boy’s Bicycle $4,000, portable radio, $4.000: man’s hat, $3,500… Those prices do not reflect the inflationary picture of some foreign country where it takes a suitcase full of money to buy a loaf of bread, but they do indicate the terrible amount of inflation that was rampant at the “Fabulous Furies Auction”.

Thousands showed up, many leaving right away and ‘’throwing their Furies money to the ground in disgust’’. The Minx car sold for $46,000. as well as “Every other price realized, equally out of reason for the average bidder…” . It was unlikely that average income locals spent many, many thousands of dollars during this 3 week period just to accumulate Furies Money. Although the bleachers were packed, they were empty by 10:30, even though the auction went well past midnight.

What caused all this inflationary bidding? It sounds as if there were some security issues with the notes. “Any number of employees of local business houses could be seen in the crowd flashing huge rolls of bills which could not have been collected during the three-week promotion with purchases. Sales girls with $19,000 in Furies Money, teen-age boys with $8,000 to $15,000– individuals with various amounts ranging upward from $10,000. Obviously – the average person does not purchase merchandise totaling such amounts in a year – much less in three weeks.”

To this day it is still unkown who paid for the Furies and how much they paid. Since they are cancelled as ‘’paid’’ the same day as the auction, some one was turning them in for Federal Reserve Notes. Our belief is that Paramount paid for the notes. They then gave a percentage of value for them when they were turned in at the auction. The only problem for the payer of these notes (presumably Paramount) is that the businesses had no incentive to keep them under wraps, as all notes that are brought back in during the auction, go to bolster the auction items price. In other words, the seller of the car possibly worked out a deal to have the other businesses bid up the items without any risk of them losing money on their item.

This neat piece of Old Pueblo history which ties together local business, politics, movies, actors, an actress, new cars, Mrs. America and scriptography ends with disdain and anger from a small community that felt like it was duped into taking TC dollars….just like in the movie!

Additional Notes

Victor Milner was nominated for an Oscar for Best Cinematography, Black-and-White.

Theme Song- TC Roundup by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans. Listen Here.

You can see a Hillman Registry list here.

You can order the Furies movie here.


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Have a Plan for Collecting Coins

When you collect things, it is good to have a plan. Going to a coin shop without a plan is a lot like going grocery shopping without a list….when you are hungry.

You first need to know what you want to collect. Sounds silly, I know. But without a grocery list I tend to buy junk I don’t really need and am not happy later when I run out of money and didn’t buy any milk or eggs.  The same is true when you go to a show or a coin shop or even online. You may see something and impulse buy on it. If you buy Morgan dollars, do you only want certain grades? Do you only want to spend a certain amount on each coin? If you take the time to narrow your focus down, you are less likely to want to sell things down the road as a duplicate, (what honey, you bought toilet paper last week?), or a bad buy (I thought those $5 ALF DVD’s would be good viewing for years to come).

To set parameters for your shopping trip you will, of course, need to know your budget. But this goes beyond just looking in your wallet. It involves knowing what the market is for the coins you are looking for. It helps to have a list of the coins you want and price ranges for the grades you find acceptable. I say ranges intentionally. Buying coins is not like going to In-N-Out, where the prices are the same and the food is the same every time. It is a bit more like real estate. No two homes are the same, so you work with comparable pricing. This house had a pool, this one 3 car garage. This coin has less wear, but a rim nick. This coin is uncirculated, but  lacks eye appeal.  Knowing your price ranges will help you to say yes or no to a purchase and be satisfied with the results. This also means knowing what your must have items are. Number of rooms, location, size. What is more important, the grade, the price, the eye appeal?

It takes time to learn what is most important to you in a coin. It takes time to know what the market is. Part of the lesson here is to be in your hobby and you will be satisfied with your hobby. Lazy collectors are unsatisfied collectors. So take the time and have a plan with all your collecting.


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Coin Collecting at Any Price

One of the great pleasures of collecting coins is that you can collect at any price. If you start off young, you can find deals on world coins for a quarter each, or by the pound. You can collect wheat pennies for 4c each. You can buy paper money for 20c each. As you age and advance your collecting tastes may change, and hopefully your income advances as well. Perhaps you start paying hundreds of dollars for a coin. You may only actively seek out more rare or scarce coins or currency. You can still go to a coin shop and find an inexpensive coin that you had as a kid, or maybe something you’ve never seen before, and get just as excited about spending $5 as you do $500. The enjoyment comes from the hunt, from the mystery, the lesson learned, the art, the history and the camaraderie with other collectors.

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Bit Coin….

A lot has been made of Bitcoin over the last year. First, the overly verbose definition:

“An electronically derived unit of value exchanged anonymously between two parties to a transaction. An electronic version of paper currency but digitally signed/encrypted instead of being physical.”

What?!? Imagine trading a bond or a stock but without it being backed by a company or an entity. It is traded between companies or individuals and is like using your debit card, and having an amount subtracted from your account. The only difference between bitcoin and federal reserve notes is that bitcoin is completely fabricated, unlike US currency which is….hmmm….perhaps they have more in common than I  first thought.

You can find a buy and sell price for Bitcoin on mainstream websites. You can find the history of bitcoin here.

The amazing part of the history is that bitcoin has been deemed currency and has been seized in some cases, and yet more and more entities are looking at taking bitcoin in exchange for services. This is particularly interesting when you look at how volatile the ”currency” has been.

We will see where it all ends up. It has given us a lot to talk about and some companies have made copper versions of ”bitcoin”. I’m waiting for the second rendition to come out , so we can see what a 2 bitcoin looks like.


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When Rare isn’t Rare, or is it?!

When is a rare coin not rare? If you are trying to put together a set of coins, let’s say Lincoln cents, and you only want certified coins, you will eventually run into this problem. The rarest coin in the set is the 1909-S VDB. Although it is rare, it is readily available. Go to most any coin show and you’ll have several to choose from. But if you start to fill out your set and you are looking for a 1940’s penny that is certified in the grade you are looking for, good luck! Although Lincoln pennies for the 1940’s are common, they are rarely certified.

This is because most people are smart enough to not spend $30 to get a $5 coin certified. So they are very hard to find. They are in fact, much more rare than a 1909 S VDB! Of course, the coin itself is not more rare than the 1909-S VDB, just the certified version.  This takes you to the conversation about which coins to collect certified and which ones to collect raw (or shall we say organic!).  Is there a cut off date for each series? Is there a price point at which you only buy a coin certified?         There is nothing wrong with buying certified coins, but don’t let the mail order culture scare you away from organic collecting. You may find late night TV guys selling certified coins at big premiums, that doesn’t mean they are worth that price. It also doesn’t mean that you should shy away from raw coins of the same type of coin. The TV guys like to sell modern slabbed coins. They sell coins that do not need to be certified at all…they are not rare coins! Go ahead and go organic with most of your coin collecting. You get to hold, and see your coin completely unencumbered.

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