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The Coin Geek

Coins 101 Indian Head Cent 1859-1909

After the Flying Eagle cent James Longacre was called on again, and this time created the Indian Cent. It was first issued in 1859, with a laurel wreath on the reverse. This design was only for one year. Starting in 1860 the coin had a new reverse with a shield added at the top of the wreath (and a new wreath style too).

The first 5 1/2  years the coin was produced of 88% copper, 12% nickel and were thick, like the Flying Eagle Cent. Before the first nickel 5 cent piece came out in 1866 this coins were often called ”nickels” or ”nicks”. Midway through 1864 the coins were made thin, like today’s cent, and the purity was changed to 95% copper and 5% alloy.

The design and composition stayed the same from 1865-1909. There was the addition of the mint mark in 1908 as the San Francisco mint struck it’s first cents. The mint mark is at 6 O’clock on the reverse of the coin.

Indian Cents from the mid 1880s and newer are very affordable, mostly costing a dollar or two in average condition. There are several more rare dates including the 1877 and the 1909-S. These rare dates are several hundreds of dollars in low grade.

The Indian cent has it’s name from the depiction of Liberty wearing a Native American Headdress. The design has stood up to the test of time.

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JFK and his Half Dollar

John Kennedy was the 35th president of the United states. Today (November 22, 2013) marks the 50th anniversary of the fateful day he was assassinated. The day is not lost in the realm of coins. In fact it created a coin we still have today- the Kennedy half dollar.

About 3 days after the assassination Mint Director Eva Adams called Chief Engraver Gilroy Roberts and instructed him to start looking into designs for a US coin with John F Kennedy’s visage on it. On December 10th President Johnson issued a press release recommending passage of a bill before congress, and on December 30th the congress passed the law issuing the Kennedy half dollar. During that short window Chief Engraver Gilroy Roberts and his staff worked behind the scenes to get a design ready, even before they knew what denomination it would be on. They had the widow, Mrs. Kennedy approve of the design before the law was even passed.kennedy

On January 2nd, 1964 proof dies were delivered and the mint presses started on a coin that we still have today. Coins started to reach circulation around the end of March. Mass hoarding of the coins was taking place. Many people sought them for the historical significance. Others were grabbing them up as silver prices started to rise. Over 425 million of the coins were produced, over 4 times as many as the year before.

Not only did the Kennedy half dollar replace the Franklin half, it also was the final year the US mint put 90% pure silver into the coins. Silver quality was reduced to 40% purity in the half dollar from 1965-1970. Since 1971 there has been no silver in circulating half dollars. Today the Kennedy half dollar’s value is based on the current silver market. With silver around $20 per ounce, the half dollar has about $7.25 of silver in each coin.

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Coins 101 The Flying Eagle Cent

The Flying Eagle cent was a transitional coin. It was the stepping stone from the large cent to the Indian head cent. It was only produced for circulation for two years, 1857 and 1858. It is the same diameter as our current cent, but is about twice the thickness. It was a big step down in size. The previous cent (“large cent”) was 27.5 mm in size and the Flying Eagle cent is 19mm.

James Longacre designed the coin, as well as the Indian Cent. The name of the coin comes from the design. It has an eagle in flight on the front with the legend “United States of America”. The back of the coin has a wreath and says “ONE CENT” in the middle. Well worn examples of the Flying Eagle Cent start at about $20. Middle grades range from $75 to $100. An uncirculated example exceeds the $400 price barrier.

 

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World Treasures Mint FAKE silver bars


faketroyThe “World Treasures Mint” is putting out fake silver bars. These bars are marked “1 Troy Oz .999 Silver”. They come in many different designs. They also come in individual holders and some have serial numbers.

 

 

These bars are made to look like real silver bars and are made to deceive. There is nothing on the bar that indicates they are not pure silver. The weight is also off. The bar we examined weighs 34.4 grams instead of the 31.1 grams a troy ounce should weigh. This particular bar has a serial number. You can see, under magnification, that the serial number is copper, as is the rest of the bar.faketroy2faketroyclose

The company sells them as ”Silver Clad” on their website, but they are not marked that way. All you get is a hint that they are clad with the (hard to read) words “In Clad We Trust”.  The average person looking at these bars would have no clear way to know they are not pure silver based on the markings.

 

 

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New $100 Review

October 13th, 2013 was the issue date for the new $100 bill.  It was 4 long years since they tried to issue the notes, but had several problems during the production process. The biggest addition is a holographic strip that runs vertically on the front of the note. The image shifts from the “Liberty Bell” to a “100”. It is a really nice purple color.

New100

The note still has lots of micro-printing on it, as well as the watermark. The notes have a gold to copper color shift on the 100 in the bottom right corner as well as the Liberty Bell found in the ink well.  A large, multi-color “100” is on the back to help the visually impaired identify the note.

The back of the note has a newly refined version of  ”Independence Hall”. It looks sharp. I don’t know if there is a reason for the time on the Clock on Independence Hall, but it went from 2:22 on the old notes to 10:30 on the new note. Conspiracy theories enter here:_____________ . Maybe the artists simply took some liberties!New100R

The new bust of Benjamin Franklin is sharp. Previously it was just his face. These notes seem to have cripser lines and design details then the last incarnation.  We’ll see if that is because they wanted to put their best foot forward on the roll out of the new (2009-A Series) notes, or if the new process is that much superior to the old process. We should know in 6 months.

Overall I believe it is a big improvement in not only the technology side of things, but also aesthetics.  The holographic strip jumps off the note and the note will compete with the much better designed notes of other countries (especially our mates up north, don’tya-know). The new $100 bill is a big step forward from the older design.

You can find more about the new $100 on the BEP’s website.

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Value Does Not Come With Age

One common comment coming from consumers is “I have some old ones, they’ll have value”. This can be in reference to coins, or currency or jewelry or collectibles. It is a very common misconception that age makes things more valuable.

If you own a house you know how this is not true. Often, with age, comes problems like wear and tear. But a house in an area in demand can appreciate at any age. The same is true for collector items of all kinds. The value is based on the availability (supply) and who wants it (demand). That is why you can have coins from the time of Christ that are only $10 and yet see coins that are modern sell for thousands of dollars.

The lesson here is that age does not equal value. Some times things just get old.

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TV Coin Selling Guy

I had a customer ask about the guys who sell coins on TV. Technically, the question was “which one do you like better”.  Come on, you can’t expect a guy to pick between his kids can you? 🙂

These coin vault type shows have a couple of flaws. The first is that they charge about double what you can buy things locally for.  That assumes you are buying legit items. (We’ll save the fancy boxes for another day.) I don’t know too many business where you can charge a 50% commission and have people fawning over you.  I know some real estate agents who think they are worth that much. You know who you are.

The second flaw is worse, it is the dishonest way in which they represent themselves. That is the coins that they sell are not sold in an honest fashion. Let’s face it, you can go to a major coin show and pay double what a coin is worth. Although if you are an avid collector that would probably never happen. But when you show prices from eBay to justify how you are pricing things on your TV show, that is nonsense.  He always seems to find people pricing things for twice what he sells them for. I guess he couldn’t find any selling for less, hmm…. what are the odds?

The quick answer, just don’t buy from the TV. Even when they sell a good coin, you are paying way more than you can buy them for locally. And if you shop locally you can usually find knowledgeable dealers who are willing to show you the items up close and answer your questions.

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Franklin Mint – 1000 times over

The Franklin Mint has produced ”collector” items  for several decades. The word collector is in quotations because the items that they sell are not really collector items. Yes, people do have them, and keep them, so in the very broad term they are ”collectible”.

The problem with items that are made to be collectible tend to have a negative return on investment. Most things that you can save or collect over time that end up having value are everyday items (like toys or clothes or furniture). They were not made to be a collectible, but people save them because the items are unique or scarce or remind them of their childhood (or a certain time period in history they have interest in).

The only upside to Franklin mint items is that a lot of what they produced (especially in the 1970’s) was made out of sterling silver. Herein lies the value of any of their stuff. Unfortunately, most of the items they sold were at such high premiums that there is little to no hope of actually getting a positive return on your money.

Today, many other companies market based on the Franklin Mint model. They either use the word ”mint” or other official sounding words to make people believe they are getting something of value. Or, they promote an item as ”collectible” or as something that will appreciate in value. Unfortunately most of these companies are the only ones who are getting a good return on their investment, while the consumer is left holding a fancy box!

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Mexican Coin Values

What are Mexican Coins worth?

We get this question a lot. It really depends on when they are from. The hard part with Mexican coins is that there is a large area of coins from the 1960s to early 1990s that have no exchange value, no silver value, and no collector value.

Part of the reason they have no exchange value is because they have been demonetized.  This means the the currency has been made useless by decree of the government.

The good news is that it makes it very inexpensive to put together different types of Mexican coins. Most of the coins have the Eagle and Snake symbol on one side, the other side will often have a portrait of Morales or Hidalgo, while some have really neat images of Aztec or Palenque culture.

mexicandua

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Welcome to the Coin Geek Blog

Fourscore and seven years….it was the best of times it was the worst of times….in the beginning….

If you are hoping for great speeches or timeless words, the Coin Geek Blog is not going to deliver. However- if you are looking for information about coins, currency, bullion and an education in collectibles, consumer awareness, and the occasional bit of fun, then you are in the right place.

You will be able to follow the blog on Facebook, so please like us there.  Thanks, Ben (aka The Coin Geek).

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