Old Pueblo Coin – Tucson, AZ

The Coin Geek

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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QOTD Should I clean my coins?

Should I clean my coins? The quick answer is always “no”.

A lot of people who are new to coins think they are doing good to get some ”dirt” off the coin by taking a jewelry cloth to it or putting some chemical on it. Although this can add ”shine” to the coin, that does not add value. It actually detracts from the collector value.  Once you alter the original surface and luster, or the patina on a coin a collector will value it less. They prefer a ”dull” but original coin to a shiny one.

Think of it like art. There are professionals who can ”restore” a piece of artwork without damaging it, but you or I would never dare try to clean or restore artwork. The same is true of coins. They can be professionally restored, but when the average person tries to help them they often will do more harm than good. We have seen $100 coins turned into $10 coins really fast because someone was ”only wiping the dirt off”. If you want to keep your coins valuable, then keep them in the original condition. This is true of many collectibles, so before you clean anything, have them evaluated.

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QOTD – Highest Possible Grade

QOTD – Question of the day. Real Questions asked by customers.

“What is the highest grade possible on a coin”.

Coins can be graded verbally (Good, Very Fine et al) or by number (4, 20 et al). Based on the number grades the highest possible grade is “70”.  The verbal grade would be ”perfect”. On modern coins you will find coins graded Mint State or Proof 70. On older coins, like the Morgan silver dollar it is unusual to see coins graded higher than MS66.  It can be fun trying to find ‘perfect’ coins. Many collectors put together a Type Set. In a type set the goal is to get one example of each type of coin. For example, one Morgan dollar, one Peace dollar, one Eisenhower dollar. Most collectors will try to find the most common date coins in the highest grade possible. Others have preferred to put together a set with the rarest possible coins. For Example, 1893 -S Morgan $1, 1928 Peace $1. Some unconventional, and possibly disturbed collectors will try to find the lowest possible grade coins they can find!

Whatever grade coin you are looking for, and for more information on coin collecting give us a call 520-881-7200 or stop by our central Tucson location at 4255 E Speedway (85712).

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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

The “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.


Beware of silver marked “World Treasures Mint”

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.


Note the copper showing through at the serial number

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.


“In Clad We Trust”


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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.


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!


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’t-ya-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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