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Category: Tips for New Collectors

Overdated United States Gold Coins

By Doug Winter –

One of the most interesting varieties of United States gold coinage is the many overdated issues that exist. Some are very rare and others are common; some are well-known and some are very obscure. But all share a common trait: a high “coolness factor” that makes them desirable with collectors. What are overdates and how can the collector of United States gold coins focus on these issues?

An “overdated” coin is one on which two dates are present. A famous example is the 1942/1 dime. An overdate occurs when one of more digits from the current year is punched into an older working die. Overdates are often intentional creations and they may exist for a number of reasons.

In the early years of the US Mint, steel to make dies was scarce and funds were scarcer. The Mint operated on a shoestring budget and if any dies were leftover at the end of the year, there was good reason to reuse them. There are many overdates from the 1790’s and early 1800’s and many were probably caused by economic reasons.

Quality control at the Mint during the early years was often lax and some overdates appear to have been produced by accident. These accidents occurred when an engraver inadvertently employed a date punch that was not consistent with the die he was working on. This appears to be the case with some of the overdated coins produced during the 1830’s and 1840’s.

Let’s look at some of the more interesting overdates that occur on Liberty Head gold coins. We’ll save overdated early U.S. gold coins for another time as the list and scope of these is very comprehensive.

Gold Dollars:

There are no gold dollars that were overdated. It is interesting to note that there are very few varieties of note in this entire denomination. The branch mints, where one would have expected an overdate or two to have occurred, never produced one in this denomination.

Quarter Eagles:

The Philadelphia, Charlotte and Dahlonega issues from 1839 have been called 1839/8 overdates in the past but this is incorrect. The only genuine overdate for the Liberty Head type is the 1862/1. This is a clearly visible overdate that was probably caused by the stress involved with producing gold coinage during the most intense year of the Civil War. It was once believed to be extremely rare but now is only regarded as very scarce. In higher grades, the 1862/1 is very rare. I have personally seen two or three in Uncirculated including a PCGS MS62 that was the best of these. (more…)

The iPad and the Numismatist – First Impressions

By Tim Shuck

Unless you’ve been on a trek to a remote section of the planet you’ve likely seen the announcement of Apple’s most recent product, the iPad. Much larger than an iPod or other portable phone/ data device but slightly smaller than a typical laptop computer or netbook, the iPad is a computer tablet.

Tablets of course are not a new concept, but Apple has blended power, portability, and elegance into the design of this device. As an advocate of digital data access, I followed the pre-launch announcements and wondered if this might be a computer useful for numismatics.

So, when my son, an IT professional, told me he had preordered an iPad and asked if I wanted to go with him to the Apple Store to pick it up on the first day of sales, I readily agreed. The nearest Apple Store is a 45-minute drive from home; which was followed by a 45-minute wait in line at the mall. There were two lines actually, one for those who had reserved an iPad and the other for those who were willing to gamble that there would still be iPads in stock when their turn came at the head of the line.

Not that the wait wasn’t without it’s comforts. The good folks at Apple (or maybe I should say the clever marketing staff at Apple) provided coffee, water, scones, and muffins to those waiting in line. Most of us don’t like lines, but there was a festive sense of camaraderie among those waiting, and the crowd was as diverse as you could find – young, old, male, female, internationals, even a couple of folk in wheelchairs.

Also present was a TV crew, recording and interviewing the strange fanatics, er, I mean the technologically astute, who came out early in the morning in their pursuit of the latest in consumer technology. When my son and I reached the head of the line, we were ushered into the store by the friendly Apple staff, and just a few minutes later were on our way home with an iPad safely tucked inside the distinctive Apple backpack/ bag.

But what was it like to use an iPad? My initial reactions were two: wow, what a bright, easy-to-read, and fast screen; and it’s smaller than I expected, though surprisingly hefty. I won’t review the specs, easily obtained online at, but in general appearance it strangely reminded me of the writing slates often shown in school-house scenes of a century or more ago – about the same size and people tend to hold it the same way. Of course the iPad is a much more sophisticated design, but the juxtaposition of imagery was surprisingly strong in my mind. (more…)

The Three Major Eras Of Modern Proof Sets

Certified 1936 US Mint Proof SetHaving criticized the generic term “The Mint” several times in the past few years for actions which were sometimes the fault of the Treasury Department or Congress or others, I thought it might be a good time for me to compliment the United States Mint proper for one of its generally successful numismatic programs, the Proof set.

Although many of the commemorative coin and medal programs dumped in the lap of the U. S. Mint by a greedy and/or indifferent Congress since 1936 have proven to be less than wonderful, whether in marketing or design or purpose, the regular design Proof sets offered as superior examples of the coiner’s art have generally been considered to be a credit to the Mints that have struck them. Though some of the post-1967 sets have declined in value since they were originally sold, this is generally not the fault of the Mint, but rather the fault of speculators who overbuy an issue in the hopes it will prove scarce and then dump it on the market if it does not.

The first of the three modern eras of Proof sets began in 1936, after a 20-year lapse allegedly caused by concern over the impending entry of the U.S. into World War I (which did not occur until April of 1917), but more likely brought on by collector dislike of the Matte Proof finishes used on certain coins of the 1908-1916 period and the technical difficulties involved in trying to “Proof,” or polish, the textured surfaces of the new 1916 silver coins.

I have no idea why the 1916 Barber Dime and Quarter were not struck in brilliant Proof even if there were no plans to strike a 1916 Barber Half, but as sales of the silver Proof sets had fallen drastically in previous years (380 in 1914 and 450 in 1915) it may have been thought that they just weren’t worth the bother. The classical Proof set era begun with a bang in 1858 ended with a whimper in 1916 with only the Matte Proof Cent and Five Cents being offered to collectors, no regular issue gold coins being struck in Philadelphia in 1916 and hence no Proofs.

Once the decision was made to stop making Proofs, bureaucratic inertia saw to it that the same policy was observed in the next year, and the next, etc. I have never seen a good reason given as to why the production of Proof coins was resumed in 1936, but it is possible that the commemorative coin frenzy which reached its peak in that year inspired the Mint to imitate the Post Office, which since 1934 had been making a tidy sum selling specially prepared souvenir sheets of otherwise regular design stamps to collectors. (more…)

The Carson City Gold Coinage of 1870

By Pinnacle-Rarities

The gold coinage from 1870 is among the rarest and most famous issues from the Carson City mint. It has a number of factors that make it very appealing to collectors: low original mintage figures, very small surviving populations, low average grade and numismatic significance as the very first gold issues from this historic mint.

Gold and silver were discovered in Northern Nevada in the late 1850’s and the area was experiencing a full-blown gold rush by the early 1860’s. In 1863, a mint was authorized in the Territory of Nevada. After experiencing some construction delays, a new branch mint opened in the booming town of Carson City in 1870. It actively produced coins until it was closed in 1893.

In 1870, the Carson City mint struck silver dimes, quarters, half dollars and dollars. Three gold denominations were produced as well: half eagles, eagles and double eagles. All three are interesting and worthy of a closer inspection.

I. 1870-CC Half Eagle

A total of 7,675 1870-CC half eagles were produced. It has been estimated that 50-60 pieces are known today and this number can be broken down as follows:

Uncirculated: 4
About Uncirculated: 7-9
Extremely Fine: 13-15
Very Fine: 26-32

The half eagle is the most available of the three gold denominations produced at the Carson City mint in 1870. It is likely that a few were saved as souvenirs by local residents. Still, this is a rare coin in all grades. The typical piece is likely to show extreme wear, deep marks on the surfaces and poor luster as a result of mishandling. Any 1870-CC half eagle that grades Extremely Fine-45 or better is quite rare and properly graded About Uncirculated pieces are very rare.

Very high-grade 1870-CC half eagles (in this case AU-55 and above) are extremely rare and very desirable. These are the only 1870-CC dated gold issues that are known in this level of preservation (the eagle and the double eagle are essentially unknown above AU-50) which means that a number of condition-oriented collectors are actively seeking to locate a choice 1870-CC half eagle. (more…)

Top 10 Most Important Coin Grading Tips

By Scott Travers –

With the advent of independent third-party certification, many coin buyers and sellers thought all their grading worries were over.

No longer would they have to scrutinize each coin they bought and sold to determine its level of preservation. No longer would they need to concern themselves with grading pointers, grading tips, grading advice–these mattered now only to the experts at the leading certification services.

From now on, all Mint State-65 coins would be created equal, as long as they got those grades from the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS), the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation of America (NGC) or ANACS.

In short, buyers and sellers no longer would need to think for themselves and exercise their own common sense. This is not entirely true.

Certification services have made–and are continuing to make–tremendous contributions to standardizing and stabilizing coin-grading standards. In the process, they have dramatically reduced the risk that buyers might suffer significant financial loss because they purchased coins that were overgraded.

But certification services aren’t infallible. And though they strive mightily for consistency, they–like the coins they grade–inevitably fall short of total perfection. Some coins graded Mint State-65 by PCGS, NGC or ANACS are indeed better than others; some might even qualify as Mint State-66. Others, by contrast, might get a lower grade if broken out of their holders and resubmitted.

Over a period of time, subtle shifts in standards or in their application can result in the existence of whole groups of coins that are undergraded or overgraded relative to the rest of the coins from a given grading service.

For example, in 1994, David Hall, founder and president of PCGS, admitted on my radio program–a weekly talk show called One-Hour Coin Expert–that during its early years, his company was reluctant to assign the grade of Mint State- or Proof-68. He candidly agreed that a number of the coins graded Mint State- or Proof-67 by PCGS during that early period might well receive a grade of 68 if submitted today. And that could increase their current market value by many thousands of dollars. (more…)

Collecting Date Sets of Liberty Seated Coinage – Part 1: Dollars and Half Dollars

By Dennis Hengeveld

Collecting seated coins can be fun, rewarding, and above all very challenging. Not many people can afford both the time and cost to search, find, and have the opportunity to buy the hard to find coins which are included in every seated series due to the many dates and mintmarks included in the series. Examples could be the 1878-S half dollar and various Carson City coins. These coins, “stoppers” as they are called, are expensive and very hard to find, often causing collectors to fail in their final goal of completing a series they have specialized in for a long time.
Seated Liberty Dollar and Half Dollar
Although I love seated coins, as a 19 year old I just can’t afford to complete any of the seated series in the grades I like, mainly AU50 to MS64 or higher in as original condition as I can find them. Of course, I might be able to buy those coins later in my life but I am not really the person who has the patience to buy coins for a set I know won’t be complete within an acceptable period time (“acceptable” for me is 8-10 years).

As you might guess, I had to find a solution. So, after buying my first certified seated coin (and my first seated coin anyway), which happened to be a wonderful and very original PCGS MS64 1871 Half Dime, I decided to try a very complete type set, with every single type in there (including coins with different weights but the same design). After buying my second Half Dime (1843 PCGS MS63 which after studying proved to be V-6a, the well-known repunched date) before buying any other seated coin, I got hooked to that series.

Yet, I already knew that the series was not possible to complete in both the time period in those grades I had in mind. So I searched for other solutions, with one of them described in this article: collecting the date-set; each date just one time without paying attention to mint marks. This technique is affordable and possible to complete, even for me with a limited budget.

In this article, all seated series, with the exception of the 20-cent series and the Trade Dollar (a series I personally do not consider a real seated type coin), are discussed. The 20-cent series is relatively easy but not fun to complete with only two business strike dates. Thus, for now, it is not included in this article. I will shortly describe the coins in the set and the difficulty of completing a date-set. For the first series of the seated type, this article will start with the highest denomination in the series, the Silver Dollar. (more…)

Philadelphia No Motto Half Eagles From the 1840’s: A Date by Date Analysis

By Doug Winter –

The Philadelphia mint began producing the familiar Liberty Head half eagle design in 1839. After a quick modification in 1840, this issue continued without change until 1866 when the motto IN GOD WE TRUST was added to the reverse.

The branch mint No Motto half eagles from the 1840’s are very popular with collectors. But their Philadelphia counterparts have lagged behind, both in price and level of demand. I would not be surprised to see this change a bit over the coming years given the fact that the Philadelphia issues are much more affordable and a complete “by decade” set from the 1840’s is within the budget of most gold coin collectors.

Here is a date by date analysis of the Philadelphia half eagles from the 1840’s, to assist new collectors.

1840: Mintage: 137,822.

This is one of the more common issues from this decade. There an estimated 400-500+ known and they are easily located in all circulated grades. In Uncirculated, the 1840 is scarce. I believe that there are around fifteen to twenty known with most in the MS60 to MS62 range. There is one Gem. It is originally ex Pittman I: 947 where it brought $41,250 as a raw coin. It last appeared as Heritage 2/06: 1853 where it sold for $43,125. It has been graded MS65 by both PCGS and NGC.

There are two varieties known. The more common has a Narrow Mill (or diameter) while the scarcer has a Broad Mill. The Broad Mill variety seems to be considerably harder to find in higher grades, especially in Uncirculated. The Broad Mill has an extremely distinct appearance and it is much easier to distinguish from the Narrow Mill than on the New Orleans and Dahlonega issues of this year.

1841: Mintage: 15,833.

The number of half eagles produced at the Philadelphia mint in 1841 is the fewest of the decade. This is the second scarcest date in this subset but it has an interesting grade distribution. There are an estimated 125-150 known and this issue is generally seen in Extremely Fine or in the MS62 to MS64 range.

There was a hoard of 1841 half eagles that was found a few decades ago. Most are in the MS63 to MS64 range and are characterized by sharp strikes, excellent luster and rich golden coloration. I have personally seen at least four MS64 examples and believe that there are a few more known. In all, probably 10 to 15 exist in Uncirculated. The finest is Bowers and Merena 12/04: 2635, graded MS65 by NGC, which sold for a record-setting $27,600. PCGS has not graded any pieces higher than MS64 and their current listing of eight examples is certainly inflated by resubmissions. (more…)

An Introduction to Commemoratives Coins

By Kathleen Duncan of Pinnacle-Rarities

Texas Commemorative Half DollarThis is the place to start learning if you’re unfamiliar with US Commemorative Coins.

What are commemorative coins, you ask?

Commemorative coins are coins issued by the US Mints to recognize the achievements of the Nation. The are coins, and not medals or medallions, because they are monetized, they have a face value and can be used as money, for example a half dollar coin. They differ from regular issue US Coin because they are are struck primarily for collectors, rather than to circulate as money although they are legal tender. Most commemorative coins were struck in conjunction with a large exhibition and festival where they were sold for collectors. The legislation allowing for the issuance of these coins normally also assigned an agency to oversee the distribution or sale. These coins were sold to collectors at a premium to their face value, say $1.00 for a half dollar coin. The two main uses of the proceeds of sale were to raise money for a monument to be built or to defray the costs of the celebration.

How to collect commemoratives.

Between 1892 and 1954, there were just 50 different silver commemoratives and nine different gold issues authorized by Congress and produced. Because many of these coins were issued for multiple years, were struck at the Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco Mints, and were issued with subtle design variations, there are a total of 144 different silver coins and 13 gold commemoratives.

When collectors buy one coin of each design, they are assembling a Type Set. This is the most popular way to collect silver commemorative coins, the 50-coin set. Most collectors of gold commemoratives will purchase the nine gold dollars and two quarter eagles ($2.50 gold coins) and build a set of 11 coins. Excluded are the two scarce Panama-Pacific $50 issues – visit the Panama-Pacific Gold Commemoratives page by using the scroll-list above to learn why. With that said, there is no one way or best way to collect US commemorative coins. Collectors owe it to themselves to take ownership of their own collections. They should buy what they like and what is interesting to them. Many advanced collectors choose to buy only the five issue related to the Civil War, to buy the ten coins with ships on them, etc. There are nine issues that relate to the western United States, and this has always been a particularly interesting yet overlooked subset. (more…)

Tricks of the Trade – Coin Buying

By Doug Winter –

As a dealer who has spent over $100 million on rare coins, what are some of the “tricks” that I have learned that can help you when you are buying coins? Read on to see some of the ones that I think you will benefit most from.

1820 Bust Quarter

When I buy a coin I am looking to sell it immediately for a profit. This makes my needs as a buyer slightly different than yours as a collector. But your ultimate goal, I would hope, is to sell your coins for a profit. What are a few of the most obvious but most important parameters to consider each and every time you buy a coin?

1. Buy Coins That Are Pretty

Numismatics has always been a highly visual hobby. But the advent of the Internet has made the visual aspects of numismatics more significant than ever before. When I look at coins now one of the first questions I ask myself is: will it image well on my website? Coins that are pretty are very easy to sell.

The term “pretty” is somewhat semantic. I tend to like gold coins that are dark and dirty and find these to be aesthetically appealing. Not everyone agrees me. Some people like gold coins that have bright, dazzling luster while others prefer coins that two-tone contrast between the devices and the fields. But I think most people can agree that a certain percentage of coins are, for lack of a better term, “special.” This does not necessarily mean “expensive.” I have seen circulated $100 Bust dimes that I thought were really pretty. The bottom line is that you should try and have as many pretty coins as possible in your collection.

2. Buy Coins That Are Popular

There are many coins that no matter how many examples I have purchased over the years, I have never lost money on them. As an example, I have probably owned twenty 1838-D half eagles in the past decade, ranging in grade from VF25 to MS62. Every time I’ve owned one, it has sold quickly to a happy collector and I’ve made a decent amount of money on each transaction. It’s obvious to me why this date sells quickly: it’s a first-year-of-issue, it’s a one-year type, it has a neat design, it’s a Dahlonega coin and it is relatively affordable.

In the last few years, key date coins in virtually every series have shown dramatic increases in value. There is a good reason for this: they are very popular and this creates a constant level of demand for these issues. In some cases (like 1901-S quarters or 1907 High Reliefs) prices are now probably too high and these key issues are currently overvalued. But I would personally rather have a collection (or inventory) that was full of popular coins than ones that were too esoteric and hard to sell. (more…)

Recognizing Coin Holders That Contain PVC

You’re at a coin show or a dealer’s shop when you ask to see a coin that’s in a flip, one of those double-pocket, plastic envelopes that so many dealers use to display uncertified coins. When he or she hands you the flip, it seems that the coin is actually stuck to the inside of it.

Some flexing of the soft flip is enough to make the coin break free, and then you see it—that pale green outline of the coin imprinted on the inside of the flip. You, my friend, have experienced a PVC moment.

PVC is short for polyvinyl chloride, a popular and widely used plastic that has countless industrial applications. In most of these applications PVC’s qualities are completely benign. In fact, using this plastic for coin flips is OK, too. Where the problem lies is that such storage is suitable only for the short term, say, less than six months. After that time the chemical softening agent that gives PVC its great flexibility may start to leach out. Over time, this can settle onto a coin and deposit an oily film—that sickly, green slime that leaves an outline of the coin on the flip and adheres to the high points of the coin itself.

Prolonged exposure to PVC deposits in the presence of moisture can actually lead to the formation of hydrochloric acid which permanently scars the coin. In its earlier stages, however, PVC film is removable with proper conservation. Any coin displaying such green, oily film on its surfaces may be submitted to Numismatic Conservation Services, LLC (NCS) for removal of the contaminant.

Using PVC coin holders is perfectly all right for short term storage and display. If a coin hasn’t sold after a few months, the dealer should place it in a fresh flip, but this doesn’t always happen. Collectors should never use PVC products for long term storage, a fact which became abundantly clear when a particular brand of coin album had to replace this plastic in its product line with another, less harmful one about 20 years ago. The damage to the products’ reputation, however, was irreversible, and the company went out of business. Old-time collections still come onto the market in such albums, and they’re not a pretty sight. (more…)

Deciding What Coins to Collect

By Doug Winter –

During the last few weeks I’ve had a similar conversation with a few new and more experienced collectors: what should I be collecting? I’ve found all the conversations that I have had with these collectors to have a similar unifying theme; at least from the standpoint of the collectors.

My observation is that everyone takes the “what should I collect?” question a bit too seriously and expects there to be a rigorous set of rules that they have to follow. I personally think they are forgetting the fact that coin collecting is more about having fun than following a set of rules.

If you are reading this on my website, you’ve probably already decided that you want to collect United States gold coins. Taking this a step further, if you are a brand-new collector (or you are at least new to gold coins) how do you decide specifically what to focus on? Or do you need to focus on anything at all?

There are a number of considerations that come into play. The most obvious of these is your budget. If you are currently comfortable spending $2,500 on a single coin than you should probably recognize the fact that you are eventually going to be comfortable at a higher level; let’s say $5,000 or so per coin. If this is your comfortable level, then you have to be practical when choosing an area to collect. Early gold, as an example, will not work for you as very few pieces are available in the $5,000 range. Look at auction records, dealer websites and pricing guides to help select an area that you can afford.

Do you have to put together a set? That really depends on an individual collector’s perspective. A few decades ago, nearly everyone collected specific sets by date. But coins were alot cheaper back then so it was not impractical to decide to assemble a full date set of Dahloenga quarter eagles or San Francisco eagles in high grades. Today, rare coins are expensive and for many collectors it isn’t practical to assemble a date set. Or, they may have to settle for very low quality examples of the rarities within their selected set. (more…)

Some “Secret” Varieties of Early U.S. Gold Coins

By Doug Winter –

There are a few relatively unknown but numismatically significant varieties of early United States gold coinage that I think are likely to be included in comprehensive collections of these issues as they become more popular with collectors. Here are a few of the “secret” varieties that I would suggest collectors be on the lookout for.

1798 Close Date and Wide Date Quarter Eagles.

Despite this date’s low mintage figure, it remains undervalued in comparsion to the other 18th century quarter eagles. There are two distinct varieties known. The more avilable and better known of the two is the Wide Date (BD-2) on which the four digits in the date are quite widely spaced. An easy way to distinguish this variety is by the presence of five berries on the reverse. There are an estimated four to five dozen known in all grades.

The “secret” variety for this year is the Close Date. This variety has only four berries on the reverse. It is very rare in all grades with around two dozen or so known.

1825 Close Fraction and Distant Fraction Quarter Eagles.

There are not many die varieties in the short-lived Capped Bust Large Size type of 1821-1827 but there are actually three varieties for the 1825.

Two of the varieties show a distant fraction on the reverse with the numerals relatively far from the fraction bar. The more common (BD-2) has a 5 in the date that leans far to the left and which is placed below the 2. The rarer variety (BD-1) and the 5 more upright and even with the 2. There are as many as 90-100 known of the former while the latter remains very rare and apears to have fewer than ten accounted for.

The third variety of 1825 quarter eagle (BD-3) has the same reverse as seen on the 1826 quarter eagle with a very close fraction where the numerals touch the fraction bar. It is also very rare, although not as much so as BD-1. I would estimate that around a dozen exist.

In the half eagle series, there are many interesting “secret” varieties; enough so that I am only going to mention a few here. (more…)

Need Money? 5 Steps To Sell Right.

Reprinted with Permission from Pinnacle-Rarities

Whether or not you need to sell, these five basic steps can help focus your collecting so you can receive maximum enjoyment and profit. Start by getting organized. Next, cull some of the lesser coins from your portfolio. Finally, focus on those areas which are the most meaningful to you.

1. Make A List
The vast majority of our clients keep their coins in safe deposit boxes, and rarely do have an opportunity to look at everything together. Since they were likely acquired over many years, accompanying records and notes tend to get scattered. A comprehensive list of the necessary information is very useful. It will allow you to see exactly which coins you’re missing, which coins you have too many of, and give you a starting point to review your collecting goals. It helps not just to list the date, grade, and denomination, but the certification service, amount paid, purchase date, and source as well.

Having all of this information at your fingertips will prevent mistakes such as purchasing duplicates or passing on coins that you need.

The best charts are sorted first by denomination, then by date, and third by grade. This will make it very easy for you to find coins. The certification number on the holder is useful to keep track of duplicates, and can be important in locating your coins if they are lost or stolen. Knowing whom you bought your coins from is also surprisingly useful. We will always make a stronger offer on coins we’ve sold, since we are picky buyers and we are, therefore, confident the coins will be nice for their respective grades.

2. Cull Your Duplicates
At this point, you may find that you have some extra coins. You may have purchased an MS66 to replace an MS64, without trading the lower grade example, or you may have mistakenly bought two coins of the same date and grade. We recommend that you eliminate those items that are not essential to your collection or portfolio. These coins can either be sold outright, or can be used as trades to reduce the amount of cash necessary for future acquisitions. (more…)

2009 Money Show of the Southwest Educational Seminar DVD’s Now Available

DVD’s of the educational presentations delivered at the Money Show of the Southwest are now available for collectors.

Speakers include former football great Greg Bingham, historian and teacher Ricardo DeLeon, collector Sebastion Frommhold, coin promoter and lecturer Mike Fuljenz, coin fund manager Bob Higgins, Money Show coin convention chairman Carl Schwenker, and PCGS president Don Willis. The Greater Houston Coin Club sponsors these educational presentations.

These videos are available in the latest DVD format and are produced by David Lisot, founder of Lisot has been involved in video and television production since the 1980’s. He has produced hundreds of titles about collecting and works with the major numismatic coin and currency collector organizations to videotape the educational seminars delivered at their conventions. The presenters of these seminars are many of the most well known, knowledgeable, and important people in the coin hobby. is a free video news service website that offers video clips from these coin conventions as well as segments from many educational presentations.

The DVD’s from the Money Show of the Southwest retail for $24.95 plus $4 S/H. A complete list of hundreds of other DVD’s available about coin collecting can be found at


Benefits of Third Party Grading
By Don Willis

Don Willis is president of the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS). He shares new developments on the PCGS website along with the benefits offered by third party grading.

Length: 52:32 (more…)

Coin Collecting: Condition Rarity vs. Absolute Rarity

by Doug Winter –

In numismatics, there are essentially two types of coins. There are coins that are condition rarities and there are coins that are absolute rarities. A condition rarity is a coin whose value is primarily derived from its high degree of preservation. An absolute rarity is a coin whose rarity is based more on the total number known to exist than its grade. As a long-time participant in the coin market, I tend to prefer coins that are absolute rarities.

dw_condition_rarity_010310Let’s take a look at a few specific coins that easily fall into one of the two categories. Then, let’s take a look at another category (and for my money the most interesting): a coin that is not only an absolute rarity but a condition rarity as well.

Most new collectors buy coins based on condition. This makes sense. They are introduced to coins through mass marketers or they buy modern coins directly from the United States mint. Mass marketers can’t sell absolute rarity for an obvious reason: there isn’t a large enough supply and mass marketing entails selling products on a large scale.

Certain mass marketed coins aren’t strictly condition rarities in the truest sense of the word. A coin that most people would consider to be a condition rarity would be a common date St. Gaudens double eagle in MS65. But this really isn’t the case. A damaged, virtually destroyed Saint has a current market value of around $1,200 while an MS65 is worth $2,500. The 2x value ratio for a Gem is low when compared to the basal value.

A coin that I would consider a classic condition rarity is an Indian Head half eagle. This is a coin that is worth just a bit over $300 in very low grades but over $15,000 in MS65. That’s a 300x value ratio. I appreciate the fact that a true MS65 Indian Head half eagle is a reasonably scarce coin. But I have a hard time attributing this much value to a high grade example, especially based on the fact that the series is not terrifically popular with date collectors. (more…)

Collecting U.S. Coins on a Budget

By Dr John H. MacMillan

The numismatic hobby is indeed “the hobby of kings” as a virtually unlimited amount of money can be spent on rare items if finances permit. Wealthy collectors such as Col H.R. Green, King Farouk of Egypt and Louis Eliasberg had no trouble acquiring rare items when the became available. Collectors of more modest means must focus their interest and “buy smart” or else risk financial difficulties.

budget_collectingCoin collecting can become addicting, and many collectors go over their budget on impulse purchases or spending sprees. It is imperative that you set a maximum amount you will be spend per month or year. This collector has found that on an amount of $1500-$2000 per year rapid progress is possible in many specialties for several years, provided that the periods are from 1850-present and the grades are extremely fine to proof. In today’s age this amount of money could be spent on a single computer or set of golf clubs!

The collectors advantage is that the collection will at least give a partial return of his money in the future, as compared to other items that depreciate to zero. The article is written from the perspective of a modest means collector, who wishes to enjoy his coins primarily from an artistic and historical viewpoint.

Of course he or his heirs will want to obtain at least a modest return on his hard earned money in the future. I will present the “buying smart” strategies from the context of a U.S. type set collector, but these thought processes apply to other collecting specialties such as date collecting, World Coins or ancients.

Getting started

Getting started as a U.S. type set collector is quite easy if one desires a set of circulating U.S. coins. One may pull nearly uncirculated examples from change and upgrade by ordering proof sets from the U.S. mint at less than $20.00. As many state quarters are circulating, this phase can be quite a lot of fun for several months. After the fun phase the new type collector can focus on earlier twentieth century issues. (more…)

Preparing Yourself for the FUN Coin Show in Orlando

BY Doug Winter –

Amazingly, the 2010 FUN is a scant two weeks away. If you have decided to attend the show (and I strongly suggest that if you go to just one show all year that this you consider this one) here is a short list of things to consider.

orlando_convention_center1. Bring a good lamp. Viewing conditions at the FUN show are not optimal and a good coin viewing lamp is essential. Try if possible to recreate the conditions that you use when you view coins at your home or office.

2. Pull the trigger on really cool coins. My gut feeling is that really good coins are going to be in short supply at this year’s FUN show. My best advice is that if you see something that looks really great or something that you’ve wanted for a long time, don’t waffle.

3. Take an hour lunch break every day. The FUN show is huge and it can be a pretty intense experience for the collector and dealer alike. I think it’s a great idea to leave the show for an hour every day in order to eat a good lunch and take a coin break. Some of the worst purchases I’ve ever made at shows have been when I’ve been tired, cranky and hungry.

4. Have a game plan. If you’ve never been to a major show like FUN, it can be really intimidating. There are hundreds and hundreds of dealers and it’s hard to know where to start. Before you go, spend time on the FUN website ( and make a list of the dealers that you want to see first. (more…)

The Basis for Collecting and Appreciating Naturally Toned Coins, Part 1

By Greg Reynolds for CoinLink

In the history of coin collecting in the U.S., most of the greatest all-time collections were characterized by many coins with attractive, natural toning, especially including many coins that had never been cleaned, dipped or otherwise deliberately modified. I have personally and carefully inspected a substantial percentage of the coins in the Eliasberg, Norweb, and Pittman collections. Further, I have seen a significant number of the naturally toned coins that were previously in the Garrett family and James A. Stack collections. Most of the very scarce or moderately rare coins from these collections that brought surprisingly high prices at auction, and generated the most enthusiasm among collectors, are those that have (or then had) natural toning and/or mostly original surfaces. Over a period of more than 125 years, sophisticated collectors in the U.S. have tended to strongly prefer naturally toned coins.

jay_brahinCurrently, three of the most sophisticated collectors who are widely recognized are Dr. Steven Duckor, Stewart Blay and Jay Brahin. Considerable information regarding their collecting accomplishments is found in the PCGS registry. While Jay is more of a specialist in early 20th century gold coins, Blay and Dr. Duckor have built phenomenal collections in several areas. Not all of their coins are listed in the PCGS registry. Most sophisticated, advanced collectors have similar sentiments and a preference for natural toning. Many of them, however, wish to remain anonymous and thus will not be mentioned. Duckor, Blay and Brahin are all very much willing to share their knowledge with the coin collecting community.

Mark Hagen is another collector who is willing to share with the collecting community. He has been collecting coins for over forty years. I have seen him at many auctions. Further, he reports that he attended the Norweb, Eliasberg and Pittman auctions and ALL of the FUN and ANA Platinum night sales. Indeed, Mark has “been to over one hundred major auctions over the past twenty-five years” and he has “seen most of the classic rarities and gem type coins that have sold at public auction over that period.”

Hagen observes that “there are a lot of artificially toned coins on the market.” Further, Mark laments that “in addition to those that have been recolored, thousands of rare coins have been dipped; the number of original coins is getting smaller every year.” On this issue, Jay Brahin agrees with Hagen.

“To the eye of a true collector, originality is more important than shiny,” declares Brahin. “Natural toning is a testament to the age and natural process that the coin has gone through. What makes antiques appealing is their antiqueness, a normal aging process of the items. The natural aging of a relic attests to its authenticity. If you saw an 18th century original document that was a bright manila white, you would realize that something is wrong with it. You would expect an old document to show natural signs of aging. If you see an 18th century silver coin that is bright white, it is suspect; or if it has bright purple toning, it means something is wrong.”

Interesting Subsets for Gold Coin Collectors

By Doug Winter –

dw_may09_5wvalueWhile I am personally still a fan of collecting gold coins by sets, I understand that this method is not for everyone. Some individuals find set collecting monotonous; others lack the patience to assemble anything but a short set. And other collectors simply do not have the financial resources available to work on a set that might not only have a long duration but may contain many expensive coins as well.

One interesting compromise is for a collector to work on a subset. This subset might take many forms. As an example, let’s say a collector really likes Type One Liberty Head double eagles but he is realistic enough to know that he will never be able to afford the expensive New Orleans issues that populate this set. The solution is to pick an alternative within this set that is completable. Later on in this article I will discuss an actual subset that I have worked on with a number of collectors that still allows them to finish a Type One set; just without spending $1 million+.

For the sake of brevity, I am only going to mention four potential subsets in this article. But there are many, many others that are highly collectible.

1. Civil War Era Gold Coins.

A set of Civil war gold coins is among the more challenging of the subsets that a collector might choose but it is certainly one of the most popular as well. A complete Civil War gold set would consist of the following:

-Gold Dollars (6): 1861, 1861-D, 1862, 1863, 1864, 1864

-Quarter Eagles (10): 1861, 1861-S, 1862, 1862/1, 1862-S, 1863, 1863-S, 1864, 1865, 1865-S

-Three Dollars (5): 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864, 1865

-Half Eagles (12): 1861, 1861-C, 1861-D, 1861-S, 1862, 1862-S, 1863, 1863-S, 1864, 1864-S, 1865, 1865-S

-Eagles (11): 1861, 1861-S, 1862, 1862-S, 1863, 1863-S, 1864, 1864-S, 1865, 1865-S Normal Date, 1865-S Inverted Date

-Double Eagles (12): 1861, 1861-O, 1861-S, 1861-S Paquet, 1862, 1862-S, 1863, 1863-S, 1864, 1864-S, 1865, 1865-S.

In total, there are 56 coins in the Civil War gold set. The coins range from very common to very rare and most are extremely hard to find in higher grades.

What Does An Original Early Gold Coin Look Like?

By Doug Winter –

As you no doubt know, I am pretty obsessive when it comes to “original” gold coins. I like coins that have an appearance that suggests that they haven’t been fooled with. I recently bought and sold an early gold coin that, in my opinion, was the epitome of an original piece and I’d like to share a photo and some descriptive information. The coin in question was an 1814/3 half eagle graded MS62 by NGC and later approved by CAC.

1814-4_half_eagle_original_color_comparisonThere are a few things about the color of this coin that are a give-away for its originality. The first is the glow that this particular hue of coppery-orange shows. It is the result of over a century’s worth of toning and mellowing of the surfaces. This sort of color just can’t be reproduced by artificial means. When chemicals are applied to gold coins in an attempt to recapture a reddish-orange hue, the result is usually a shade that I refer to as “Cheeto Orange.” In other words, the orange is just too intense to look real and there is no gradiation or seperation of the hues.

You may also note that the coloration is different in hue in terms of configuration and intensity on the obverse and reverse. On this early half eagle, there are areas in the obverse fields that are dark and somewhat discolored. I’m not exactly certain what caused this but if I had to guess it would be contact with another source like a coin album or some other sort of sulphur-impregated display. Most recolored coins look similar on the obverse and reverse.

Another thing that I have noticed on original early gold coins is that the color seems to become deeper towards the edges. This isn’t always the case but this color scheme is hard to reproduce and many of the coin doctors who play with early gold are not sophisticated enough to know that this is the sort of color that develops of a long period of storage in an album. If you pay particular attention to the reverse of this coin, you will note that the golden-orange hue at the center changes to a deeper reddish-orange at the border. If you experienced at looking at early gold you will recognize this pattern as being “right.” (more…) Offers Free Collecting Videos Online

coinstvA new series of informative and entertaining educational videos, “Spare Change: Coin Collecting Guide,” is available free at the recently-launched website, Eight different videos on popular numismatic subjects already are online, and additional programs will be added in the coming weeks and months.

The website is a joint project of collector and Webmaster, Michael Zielinski, and veteran video producer and collector, Mark Apsolon.

Mark_Apsolon The titles and topics of the eight episodes available for free viewing anytime are:

o Introduction to Coin Collecting
o Liberty Head Double Eagle
o Franklin Half Dollar
o Indian Half Eagle and Indian Quarter Eagle
o American Silver Eagle
o Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle
o Presidential Dollar Series
o Morgan Dollar

“Each video provides historical or legislative background for the particular coinage series, information on the coin’s designer, coins specifications, key date coins, and suggestions on collecting or investing in the series. The information is presented in an informative and entertaining fashion, which new and advanced collectors will enjoy,” said Zielinski.

“The website also provides a separate page for each video that allows viewers to rate the video or provide comments. Visitors can also sign up to receive a notification whenever a new video is added to the website.”

Ten Underappreciated Early United States Gold Coins

By Doug Winter –

early_gold_dw_100509I’ve written numerous articles about Liberty Head gold coins that I think are clearly undervalued or underpriced. I’ve never really written one that’s focused on early United States gold coins for one simple reason: it’s hard to brand coins that trade for $10,000 and up (in most cases) as “undervalued.” That said, there are a number of issues whose price levels do not make sense given their rarity.

I’d like to thank my good friend Paul Nugget, from Spectrum East Numismatics, who helped me prepare this list and whose expertise in the area of pre-1834 gold is unrivalled.

Before we start, the basic question to answer here is why are these coins undervalued or underappreciated or “underwhatever?” I think the answer has to do with collecting patterns in the early gold series. Because of price considerations, most collectors who do focus on early gold do it from the standpoint of type collecting. This makes sense, especially in a denomination like half eagles that contains a number of spectacularly rare (and expensive) issues. Also, I have noted that many more early gold collectors focus on the pre-1807 issues by date (or even die variety) while the issues struck from 1808 to 1834 tend to less actively pursued as such.

Here is my list of ten underappreciated early US gold and the reasons why I think they qualify as such:

1. 1827 Quarter Eagle.

The short-lived Capped Head Left quarter eagle type was produced for only five years from 1821 to 1827. All five issues are scarce but pricing guides typically lump the 1821, 1824/1, 1825 and 1827 together and accord them similar values in virtually all grades. I think that the 1827 deserves to be priced at least 10-15% higher than the 1825.


by Kathleen Duncan of Pinnacle Rarities

pinnacle_commems_092409Between 1892 and 1954, there were 50 different silver commemoratives authorized by Congress: 48 Half Dollars along with a single Quarter and Dollar. Because many of these were issued for multiple years, were struck at the Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco Mints, and were issued with subtle design variations, there are a total of 144 different silver coins that constitute the Classic Silver Commemorative category. Many of the coins were designed in contest by important sculptors and among them are some of the most creative examples of coinage art in all of numismatics. They also form an instructive history course of our nation, as each commemorates an important event.

Commemoratives differ from regular issue coins as they are struck primarily for collectors rather than to circulate as money, although they are legal tender. Most Classic Commemoratives were struck in conjunction with a large exhibition and festival. These coins were sold to collectors at a premium to their face value, typically to raise money for a monument to be built or to defray the costs of the particular celebration. The very first such exhibition was the 1892 Chicago World’s fair, which produced the 1892 Columbus Half Dollar, honoring the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of the New World.

Silver Commemoratives can be assembled in nearly an endless number of ways, in all price ranges, making them an easy area to pursue. Purchasing one of each of the 50 unique designs is referred to as a type set. The ambitious pursuit of a complete set requires one of each of the 144 dates and mintmarks referenced above. If you prefer a less daunting task, you can choose among any number of sub segments to match your particular interests.

Value Compression in the Rare Date Gold Coin Market

By Doug Winter –

The recent Coin World “Coin Values” (or Trends as we long-time dealers call it) features a number of price reductions in the various Liberty Head gold series. This has caused some interesting pricing anomalies that have major ramifications for collectors of rare date gold coins.

dw_cd_250The grade range that appears to be severely affected by the Trends revisions is AU50 to AU58. This makes sense as this is the grade range that, in my opinion, has been most severely compromised by the grading services over the years. I think this especially true for the AU55 and AU58 grades; a range that includes many coins that are marginal quality at best.

A number of factors caused these values to be reduced by the Trends editor(s). One is, of course, auction prices. As I have stated a number of times in the past, one of the biggest problems with coin pricing is the fact that one bad apple can literally spoil the whole bunch. Let me give you an example. Let’s say that Trends in AU58 for a specific Charlotte quarter eagle was $9,000 in AU58. Then let’s say that a really, really low end example in an AU58 holder sells at auction for $4,000. Does this mean that the price of this issue should suddenly be cut in half?

I would argue that it shouldn’t. But I would also argue that a compression of values for rare date gold is inevitable.

Value compression is not without precedent. Two of the most famous examples that I can think of are the Iowa half dollar (worth $85 in XF and $100 in MS65) and the Roanoke half dollar (worth $160 in XF and $180 in MS64). The reason why values become compressed for a specific coin is that the market believes that a premium is unmerited. In the case of the Roanoke half dollar, the reason is obvious: because of the cluttered design, an AU58 Roanoke looks essentially no different from an MS64. For better or worse, this is what has happened with certain branch mint gold coins due to erratic grading standards.

Deal Shopping and Rare Coin Prices

By Doug Winter –

I had an interesting experience at the Long Beach show that I thought was worth sharing. A new-to-the-market collector/investor came up to my table and asked to see my “best coins.” I was happy to share them with him and pulled out a gorgeous 1802 quarter eagle in PCGS AU58 and a lovely 1798/7 eagle in PCGS AU55. After some back-and-forth negotiating, I could see this deal was not going to get done. The reasons why it didn’t are what I want to briefly discuss.

1864-S_Eagle_winter_091509_saleNow let me say in advance that the individual that I was dealing with is younger than I am, better looking than I am, smarter than I am and without a doubt much, much richer than I am. He’s someone whose family has had tremendous success investing in other areas and he is a recent convert to the rare coin market. But I think he’s approaching coins from a totally wrong perspective……………

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Collecting $10 Liberty Head Gold Coins

By Doug Winter –

If you have deep pockets and lots of patience, assembling a set of $10 Liberty Head gold is one of the greatest challenges in all of U.S. numismatics. Even if you are lucky as far as locating the rarities in this series, you are looking at a $1-3 million commitment of funds and a time frame that should last at least three to six years; if not more.

dw_10lib_090409I once asked a $10 Lib specialist how he came to choose his set. To paraphrase his answer, he replied something along these lines: “gold dollars were too small, quarter eagles were too monotonous, three dollars and five dollars were incompletable (due to the 1870-S three and the 1854-S five) and double eagles were overpriced. That left the ten lib series…”

It’s hard to argue with brilliant logic like that. And there are a few more points to add. First, the coins are underpriced. As an example, there are a slew of issues that are really cheap (right now) when compared to coins like $10 Indians or Saints or even Liberty Head double eagles. The second is that these coins are big and contain nearly half an ounce of gold. So every time you buy a “boring” common later date issue you are still accumulating a nice chunk of this precious metal. Thirdly, you don’t (currently) have a huge number of collectors competing against you which means that if a rare undervalued coin comes up for sale, you just might be able to buy it very reasonably.

If I were a collector just beginning this series there are a few things that I would do right away.

The first is choosing a great dealer to work with you. Yes, this is a self-serving comment and yes I think I’m the right man for the job. That said, this is a long, complicated series that involves a lot of coin knowledge and good decision making. You can’t assemble a good set of $10 Libs with a mediocre dealer guiding you and you surely can’t do it on your own.

Assembling a “Back-Up” Coin Collection

By Doug Winter –

backup_saintI’ve recently had a few collectors ask me a similar question; one that has given me some pause to think. Basically, these are people whose main collecting focus is an expensive, very challenging series. Due to lack of availability (of funds), their purchases may be very infrequent. But they still love coins and the thrill of the hunt. What, they’ve asked me, can they play with as their “back-up” set?

The parameters that they’ve given me for this back-up set have been pretty consistent. They want a group of coins that are fun to collect, reasonably affordable, interesting but not wildly esoteric and different enough that they won’t compete against their primary set(s). Most importantly, they don’t want their back-up set to grow so expensive that it depletes funds from their primary set.

My answer(s) has typically been based on the needs and wants of the collector. I’d like to share a few suggestions that I have given focusing on the ideas that appear to have been popular as opposed to ideas of mine that have gone over like the proverbial lead balloon.

1. Dahlonega half eagles in EF and lower AU grades.

With the exception of two dates (the 1842-D Large Date and the 1861-D), the Dahlonega half eagle set does not include any major rarities or extremely expensive coins. Every issue can be purchased in the EF-AU range for $5,000 or less and there are no “stoppers” that will prove frustrating for the collector. The series is reasonably short (just 26 coins) and the coins themselves are highly collectible. One of the best things about this series is that if a collector gets tired of these coins after buying just a few, he will have little downside risk. I’d say the key to collecting a set of Dahlonega half eagles is to be patient and to wait for choice, original coins.

2. No Motto Philadelphia Eagles.

This is a set that the collector might not want to actually form a date set but it is a great area to dabble in. There are lots of very interesting coins that are priced in the $1,000-3,000 and what’s important to remember is that, generically, just about any still-round ten dollar gold piece from this era is worth in the area of $700. If you become seriously interested in this series, you can pursue the rarities which include the 1844, 1858, 1863 and 1865. If you’d rather just dabble, buy coins like the nice AU50 1857 eagle I just sold off my website for less than $2,000 (it was a great value, in my opinion).

US Gold Collecting: The New Orleans With Motto $10 Eagle “Short Set”

By Doug Winter – www

One of the most interesting and completable sets for the beginning branch mint gold collector is the short set of With Motto New Orleans eagles. This set features the New Orleans eagles produced from 1888 through 1906. In all, there eleven issues in this set. A set in the lower Uncirculated grades could be assembled for less than $10,000.

Unlike the No Motto eagles produced at the New Orleans mint from 1841 through 1860, the With Motto issues tended not to readily circulate. This is especially true with the issues from 1888 onwards. Many dates are virtually unknown in grades below AU55 and significant numbers have been located in Europe where they were sent a century ago to pay down foreign trade debts. These “Euro” coins have a distinctive dirty-gold appearance (if they haven’t been dipped) and are typically in the MS60 to MS62 range as a result of rough handling and subsequent abrasions on the surfaces.

In the AU55 to MS60 range, many issues sell for just a very small premium over generic With Motto eagles from this era. This makes these dates very good value, in my opinion, as they are many, many times scarcer than generics and have the added advantage of coming from the highly collectible and historically significant New Orleans mint.

What appeals to many collectors is the fact that the Short Set With Motto New Orleans eagles are legitimately scarce but they are not “too rare” like their No Motto counterparts. The No Motto eagles from New Orleans include a number of rare and expensive issues and even the most common dates are quite rare (and highly priced) in any Uncirculated grade. Even the two hardest Short Set dates (the 1897-O and the 1899-O) can be found in the lowest Uncirculated grades for less than $1,000-1,500.

A few of the Short Set dates can be found in grades up to and including MS63 and these dates (namely the 1901-O, 1903-O and 1904-O) are reasonably affordable even in this comparatively high grade. All eagles from New Orleans become rare in MS64 and Gems (MS65 and above) are very rare. Some of the dates in this series are virtually unknown above MS63; see the date-by-date listings below for more information.

Let’s take a brief look at each of the eleven dates in the Short Set: