Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Outbid again

I was awakened at 3:30 yesterday morning by cell phone beeps.  I thought it was the beeps that accompany an eBay outbid notice, but the beeps kept coming.  I was annoyed, because I usually remember to turn down the volume so that things like that won't disturb me.  I tried to ignore them, but every few minutes the beeps would sound again.

Even though I was pretty groggy, I dragged myself out of bed and found that it was actually my wife's cell phone begging for a recharge.  I plugged it in and gave it a malevolent glare to warn it against such churlish begging in the future.

Oh, well. It was only an hour earlier than I usually get up. My phone and iPad were muted, so it wasn't eBay's fault.  I did check, though, and found that yes, I had lost a good number of bids overnight.  That's fine: many were lowballs thrown out there just in case there's a massive internet outage and the four million other people bidding against me are stuck pounding on their keyboards in frustration as I snag thousands of dollars worth of coins for a pittance.

Actually, internet outage or not, doing that is kind of a kick.  Picking up a $10,000 coin for a few hundred bucks is about as likely as winning the lottery - maybe even less so - but that's not what I'm doing.  I'm bidding $30 or $40 on $100 coins or perhaps $7 on $20 coins.  That can happen and the odds aren't completely impossible.  

But sometimes I look at the total number of items I am still supposedly winning and think "Man, that would put a dent in the checkbook!" and I get a queasy feeling in my stomach.   Soon enough a few more dings tell me that more realistic bids have chopped down that exposure and I feel better.

On the other hand, I do put in more realistic bids on some things. I don't use sniping software. That will increase bids as necessary without you watching, but you can't use it with two-factor authentication and I won't turn that off.  Aside from that, I'm not trying to get the absolute lowest price. If I'm willing to pay $60 for something, that's what I'll bid right out of the gate. That is and will be my maximum - if I instantly see that someone else's secret bid has raised it to  $61, that's the end of it for me and I move on.  If I had been willing to pay $62, that's what I would have bid originally.

But the lowballs are fun, too.  I don't recall ever winning one yet - if I did, it wasn't low enough that I noticed, anyway.  Yet in idle moments I amuse myself by placing a few dozen very cheap bids.  If they should ever hit, I'll have a great deal and if not, it passed some time and helped keep me up to date on current price trends.

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

This week's Coinweek Giveaway:

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Apocalyptic dreaming

One of my favorite coin related forums is Modern Coin Mart. It's an unusual experience: unlike many forums, it's almost completely free of acrimony. I'm not saying that everyone always agrees, but that the disagreements are civil and even friendly.  There's no bullying, no "better than thou" put downs - it's a very polite forum.

It's also unusual in that a large percentage of its members are "stackers" rather than coin collectors. Stackers buy precious metals.  Some buy coins too, and the forum has plenty of numismatic topics, but stackers talk about rounds and bars and how silver is going to rise again (they hope).

Some see silver and gold as an investment, some see it as a hedge against inflation and some seem to be traders and speculators, jumping in and out as markets rise and fall. For others, however, there's another reason to buy precious metal: they believe that our economy will soon collapse and that the U.S. dollar will be worthless.

Sometimes that belief almost seems to be longing. I'm not saying that they want their non-stacking friends and neighbors to be destroyed financially, but that there is a twinge of religious fervor here. Like the crazies who pop up now and then insisting that Jesus and the Resurrection are coming THIS YEAR, these financial collapse believers are doing more than hedging their bets: they are certain that collapse is imminent.

Well, I can't say that's impossible, can I?  In fact, the relative probability is a heck of a lot better than angels swooping down with swords to slay the wicked. It is at least something that could happen, right?  I can certainly see a perfect storm of natural disasters and political mishaps that could trigger such a thing.  I can also see me picking next weeks Mega Millions number, but I'm not really expecting either one.

These folks are expecting it and when it happens, they'll have gold and silver assets. They won't be penniless - well, they will be, just as you and I will be, but they'll have gold and silver to barter with. They'll survive the economic and societal collapse of civilization.

Well, unless they don't survive the roving gangs of murderous thugs, the polluted water, poisoned food and raging disease that would accompany such a collapse.  I'm sure some of them have thought about all that too and are stacking canned goods right beside their silver bars - google "survivalist planning".

Shrug.  I insure my house against fire.  It's not really any different, is it? You and I have home insurance and mutual funds, they have stacks of shiny metal and soup. Same thing, really.

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

This week's Coinweek Giveaway:

Monday, April 28, 2014

What to do with Wheat Ears?

A friend messaged me on Facebook last night.

There is a lot more to say that I didn't want to type into a chat app, so I thought I'd devote today's post to that subject.

First, yes, Wheat Ears have value. I checked Jake's U.S. Coin & Currency Buy Prices and found them offering 3 cents each for unsorted common date wheats.  By the way, I'm not specifically recommending that particular buyer and I'm not NOT recommending them either. Three cents is a typical price for average circulated Wheats right now.

That's not a price for culls, of course. Culls are damaged coins: bent, holed, scratched, corroded, scrubbed, completely worn away or otherwise undesirable.

Nor is it a price for Wheats that look like this.  Brand new looking Wheats (Uncirculated or nearly so) are worth much more.

Before you start calculating your profits, remember that although they are pretty light individually, a hundred dollars face value in these pennies would weigh about 68 lbs and shipping that much weight is not cheap. That could really eat into your 200% profit, couldn't it?

However, earlier dates are worth more and some dates are worth a lot more.  If you have a big old jar of wheat ears you've been putting away for ages, you probably do have some of those earlier dates. Your chances of having any of the high value dates are slim (that's why they are high value!), but who knows? You might as well look, right?

But you do have to know about grading. An XF  coin can be worth much, much more than a VF of the same date. That's where comes in.  You can get an excellent idea of your coin's grade by comparing it to the photos there.  Be conservative; if you aren't sure, assume the lower grade.

You can also check prices at PCGS. Those are typical selling (not buying) prices for certified coins - coins that have been examined by experts, graded, and encapsulated for protection. If you had a high value coin, it could be worth having that certification, but it is not cheap at all.

Will these Wheats be worth more later? Yes, they probably will be. But there is also a possibility that some of those 3 cent coins are actually worth more right now. 

There's  actually more than just dates and mint marks that you could look for if you are adventurous. There are double dies, repunched mint marks and all sorts of other varieties and errors that can turn a 3 cent coin into something valuable  - sometimes a lot more valuable.  Learning to identify these takes more than just sharp eyes and looking at a site like  or - you'll need to educate yourself on such subjects as identifying worthless "machine doubling" (see ) and you'll probably want to invest in good magnifiers or even a microscope if you start getting serious about this sort of searching.  Keep in mind that these sort of rarities extend beyond wheat ears: they can be found in all pennies and indeed in all the coins you have in your pocket.  In addition to the online resources, I recommend the "Cherry Pickers Guides" which you can find at Amazon (I have not given a link because new editions may be available soon).

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

This week's Coinweek Giveaway:

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Cleaning, Dipping and all that.

Here's my best advice about cleaning coins:  don't.

That's it.  I should just stop there, but I know that there are coins that are simply begging for attention and you may have one of those, so I'll offer an alternative: send it to PCGS or NGC for professional conservation.   They can safely improve the appearance of a problem coin if it can be improved at all.

Here's a cleaned coin:

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

You might be forgiven for thinking that's a nice looking nickel, especially from the photograph. In fact, though, what might have been a $50 or $60 coin is now worth less than $10 - assuming anyone wants it at all!

I had people argue with me about that - specifically the person who sold it to me. He insisted that it wasn't cleaned.  To prove it, I sent it to PCGS and this is what came back:

That's why I say don't do it.

Here, however, we have a happier tale.  This coin was treated with acetone to remove PVC residue from a 25 year life in an improper holder.  As you can see,  PCGS had no "cleaned" problem with this one:

Not all conservation stories end happily, though.  That's why I say leave it to the experts.  This particular coin had cost me about $50 (I bought it in 1988) and was now worth over $100 just for its gold, so I had little to lose by giving it an acetone bath followed by a thorough rinsing in with filtered water.  However, had it been properly stored to begin with, it might have been a MS68 or better.

Dipping and reality

Many, many coins have been "dipped".  There are people who will tell you that products like MS70 will not harm coins.  That assertion may have some truth in it in that a mild dip and thorough rinsing will not cause a grading service to see your coin as cleaned.  However,  in some cases you may have removed value along with whatever the dip removed and multiple dips are even more dangerous.

Also, if improperly rinsed or neutralized, the coin may change appearance later, even when locked away in an air tight environment.  Again, if your coin has value, it's best left to professionals.

If you are still tempted, I ask you to please read "About Coin Dipping, Or What I Learned From Many Mistakes" before you make your final decision.

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

This week's Coinweek Giveaway:

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Trimes or Fish scales - the 3 cent silver coins

It may be hard to imagine how anyone thought it a good idea to issue a silver coin with a value of just three cents.  We did just that in 1851and we continued to do so for twenty two years.

These weighed abut a third of what a modern dime weighs. However, they were almost as large in circumference, which made them very, very thin.  Here's a closer look at one:

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

Unlike dimes and half dimes of the time, the first of these in 1851 were not 90% silver, but only 75%. If they had been 90% silver, they would have to have been made smaller or would have cost too much to produce.  That was already becoming a problem with the larger silver coins - as the price of silver rose after the discovery of gold in California, people began hoarding silver coins.  These three cent pieces weren't of sufficient value to bother, though.

However, the debased mixture tarnished quickly and these were not popular, so in 1854 they returned to 90% silver.  Not wishing to change the width, these were made lighter by reducing the thickness even more.

They were useful for buying 3 cent postage stamps, which was the new price to carry a domestic letter up to 3,000 miles as of 1851 (it had been 5 cents prior to that).  Don't think that this was an insignificant amount of money - a workman might have been paid only ten cents per hour at that time.  In tmodern terms, you might think of this as $5 or $6. 

Now, imagine having a coin that small but worth that much.  It's so small and thin that if you dropped one accidentally, you might not hear it hit the floor.  It could easily work its way through a very small hole in your pocket.  Losing that much money so easily didn't help their popularity. 

It wasn't all that hard to bend these, and today you can find these that obviously were bent - was that to make them easier to find when fishing in a pocket or purse? 

We call them trimes now, but people who used them called them "fish scales".  I said that these were produced for 22 years, but most of them (36 million or so) were made from 1851 to 1853.  Less than 5 million were produced from 1854 to 1858 and less than 2 million from 1859 to the last in 1873.  

See Three Cent Silvers (1851-1873) for more about these tiny coins.

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

This week's Coinweek Giveaway:

Friday, April 25, 2014

Pocket Change

I bought a .999 slver round last week and carelessly dropped it onto concrete as I opened the package. It was in a plastic flip, but that broke open on impact and the coin suffered a nasty edge nick.

Oh, well. I put it in my pocket and mentally wrote it off as pure melt.

The rounds new friends in my pocket

But when I got home, I thought that it might be fun to document its condition as it bounces around in my pocket over the next few months or years. How long will it take to reach XF40, how long for VG20?

I snapped a photo after it had been in my pocket just a few hours.

First day

I'll be photographing it from time to time and posting them here.

Here we are after two days.

This is after four days in pocket.  Liberty's cheek is taking a beating.

And this is after five days.  The reverse is starting to show a few insults,  though the obverse is plainly taking the worst of it. The mirror fields are still visible on both sides, but it looks like they'll be gone soon.

Note:  All my other coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

At night, I take it out and lay it on my dresser so it can accumulate some dust and better air exposure.  I think it's having a fairly normal coin life, missing only the indignity of being swallowed by a vending machine now and then.   It might be getting a bit more jostling than most as I walk briskly for an hour or more most days and can hear it and the other coins clinking as I go along - I imagine most coins get long periods of rest from time to time.

But we'll see how it goes.  More at Pocket Change Part II.

This week's Coinweek Giveaway:

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Review: Coin World Slabs

Most of my collection is in certified slabs, but I have a few coins in flips.  I saw these Coin World Slab Holders and thought I would try to get everything into the same size holder.

As you can see, the concept is simple: put the coin into the inner holder, add a label if you wish, and then snap the plastic case around it.  Done.

Well, not so fast. First, obviously these come in different sizes. If all you will be using these for is standard U.S. coins, picking what you need is easy.  If it is tokens and medals you are slabbing, you need to measure carefully to pick what you need.

Second, there's a bit of a trick to getting the coins into the inserts.  You'll find some instructions here: which explain how to bend the insert and wrap it around the coin.  Don't overdo the bend, though: if you bend too much, the insert will tend to stay bent and that will interfere with closing the case.

It's also critical to line up the insert properly before trying to close the case.  As you can see in the photos, each case has a plastic ridge that matches grooves on the insert. If those don't line up, the case won't close securely.

You'll notice that they do sell labels to fit these inserts.  While putting labels inside certainly makes for a neater and more professional appearance, I have not been able to ascertain if these are acid free and therefore safe to be sealed up with coins.  I'm not saying that they are not - I simply don't know.  It is easy enough to find acid free labels, however.

Here's the finished product (that scratch is on the coin, by the way).

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

This week's Coinweek Giveaway:

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

To grade or not to grade - Baseball Hall of Fame Coins

I am sending  my clad and silver Baseball Hall of Fame proofs to PCGS for grading and encapsulation this morning.  This was not an easy decision, especially for the lower value clad versions.  

Note: All my coins are in a safe deposit box. I keep nothing in my home.

First, there is the issue of cost. PCGS has a quarterly special for grading these specific coins of $39 each. That's twice the original cost of the clads from the Mint and almost as much as the silver, so it adds a significant price burden to each coin.

Second, non-numismatic buyers might prefer original Mint packaging.  The possible wide appeal of this particular coin might create an unusual situation where it could be harder to sell the certified versions!  I don't expect that to be true, but anything is possible.

These issues are of particular concern to "flippers" - those who bought hoping to turn around a quick sale and profit.  Many of them seem to believe that the opportunity for profit will be short lived - they expect values to crash after initial euphoria.

They do have some history on their side.  Quite a few modern commemorative issues have lost value.  There simply have been too many issued, not necessarily in terms of mintage, but in variety of design.  While many coin collectors might be able to accurately name each of the older 1892 to 1954 commemorative coins, I suspect that naming those issued since 1982 would be far more difficult.   Individual examples might have done well by themselves, as a group they become a bit overwhelming.

I think the Baseball coins are different.  The radical curved design sets these apart and baseball is an incredibly popular sport, so that creates wider appeal. There are also already baseball card collectors; collecting this coin could be an easy decision for them.  My guess is that values will stay strong and may even increase.

So, I won't be a flipper.  I'll be putting these away for a long time. It's quite possible that the next people to see these (after they return from PCGS) will be my children after my wife and I are gone.  If so, I hope they are pleasantly surprised by the value at that time.

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

This week's Coinweek Giveaway:

Also multiple contests going on at

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Our first cents

Although we casually call them "pennies", officially we have "cents".  The first coinage of the United States in 1793 carried that name, but there are two other contenders for the honor of being the first American "cent".

One is the so-called "Fugio Cent".  It was the first official cent sized coin and was authorized by the Congress of the Confederation of the United States.  That  seems to seal the question, but the resolution did not say "cent"; it called for the minting of "copper coin" and the coin itself does not carry that wording either.

Additionally, although authorized in 1787, actual coinage didn't arrive at the Treasury until May of 1788.

The coin pictured here is one of the so called "New Haven restrikes" of the 1850's (not made in New Haven and not restrikes, but still collectible).

Against the Fugio's claim we have the Massachusetts Cent.  Although the one pictured here is 1788, these were also produced in 1787 and actually do have "CENT" in the design.  I'd say that is the first American cent.

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

This week's Coinweek Giveaway:

Monday, April 21, 2014


Together, these four coins are a little less than one ounce of gold.  They are all the gold that I own.

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

I'm not a big fan of gold as an investment. I think it can be an excellent hedge against inflation, but there are times when it is over valued and those are not the times to be buying.  I think that right now, with gold at $1,294.30 per ounce as I write this, is one of those times.

I could be wrong, of course.  I'm no expert on this; I'm trusting my gut from a lifetime of experience. I think gold should be around $700 - $900 today and is only higher because of speculation and possibly manipulation by large stakeholders.

Why I think that is because of gold's purchasing power over time.  That's what really matters.  How many ounces of gold would you need to buy a home in 1908, for example? How many in 1975, 2008 and so on?

Depending upon the year you pick, that figure will vary widely, but it quite often settles around 250 ounces. That is, whatever the price of real estate, 250 ounces of gold would buy an average priced home.  So if you bought that average home for 250 ounces in 1908,  you would also pay around 250 ounces a hundred years later in 2008.  That's not an investment, is it?

Of course you can pick different years where it would have cost fewer ounces or more. By being in and out of the gold market at specific times, you could have made large profits - it would have cost less gold to buy that home.  Those who say owning gold is good always pick those times, of course.  But you can equally easily pick times when you would have lost purchasing power over time.

That's my point: if you buy at times where gold is low in purchasing power and sell when it is high, you make out. But when is it high and when is it low?  Real estate has cycles too, so you can't just compare to that.  Sites like can compare dollars to different kinds goods and labor, but as they explain, it gets very complicated.  Advances in manufacturing, food production and the whim of the public affect prices.  It is very hard to nail down what a "good" price for gold is at any given time.  Like many things, it's easy in retrospect, but really hard in the here and now.

Little of that is important to these coins. Numismatically, they are worth about $1,900 retail.  Part of that value comes from the gold itself, but obviously not all of it.  I'd rather own these coins than two ounces of raw gold.  They will have numismatic value even if gold prices plunged to $500 an ounce.

That's why I would always recommend buying numismatic gold over raw gold.  

This week's Coinweek Giveaway:

Also multiple contests going on at

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Grading and authentication: PCGS or NGC?

Most people will tell you that PCGS is better than NGC when buying authenticated coins.  There are some who will dismiss that, but even they have to agree that the market speaks loudly:  a PCGS MS70 coin will almost always sell for more money than the same coin graded MS70 by NGC.

Supposedly this is because NGC is too liberal.  The difference (if it exists at all), isn't much and most of us would be hard pressed to discern an MS69 from an MS70 anyway, but in many cases a one point difference in grade can be very significant, with the  higher grade selling for hundreds of times more than the lower.

The perception that NGC is too liberal means that those price discrepancies affect NGC prices: an NGC MS70 might only command PCGS MS69 prices.

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

It should be noted that there are those who will buy NGC because they believe such differences are too minute to matter and that the NGC is therefore a better value.  If they are not buying with any investment goal in mind, they may be right.

I personally have a bias toward PCGS.  I don't absolutely agree with the "NGC is too liberal" concept, but I do agree that it is perception and that perception affects value.  Should I ever want to sell, that perception will work in my favor.

Some will insist that it is more than perception.  They might point to population reports and show that NGC will have more higher grade coins.  But that doesn't necessarily mean that they are more liberal.  It could also mean that PCGS is too strict and is degrading perfectly good coins for near microscopic imperfections that truly don't matter.  Stories of people getting increased grades by cracking and resubmitting could lend credence to that theory.

Or, it might be NGC that gets large numbers of regrades, which could inflate their numbers.  NGC has less expensive submission fees, so that might cause more resubmissions.

Someday, someone will do a rigorous double blind study.  That would obviously be expensive and time consuming and have a large margin of error, but it just might show that the differences are less than assumed or even non-existent.

My original bias toward PCGS came about more by accident than design.  I had a single PCGS "box-o-twenty" storage box and had bought a few PCGS and a few NGC slabs.  The NGC slabs do not fit in the PCGS box (they fit the slots, but the top  won't close).  Because of that, I began ignoring NGC slabs unless I absolutely couldn't find what I wanted in PCGS.  Had I owned an NGC box, that might not have happened.

By the way, NGC automatically takes photos of most coins. At this time, PCGS does not.

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

This week's Coinweek Giveaway:

Also multiple contests going on at

Saturday, April 19, 2014

BF716 Security Safe Review

I bought this Amsec BF716 safe.

In some respects, this is overkill.  I'm not storing highly valuable items in it.  It's for birth certificates, our wills and some other important papers, some low value coins that would be annoying but not sickening to lose and perhaps for short term storage of better coins before I transfer them to the safe deposit box at the bank.

In other respects, this might be seen as a weak defense. It's fireproof rating is decent but as a burglar proof container, it's bare minimum.  

First, it's only 412 lbs empty. One man with a hand truck can trundle that out of here.  The stairs will pose a little challenge, but a thief wouldn't mind just letting it crash down, so not so much.  But really, this is true for any safe: if people can bring it into your house, people can bring it out.

This safe does have a bottom bolt down hole.  If you could set that into concrete, it might make extraction a bit more difficult, but if it just bolts through your floor, that would barely slow anyone down.

Finally, it's only rated RSC - Residential Security Container.  That means it can survive a five minute attack by a single person armed with nothing more than a heavy duty screwdriver, a hammer,  some muscles and endurance.

Still, given my modest needs and modest budget, this seemed like enough to me. I really couldn't fit anything larger and heavier and spending on heavier steel doesn't necessarily gain you much: the next level up provides fifteen minutes of protection. That's not much, is it?

So, let's take a look.  Specs first:

Price? You can find the BF1716 on-line with in-home delivery for $1,700 or so.

So, what else?

I bought the electronic lock because my wife has difficulties with her hands.  It takes two batteries, accessible from outside.

That bothers me a little - presumably someone with a strong computer background could futz that circuit board?

The lock has useful features.  Let's say that the code was 123456#

You can punch 12345 and 98754317890 and then 6# and it will open. The idea is that it stores 5 numbers and then waits for the last before # so you can fool someone watching.

Get the combo wrong three times and it won't take any combo for the next fifteen minutes (time for the hammer?).

I had to leave it open all day because it was ice cold when it got here and would have been soaking wet inside had I closed it up.

They warn you to open it frequently to avoid condensation.

Now, what will it hold?  I happen to have 9 PCGS Box-O-Twenty holders.  I originally thought those might fit in my safe deposit box, but they won't, but by using those I can demonstrate that you could fit 28 with room left over.  The safe is also big enough to hold typical 8-1/2 x 11 inch binders if that's how you roll.

An adjustable shelf is included:

See for more information.

Don't forget to put desiccant in your safe and SDB and to check it and bake it when it needs regeneration.  I found tins of "Orange indicating" on eBay and Amazon -  I have one in each SDB, and two in the larger safe.  

Note:  All my coins in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

This week's Coinweek Giveaway:

Also multiple contests going on at

Friday, April 18, 2014

Here's your crap: Baseball Hall of Fame Clad Proofs

Because some people don't bother to read and leap to conclusions from the title, please understand that the coins are fine.  Other than one small scratch, the packaging is fine also. What I'm complaining about here is shoddy packing and disrespect for the coins and the customer.

Yesterday I received part of my Baseball Hall of Fame proof coins from the U.S. Mint.  These were not the silver or gold, but only the clad composition.

In case you don't know, let me explain what "proof" coins are.  This is straight from the U.S. Mint itself:
United States Mint proof coins feature sharp relief and a mirror-like background. Their frosted, sculpted foregrounds give them a special cameo effect. Proof blanks are specially treated, polished, and cleaned to ensure high quality strikes. The blanks are then fed into presses fitted with specially polished dies and struck at least twice to ensure sharp relief. The coins are then packaged in a protective lens to showcase and maintain their exceptional finish.
"Specially treated" - remember that.

Here's what the box looked like when I opened it.  

Upon lifting off that piece of packing paper, this is exactly what I saw.

You may be able to see that there is another thin layer of packing paper at the bottom. That dark colored thing with the gold icon is a "mint bag"- something they give away with larger orders. Just what everyone wants: a shopping bag that screams "I have valuable coins!".  I've had two others like this and got rid of them as quickly as I could!

But notice the blue boxes toward the back.

That's as I saw them after lifting off the top "packing".  Nothing packed around them, they were free to bounce around all they wanted.

Now yes, the coins are well protected inside plastic lenses inside those blue boxes. But still: these are presentation pieces, specially minted and handled.  What message does it send when they are carelessly tossed into a box like this?  To me it says "Here's your crap!"

Earlier this year I had ordered silver proof sets - I sent those all back because sloppy packaging had damaged the cases that were protecting the coins.   Here's what those looked like after bouncing over potholes on their way to me:

That rubbing was on the inside of the cases, plainly caused by the coins moving against it during shipment.   Here's your crap.

Fortunately the lenses of the Baseball coins seem to be a tighter fit, so they didn't suffer any damage.

Or did they? They hadn't been hurt by whatever jostling insults they had to endure in shipping.  But..

Do you see that?  It's a scratch.  Oh, not on the coin, but on the protective lens.  Specially treated is for coins, not lenses, apparently.  Thanks for your money, here's your crap!

That didn't happen in shipping.  That happened before that and is large and obvious enough that it should never have got past inspection.  But hey, we are way behind - we gotta ship this crap!

I haven't yet thoroughly examined the rest of the coins. There was nothing that jumped out at me like this, but it won't surprise me to find other evidence of sloppiness.

Here's your crap.

Note:  All my coins in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The little liars

What does this eclectic group have in common?

They are all liars.

Fakes, restrikes, fantasies - none are what they say they are.

The first is a Colonial era counterfeit made at Machin's Mills in Newburgh, NY.  It and other coins were made to look like British coins circulating at the time.

Then there's a double fake! It's a 1962 restrike using dies that were made in the 1870's to match the Continental Dollar of 1776.  Neither the earlier nor later versions were made with intent to defraud, but rather to fill collector demand for this otherwise impossibly scarce coin.

The next is similar, having been struck around 1859, but there was an element of fraud as it was said to be a restrike from original dies, but was not.

Finally, what is this?  There were no Indian Cents in 1910, so this must be a counterfeit, right?

Well, no, because this was struck on top of a genuine Indian Head cent of another year and sold as a fantasy piece with no intent to defraud.

Another thing these pretenders have in common is that they all have numismatic value. In spite of being fakery of varying degree, each of these is bought, sold and collected and in some cases even certified by authentication services - certified as what they are, not as the real thing, but still certified, because there are fakes of fakes that are not valuable!

So in the case of the Continental Dollar, that 1962 restrike of a fake might be worth $175.00 or so but a truly fake version might be found in highway gift shop for a dollar or so.

Strange world, isn't it?

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

This week's Coinweek Giveaway:

Also multiple contests going on at

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Hi There!

I'm Tony Lawrence, the author of this blog.  I have other web sites, and originally this was just a place where I'd stick things that didn't belong anywhere else.

However, more recently I changed its name to reflect what I've been writing about most: coin collecting. I'm not selling anything here!

I collect by type plus a bit of exonumia.  That covers just about anything, so that's what you will find here.  Look below for the most recent posts.

I also have a more unusual collection I call my "Pocket Collection".

Contests and giveaways are here.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Site Review:

I hope this link works for you.  I have had it not work a few times recently. is (straight from the horses mouth):

A site dedicated to the history of US coins. features detailed information on American coins, their designers and even the US Mint itself.

Here's a snapshot of the home page in case they do happen to be unreachable right now.

Some bad news first:   other links at the site may not work or may throw errors.

HOWEVER:  I strongly suggest patience, forgiveness and trying again.

Jonathan Winters (the site owner) obviously cares a lot about coin collecting. His articles are well written, well researched and most important, they are interesting.  His passion shows through, so you should bookmark it for that reason alone.

He does a better job than I do, so if you are reading my drivel, you should be reading also.   Give it a try.  I don't think you will be sorry.

Oh, yeah: If you need extra incentive, he has some contests and giveaways too.

Note:  All my coins in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

This week's Coinweek Giveaway:

Also multiple contests going on at

A few easy to spot but valuable VAM Morgan Dollar varieties

Ah, cherry picking.  Sometimes Ebay sellers just don't know what they have and a sharp eyed scout can score big.
Photo Heritage Auctions, used by permission

For example, a few months back a coin like the one in the picture was purchased at the price of an ordinary 1888-O.  That's an incredibly unusual example because "Scarface" is rather easy to spot - did the seller think those were scratches on the coin?

However, often the sellers most likely to list rarities unknowingly are the ones with the poorest photos. You might be lucky to make out a mintmark at all, never mind being able to see slight doubling!

Nevertheless, there is a short list of Morgan VAMS that have greater value and should be able to be spotted even in a poor photo.  Here is my list:

  • 1880-P knobbed 8
  • 1880-P spiked 8
  • 1886-O E on reverse
  • 1887 P donkey tail
  • 1888-O E on reverse
  • 1888-O Scarface
  • 1888-0 Hot Lips
  • 1889-O E on reverse
  • 1891-O E on reverse
  • 1896-O Micro O
  • 1899-O Micro O
  • 1900-O Micro O
  • 1900-O Die break through date
  • 1901-P Shifted Eagle
  • 1902-O Micro O
  • 1903-S small S

I didn't show details on those; you can look them up at VAMworld or buy the "Top 100 Morgan Silver Dollar Varieties: The VAM Keys" book.

Did I miss anything?  Let me know in the comments!

Note:  All my coins in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

This week's Coinweek Giveaway:

Also multiple contests going on at

A commemorative half dollar at the price of bullion?

This is an unusual coin in many respects.


It was the first commemorative coin issued by the U.S.  Mint since 1954 and it was the first 90% silver coin since 1964.  It's one of only three silver half dollars made after 1964.

Yet you can buy it for little more than the value of the silver it is made of.  I bought the one in the picture for $13.75 and that included shipping.

That wasn't always the case, though.  In 2002, an MS70 sold for  $1,064.00.  Today even that could be had for a bit over $120.00 or so.

What happened?  Well, part of it was surely due to the mint going way overboard with Olympic issue commemoratives in 1995 and 1996.   That turned more than a few people against the series.  This 1982 had been produced in high numbers (over 7 million), so there were plenty to go around.

I suspect that all the clad commemorative halves also help push prices down - new collectors may think all modern commemorative halves are clad.

Do you know the two other 90% halves?  One is the 1993 Madison Bill of Rights and the other is the 1998 Robert F. Kennedy half.  The Madison also sells near bullion prices, while the Kennedy is a little more expensive.

(Wikipedia Commons Image)

Note:  All my coins in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

This week's Coinweek Giveaway:

Also multiple contests going on at