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( Article orginally published July 1959 )
In 1916 the Liberty Walking half dollars, Liberty Standing quarters, and Mercury dimes appeared. This meant the end of the Liberty Head series of halves, quarters, and dimes that had been in circulation since 1892.
These Liberty Head coins continued in circulation for several decades, gradually diminishing in quantity as they wore out. At first when many of them were sharp, non collectors would not pay any attention to them, but say 20 or 30 years later, every last surviving Liberty Head found in circulation immediately was held out as a possible rare coin-no matter how badly worn.
At this stage, the majority were so badly worn as to be classified as fair to good condition. Any coin in such a condition, unless excessively rare, seldom is of much premium value. It must also be remembered that short issues and real rarities would have long since disappeared from circulation, simply due to the smallness of their numbers. Those that lasted until the end would be the commonest, due to the quantity around.
While this means the Liberty Head coins are now almost completely out of circulation, thousands of them are in the hands of collectors and hoarders. Inspecting prevailing catalog values, we find that they are all listed as being worth a premium, some premiums quite high.
This leads those who have quantities of Liberty Head coins to think they are worth a lot of money. Truth is that, while they catalog so high, everyone has quantities of them, and consequently is not interested in purchasing them at high premium prices. With no demand, what good is a catalog value?
Interest in collecting Liberty Head coins has been accelerated by the ever-popular Whitman boards, and many thousands of collectors are endeavoring to complete collections of Liberty Head coins by picking them out of circulation. This type of collector is not inclined to pay premiums, unless perhaps he only requires one or two to complete the board, and if the premium is not too much he will purchase the coins. This will not bring the value of the thousands available anywhere near catalog.
There is a situation pertaining to Liberty Head nickels and Liberty Head dollars-thousands are available in circulated condition with not enough purchasers. The dollars are still obtainable in uncirculated condition, and we understand that the last of the Denver mint silver dollars, 35,000,000, are to be put into circulation this summer, all brand new and dating back to 1921. We also understand that there are millions more uncirculated dollars still to be released by the Federal Reserves as the demand calls for them.
There is always some rumor circulating when new coins come out. The 1883 nickel, when it first came out, was known as the racketeer nickel. It failed to have the word "cents" upon it and promptly became gold plated and passed as a five dollar gold piece. The design was quickly changed, and literally millions of these nickels were hoarded without the word "cents." These are still available in excellent condition.
A howl went up when Victor D. Brenner had his initials on the reverse of the new 1909 Lincoln cent, and his initials were promptly removed. Everybody hoarded the ones with the VDB on them. Outcome? It is the commonest one of all from the Philadelphia mint.
I can remember looking through old coin books several decades ago printed by old time dealers and ail had in the front:
"COINS WE DO NOT BUY: 1883 nickels without the word cents 1909 VDB cents."
When the 1916 Liberty Standing quarters came out and got into circulation in 1917, another howl was made. Miss Liberty was naked from the waist up! This was promptly changed the latter part of 1917. The 1916 quarters are rare. Few saw them for they did not get into circulation very much. The 1917 type is still the commonest of this type, particularly from the Philadelphia mint.
The first 1921 Peace dollars were thought to be commemorative coins but the number of years they were coined takes them out of this category. The complaint over these was that they were so high they would not stack. The design was corrected in 1922 to make them stack and so satisfy bankers.
1932 quarters were originally intended to be commemorative coins which they are not. Remember about the supposed "Flag Pole" on Monticello which one of the big commentators announced over the radio? It set thousands of people searching for this fabled rarity on the new Jefferson nickels.
When the Roosevelt dime came out the initials of the engraver, John Sinnock, appeared at the truncation of the neck. Many said they were the initials of Joseph Stalin. This again was voiced in 1948 when the Franklin halves first appeared with the same initials.
Our new Lincoln cent with the Lincoln memorial has not been subjected to much criticism as yet and I am surprised. The only criticism I have heard is about the fact that they will not stack well, are slightly lop-sided. Some do not like the small "o" in "Of" for the legend "United States of America."
Keep your ears open. I expect something to come any time now pertaining to our new cent. Personally, I think it a nice looking coin.