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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Nickels, Half-Dollars And Dollars

( Orginally published 1962 )


Every day you see at least one buffalo nickel-and use it to buy a nickel's worth of gum or pencils or candy. But you ought to look at it more carefully before you spend it, because if it happens to be a 1937 buffalo nickel issued by the Denver mint, and if the buffalo has only three legs, then the nickel is worth as much as $125.

So recent yet so valuable-in direct opposition to the popular conception of the value of coins. And one of the most costly mistakes a person looking for rare coins can make is to think that age is a primary factor in determining value.

Coins of ancient Rome, for example, are sometimes worth as little as fifty cents, and some recent coins, such as the above nickel, are worth small fortunes.

Other factors, also, determine the value of a coin. To be valuable a coin must be in excellent condition and be considered a rarity by the collectors. Sometimes a coin is rare because only a few are issued, such as the 1861 Confederate silver half-dollar. Only four of this type and this date were issued, and for this reason the value of this coin can go as high as $20,000. (This is not the restrike of 1879, which is only worth about $200 to $400.)

There are times when a coin is such a rarity that the collectors will pay almost any price for it. One of these is the 1804 silver dollar, so rare that collectors all over the world would bid for it-if you could find it.

Today a few examples of this rare coin have been found and placed in the hands of the collectors. Estimates of this fabled dollar have reached as high as $30,000, a three million percent profit from an investment of a dollar-if you can find one.

Not quite so profitable, yet still high on the treasure hunter's list is an "eight bit" piece which is valued as high as $15,000. This is the Brasher Doubloon, a coin struck in 1787 by Ephraim Brasher.

The Brasher Doubloon is made of gold. On one side of the coin is a mountain with a sun rising behind it, and on the other side is a spread eagle. The coin may also be identified by the punch mark, which is EB. The Brasher Doubloon, of course, is one of those coins which for most of us automatically suggests great value. This certainly is true but, fortunately for the treasure hunter, there are other coins which should not be overlooked by the seeker of treasures.

One of these is the unc. 1914 D Lincoln cent, either one by one or by the roll. Each of these pennies-if their condition satisfies the numismatists, can be valued as high as $350. A roll of these pennies is worth up to $17,500.

Later in issue, yet still valuable, are the 1921 S Lincoln pennies, which are worth up to $125 apiece-or $6,250 for a roll of fifty. Many coins are of some value yet not worth fortunes, such as the Massachusetts Pine, Oak, and Willow Tree coins, which are only worth from $50 to $100, or the Sommer Island Shilling, which is valued from $75 to $250. Yet I do not suppose that anyone would willingly throw away coins worth such "minor" value. Even a small return is better than none.

Markets for coins are relatively easy to find. Coin collecting is one of the most common hobbies in the world, and collectors bid eagerly for good specimens. In America alone there are over twentyfive thousand numismatists and well over 100,000 active, enthusiastic "coin collectors." There are coin shops in almost every city, every town, every village in the nation.

Finds have been made in the past and will, undoubtedly, be made again. It is far better to laboriously watch over every coin you receive than to acquire a coin worth a fortune and lose it by handing it out as change to the man at the corner gas station.

Most coin companies will mail their catalogues to you for a nominal price or sometimes for nothing. It is, then, a simple matter to check the coins you have against the coins in the catalogue.

If you should have a coin which you feel is of value, after checking it against a catalogue, do not send it to a dealer. Coins get lost in the mail and it is impossible to insure a coin properly unless you are certain of its value. Also, if the coin is not of value, time and mailing costs have been lost both on your part and on the part of the dealer.

It is far better to make a rubbing of the coin by placing it under a sheet of paper and rubbing gently across it with the edge of a pencil. Do this to both sides of the coin, and then forward the sheet of paper, not the coin, to the dealer. If he is interested and it is a rare coin, chances are good that he will reply by return mail.

Also, there are coin clubs in almost every area of the United States, and each member is interested in your coins. If they cannot afford to buy, they at least may tell you who can.

Any coin is worth checking-because it might be worth a fortune. What a shame it would be to spend a $100 nickel on five cent's worth of bubblegum.