One of the funniest lines I remember from “Cheers” was from Norm. He walked into the club and someone asked him how he was doing. “It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, and I’m wearing Milk-Bone underwear.”
If you are a coin collector or someone who likes to invest in precious metals, there are less-than-ethical, even dishonest, sellers of coins and precious metals out there. My goal in this article is to make sure you’re not wearing Milk-Bone underwear while you’re enjoying your hobby or spending bucks on gold and silver.
In national publications, and the Sunday newspaper Parade
supplement is a perfect example of this, there are often some of these types of ads. One of them features “mint” bags of perhaps walking liberty half dollars or buffalo nickels. I haven’t seen one of these personally, but my first red flag is that these look awfully small to me! A mint bag of half dollars small enough to hold only ten is not nearly as valuable as one that will hold a thousand! These coins are readily obtainable from many dealers for $9 to $12 all day long, with no shipping charges; so watch what the quantity inside these bags actually is. Be careful of contents listed in pounds or ounces—this just confuses the issue! Buffalo nickels are also available for $25-$40 per roll of 40. The same logic applies to these coins and mint bags, too.
Imagine finding three grams of treasure in your pocket worth $40,000. Would this be platinum? Weapons-grade plutonium? An invisibility serum?
How about a copper penny, found in change? Impossible, right? Wrong! A couple of years ago, collectors from the Brown County Coin Club were in Ft. Worth at the American Numismatic Association’s national coin show, an event that rarely comes to Texas. While there, a couple of the guys overheard the following true tale.
A fellow brings up a 1969 S (S for San Francisco mint) cent, with doubling, to the ANACS representative who takes in coins for authentication. He immediately takes the coins to one of his graders, for a quick opinion on what was presented to them. “Yes,” the grader said, “This is an authentic 1969 S Lincoln cent with doubling, in a grade of Mint State 65.” From there, the ANACS rep took the penny and its owner, to a dealer whom he knew dealt in these kinds of coins. The dealer offered the owner $40,000 for it, but was turned down because the book value on it was $85,000! Can you believe a value of $85,000 for a penny found in pocket change!
As my readers may know, I have opened a coin shop and metal detector store in Early. In some respects, this seems to be an odd pairing of unrelated ventures. However, let me explain the solid connection between the two hobbies.
First of all, this area of Texas has two kinds of treasure tales that one hears fairly often.
The earliest treasures are those that were “lost” by the Spaniards that explored much of the Southwest. If you’ll remember, the Spanish’s main goal, after converting the natives to Christianity, was to find all the gold they could find. There are stories of old Spanish mines, old Spanish smelters for melting gold and silver, and reports of both gold and silver bars, all found if not in Brown County, then within the surrounding counties. For example, the legendary lost San Saba mine, near Menard, is not more than a hundred miles from here. The legend of Jim Bowie’s mine says that hismine wasn’t very far from Brown County.
These Spanish treasure caches, supposedly, were caused when the Comanche Indians got too close to the Spanish expeditions. They were hidden to prevent them from being stolen. Then, the caches were lost or forgotten to be searched for centuries later.Nearly a hundred years ago, Texas historian J. Frank Dobie wrote Legends of Texas in two short volumes that record many of these stories.
Last month I wrote an article about coin collecting in today’s economy. I thought I would follow that up with an update on buying coins safely on eBay and how I have seen eBay evolve. There has been a significant shift in the way many sellers are doing business.
First of all, and not that long ago, most coin sales on eBay were of the auction format. Coins started at a lower price, and bidders bid on them until time ran out and the high bidder won the coin. Many times, good, desirable coins sold for just about what the retail value was. What I have observed, though, is now most coins are listed in a “buy it now” format, with high to extremely high prices. The bargains are much fewer and much further between these days, but they are still there.
There are several ways to search for coins on eBay. For example, if you are searching for a good deal on whatever coin comes up, you would go to your category, let’s say all “U.S. Coins,” and you would select the “ending soonest” sorting function. If you needed one last key coin for your set of Mercury dimes,you might sort Mercury dimes by “newly listed” to get an early shot at any of the newest additions to the venue. Suppose you needed an item quickly for crazy Uncle Bill’s birthday. You might choose the “buy it now” format so that you won’t have to wait for several days of auction to run.
As with any coin, you need to do your homework. Recently I saw a certified 1972 doubled die Lincoln cent for a “Buy it Now” of $150. That particular date has about a dozen doubled dies, with two or three of them worth up to $500 each. The rest are worth from $5 to $50. Since I would love to have one of these better DDO’s, I pulled out my Cherrypicker’s Guide to Rare Die Varieties
. I soon learned that this coin was one that was valued at $15 so I didn’t bother to bid on it.
As I write this, I see that gold is trading at $1568 an ounce, while silver is barely over $27. If you follow these markets at all, you might recall that not too long ago, gold was nearly $2,000 while silver was pushing $50.
If you attend coin shows, you have observed that many, if not most dealers are reporting that about all that any one is wanting is silver and gold bullion items. This would include American Silver and Gold Eagle coins as well as “junk” silver coins. Junk silver coins are common date coins from before 1965 that were made of 90% silver. Because hundreds of millions of these were minted, most are not rare and have little collectible value, so they are saved for their silver content and they represent a great way to invest in silver. What does this have to do with coin collecting? Plenty, if you are true coin collector!
This means that the feeding frenzy for silver and gold has actually lowered the demand somewhat for truly collectible coins—the coins produced in a lower mintage and that are necessary to complete a set.
It’s amusing how information on the internet can take on a life of its own. Just the other day, on Facebook, someone reposted a warning that first appeared in 2007 to all God-fearing Americans, when the first “gold” presidential dollars appeared. When these coins were legislated into existence, it was decreed that the motto of “In God We Trust,” the date, and the mintmark should all appear on the edge of the coins. (Get your reading glasses!) Most folks weren’t aware of this—how dare they take this off of our coins! This was so that more detail of the presidents’ mug shots could be shown. (A side note: they never imagined how ugly and Chucky Cheese token-like these almost non-circulating coins would be!)
This article will not focus on these coins, but rather on some background on “In God We Trust” found on our coins. The first coin to ever have this sentiment on it was the 2c coin, first minted in 1864. Perhaps this was added to the coin because of the trials and tribulations of the Civil War, and God was looked to more during these crisis years. Two cent coins were short lived; they were only minted from 1864 to 1873. Very nice examples can be bought for $20-$35 or so.
Several other coin series included this motto, mostly off and on through the mid-1800s. Its use on the Lincoln cent has been uninterrupted since its inception in 1909. Then, when the Jefferson nickel debuted in 1938, all of our coins included “In God We Trust” on them.
No, I’m not pushing a premium movie channel package with your current television provider! I’m referring to the Brown County Coin Club’s 4th Annual Coin Show which will be here soon.
This event will be held at the Heartland Mall, in the vacant Corral West Western Wear store, on Friday, February 15 from noon to 6:00 pm, and on Saturday, February 16, from 10:00 am to 5 pm. Admission is free.
This show provides a taste of what collecting coins is all about. It is also a great time to get acquainted with the coin club. Feel free to approach a member and ask one of us what the club is all about.This event is not a big fundraiser for the club; it is held for the benefit of community members, interested local folks, and to promote the hobby of coin collecting.
We have lost a couple of dealers from last year, but we have gained several new dealers who will be making their first appearances at our show. Right now, we have about 20 dealers from across the state and at least four of the club members will have tables, including me. The Central Texas Treasure Hunters Club will have a table, too, to introduce you to metal detecting, another great hobby. One of the four “reputable” grading and authentication firms, ANACS, will be there to take your submissions for grading.
If you were in bookstores searching for the most common, collectible publications on coin collecting, the first most popular would be the Redbook of coins, which started in 1947 and is published annually. The second most common, though, and highly collectible is the Star Rare Coin Encyclopedia, by B. Max Mehl, who was from Ft. Worth.
Who was Benjamin Max Mehl, and why are his publications so sought after when it has been over 50 years since any were published?
In 1903, when Max began collecting coins, the most successful dealers were on the East Coast. Max, a Jewish high school dropout, realized that the only way he could compete was to promote the heck out of his business! Established dealers promoted their businesses in publications devoted to collectors. Max bought big ads in mainstream publications like the Saturday Evening Post to appeal to non-collectors.
One of his biggest promotions was to offer $50 for a 1913 Liberty “V” nickel that anyone would find and sell to him. This was about two weeks’ pay for the average working man of the day. (These trade for $4,000,000 each now!) Max knew there were only five of these minted, and he knew where all of them were, but that didn’t stop him from starting a nationwide hunt for these ultra rarities. There were stories of street car conductors tying up traffic as they searched the fares for one of these! Of course, none were ever found, but this wild-goose chase was the “gateway drug” for coin collecting for many Americans!