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!
Maybe you have worked to accumulate all one hundred of the shiney, new state quarters, a D and a P mintmark for each state, each resting in its proper niche in the State Quarters Album. . . thinking, “Maybe in 20, 30, or even 50 years I will have a nice valuable collection for my children or grandchildren.” Does this describe you?
Putting together a collection of anything is a lot of fun. Waiting for the latest quarter to come out, watching for it in change, and plugging holes in albums are all gratifying. And, the State Quarters program was a great “gateway” into coin collecting, bringing many kids and adults into this neat hobby. But, what will the value of that state quarter collection be in 50 years?
Not much, I’m predicting. Why? There are two keys to making a coin valuable. Those keys are “rarity” and “condition.”
Take, for example, the 2004 Texas quarters. Did you realize that there were 278 million of the Philadelphia mint quarters made, while there were 263 million of the Denver quarters minted? These will never be rare because so many were minted. Imagine for a minute there were 263 million Rolls Royse cars made in 2004; there would be a glut of them on the market and none would be worth the super premium price they bring when the supply is low.
There are three kinds of coin collectors: investors, collectors, and hoarders. Generally, my articles are directed to those who build collections for the thrill of putting together a set of coins of some type. This article is about coin hoarders, and the joy they bring to collectors when a collector runs into a hoard!
Coin hoarders, just like those folks on the TV show “Hoarders” who accumulate various odds and ends, indiscriminately accumulate coins. Here are a couple of local examples. A few years ago, someone showed me her stash from her bank deposit box of the 2,600 silver quarters she had inherited. At today’s silver price, that’s nearly $15,000. Another club member recently went through another person’s inherited hoard. Among many other coins, he found 1,800 Walking Liberty halves, with a minimum value of over $20,000.
I will share two of the most famous American hoards, the Redfield hoard and the New York Subway hoard. Maybe my story will entice you to dig into that hoard you or your grandparent have stored away from years ago.
We have all seen shows such as “Pawn Stars” where the shop gets in an old and valuable item, but they won’t make an offer on the item until an “expert” has evaluated it for them. Wouldn’t it be nice, in the coin collecting world, to have these experts to fall back on?
Oh, wait, we do . . . it is called third party grading. There are four reputable firms who will take your coins, evaluate their authenticity and grade, and encapsulate them in tamper proof holders for long term storage.
The top of the line firm is PCGS (Professional Coin Grading Service). You must be a member of their “collectors club” or a dealer to submit coins to them. NGC (Numismatic Guaranty Corporation) is the next highly regarded coin graders. You can submit coins to them in the same manner, or members of the American Numismatic Association can also submit coins.