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Error Searching Rewarded With New First
|By Ken Potter, Numismatic News
February 07, 2013
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It was no fluke that Jeff Young of Ohio found the first reported 1983-D cent struck on a 95 percent copper planchet rather than the copper-plated zinc used in that year. He brought a box of other rare coins that he has found in circulation.
In the Jan. 29 issue of Numismatic News I reported upon the discovery of the first known 1983-D homogeneous copper ally cent by Jeff Young of Ohio. I indicated that I was reasonably convinced of its authenticity. This was based on the image of the coin on a scale showing it weighing 3.1 grams, (the correct weight for a pre-1983 95-percent copper alloy planchet). Other images showed the surface without any evidence of planchet blisters that can be diagnostic of the later copper-plated zinc cents produced since mid-1982.
My determination was contingent upon him bringing the coin to me for an hands-on examination. Two weeks later Young brought the coin to a local antique shop, Antiques By Time, Stockbridge, Mich., whose owner agreed to allow me to drag in my large tub of photography equipment, etc., to do the job.
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I am now happy to report that I am fully convinced that Young has indeed found the first 1983-D 95-percent copper cent. It weighed exactly 3.1 grams on my scale, passed the “ring test”; i.e., it had an identical ring to an earlier dated solid copper cent rather than the duller thud of a copper- plated zinc cent when he dropped it several times upon a hard surface.
Close examination of the surface showed no evidence of plating blisters that are very often present on the majority of copper-plated zinc cents, though these defects are often so minor they are overlooked by casual observers using magnifications of 10x or under.
But it didn’t stop there. Young also brought a double row box of his other finds from circulation. While there were many, I thought I’d show a few that represented the cream of the crop.
His first coin was a 1966 doubled-die reverse cent. It represents only the third example found since it was first reported upon in The Combined Organizations of Numismatic Error Collectors of America’s, Errorscope in 1999 and again in Numismatic News when the second specimen was discovered in 2011. To date I am not aware of an example trading either privately or through auction, but it assuredly falls into a value of thousands of dollars even in circulated grade.
While it doesn’t have the strength or pizazz of the 1983 doubled-die cent, it is certainly worth far more based on its rarity. It will be included in the upcoming fourth edition of Strike It Rich With Pocket Change by Dr. Brian Allen and me. I have listed it as FS-801 for inclusion in the Cherrypickers’ Guide To Rare Die Varieties. I show images of UNI of UNITED, ONE and the designer initials, FG.
Young’s next find is of course the 1983 doubled die reverse shown here. This is a Red Book variety known by virtually all collectors since 1983 yet they can still be found in circulation if you take the time to look. I show the word UNITED and ONE CENT but the doubling is much more extensive.
Another neat find is his 1999 Wide AM (of AMERICA) cent. Despite of the fact it came out of a roll of circulation cents, it was a solid full red MS-65 in my opinion. Coin Prices Magazine pegs these at $450 but certified examples often bring significantly more.
One of the major highlights that really surprised me was a 1967 business strike doubled-die reverse quarter dollar with strong doubling on E PLURIBUS UNUM and some lesser doubling on the lower serifs of AMERICA and eagle’s beak. It is a known variety that Dr. James Wiles, CONECA’s Attributer of 20/21st Century Die Varieties, says has proven to be rare. I have listed this one for the Cherrypickers’ Guide as FS-802.
Young had many other finds too numerous to show including a 1984 doubled- die obverse No. 1 cent, an unlisted 2007-P doubled-die obverse dime (best on date), three 1978 cents struck on copper alloy planchets that weighed between 2.4 and 2.5 grams that appeared to be foreign planchets, and several different Major Die Break Cuds.
There are new discoveries out there in circulation worth hundreds and thousands of dollars just waiting to be found. Let me know what you find!
Ken Potter is the official attributer of world doubled dies for the Combined Organizations of Numismatic Error Collectors of America. He is co-author with Dr. Brian Allen of Krause Publications’ “Strike It Rich With Pocket Change” and the editor of “The Cherrypickers’ Guide To Rare Die Varieties.” More information about how to get a coin listed in the Variety Coin Register may be obtained by sending him a long, self-addressed envelope with 65 cents postage to P.O. Box 34, Stockbridge, MI 49285, or by contacting him via email at KPotter256@aol.com. An educational image gallery may be viewed on his website at www.koinpro.com
Mint may note centennial of Indian 5c coin
Conducting market research into potential products
By Paul Gilkes-Coin World | Dec. 10, 2012 7:00 a.m.
Article first published in 2012-24-12, U.S. Collectibles section of Coin World
Images courtesy of HeritageAuctions.com.
The United States Mint is conducting market research among its customers and the general public to determine what numismatic products should be issued in 2013, including possibly recognizing the centennial anniversary of the Indian Head 5-cent coin.
The Mint is contemplating changing the designs for the current American Buffalo gold coin in 2014 or after, but it does not propose any new coins, nor does the surveying include any questions related to 5-cent coins, according to Tom Jurkowsky, director of the U.S. Mint’s Office of Public Affairs.
Any changes to the Thomas Jefferson obverse and Monticello reverse of the current circulation 5-cent coin would require congressional authorization, notes Jurkowsky. U.S. Mint officials are not considering any change to the circulating coin designs, he said.
Jurkowsky said National Analysts Worldwide, a Philadelphia firm under contract by the Mint, has conducted focus group surveys in four U.S. cities on three major coin product subjects:
➤ American Buffalo Design 100th anniversary: research involving interest in a Reverse Proof 2013 American Buffalo gold coin option (either as the sole Proof American Buffalo option for the year or in addition to the regular option) and in changing the American Buffalo coin design in future years
➤ 2013 special product testing for alternative special products featuring the 5-Star Generals commemorative coins, Theodore Roosevelt silver dollar, and a silver dollar coin and currency set.
➤ Research into the Mint’s ongoing product fulfillment satisfaction tracking survey.
Focus groups were conducted by National Analysts Worldwide Nov. 7 and 8 in Philadelphia; Nov. 14 and 15 in Phoenix; Nov. 28 and 29 in Detroit; and in Austin, Texas, Dec. 4 and 5.
The U.S. Mint also invited by email an undisclosed number of customers to participate in the American Buffalo Design 100th Anniversary survey.
Sculptor James Earle Fraser’s designs for the Indian Head 5-cent coin, introduced with the Bison on Mound Reverse in 1913, have been adapted twice for 21st century United States coins.
Fraser’s designs were adapted for the American Buffalo commemorative silver dollar, introduced in 2001 in Proof and Uncirculated versions.
The designs are also in use for the American Buffalo .9999 fine gold bullion coins, introduced in 2006 and produced annually since.
Fraser’s original Bison on Mound reverse subtype, sometimes referred to as Type I, was replaced later in 1913 with the modified Bison on Plain reverse subtype, often referred to as Type II.
The Indian Head, Bison on Plain 5-cent coin was issued until it was replaced in 1938 with the Jefferson 5-cent coin. ■
Unwanted Threes Originally Though Useful for Postage
|By Tom LaMarre, Coins Magazine
September 05, 2012
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The three-cent piece originated as a convenience but became a nuisance. Although the Mint struck three-cent pieces in silver and copper-nickel, they never caught on, except with coin collectors. A law that reduced the postage rate to three cents provided for the three-cent piece. The denomination made it easier to purchase a single stamp, a common practice in the 1850s.
The Cyclopedia of Commerce and Commercial Navigation (1858), by Isaac Smith Homans, said the law provided for a three-cent piece composed of three-fourths silver and one-fourth copper. The three-cent piece, known as the “trime,” weighed only 12 3/8 grains.
Engraver James Longacre designed the new coin. A six-pointed star, adorned with a shield, appeared on the obverse. The reverse had the Roman numeral “III” within an ornately engraved “C.” Production was impressive in the early years. The Dec. 11, 1852, issue of the Daily Free Democrat said, “There are 4 million three-cent pieces in circulation.” Actually, nearly 25 million had been struck, including more than 700,000 from the New Orleans Mint, the only branch mint three-cent pieces.
Problems with the three-cent piece had already developed, including counterfeiting and striking difficulties. The July 17, 1851, issue of the Burlington Hawk-Eye said:
“It has been suggested that the new three-cent piece might be counterfeited. The Philadelphia Gazette goes into a careful estimate of the value of the piece and shows that the three-cent piece is actually worth two cents, nine and six-tenths mills. Four-tenths of a mill will be rather poor pay for counterfeiting.”
To improve striking quality, Longacre added three outlines to the star in 1854 and switched to two in 1859, but it didn’t help.
Complaining about a “superabundance” of the coins, the New York Times called the decision to suspend production of three-cent pieces in April 1853 “a delightful reflection.”
The suspension was only temporary. Mintages went into a tailspin after 1862 and ended with the proof-only 1873.
In the meantime, the Mint had begun striking larger, easier-to-handle copper-nickel three-cent pieces. The first examples went into circulation in 1865, showcasing Longacre’s Liberty Head obverse and a reverse displaying “III” within a wreath.
By law, copper-nickel three-cent pieces were “legal tender in any payment to the amount of 60 cents.”
The May 22, 1865, issue of the Republican Compiler commended the design for its beauty and called the copper-nickel three-cent piece “a neat coin.”
Mintages started out strong and then dropped like a hot rivet. Mint Director James R. Snowden despised the copper-nickel three-cent piece and applauded its decline. In 1870 he said:
“The base coinage of five and three-cent pieces will soon be found to be a positive nuisance and a subject of great embarrassment and loss, especially to small dealers.
“Moreover, the intrinsic value of the copper and nickel in these pieces is so largely below the nominal value of the coins that we will have a flood of counterfeits and imitations of them, and will otherwise experience great inconvenience from their introduction into circulation.”
In 1883, a New York Times editorial said that with the three-cent postage rate about to end, the three-cent coin should “follow the leader” into permanent retirement. It did, but not until 1889.
In his December 1883 message to Congress, President Chester Arthur wrote, “The three-cent piece of the minor coinage resembles the silver dime so much in size and appearance as to be troublesome; and this more than offsets any convenience that might be claimed for a piece of this denomination.”
Arthur urged Congress to provide for three-cent pieces’ redemption and retirement by recoinage into five-cent nickels.
The 1899 edition of The Normal Standard Arithmetic said three-cent pieces were “still occasionally seen in circulation.”
In Very Good-8, a copper-nickel three-cent piece is valued at less than $20, and a silver “trime” at about $50.
Harmony Hoard Kept Half Prices Down
|By Paul M. Green, Numismatic News
July 06, 2012
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The 1815 Bust half dollar is actually an 1815/2, but either way you look at it, the 1815 is the key date of its type. That is no small order as the type was made from 1807 through 1835.
The 1815 is an interesting story on a variety of fronts. The year 1815 was a time of fairly low mintages because the War of 1812 was just ending. What with British troops running all over the countryside the prior year and assorted other problems, coin collecting was not at its peak. The few collectors there might have been were likely to be looking for cents.
As it happened, 1815 was the one year when the U.S. Mint did not produce cents. The country’s situation was strained, to say the least.
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The average half dollar at the time was in many ways a reserve coin as it was the largest silver denomination in production. The Second Bank of the United States reportedly had large numbers and, while located in Philadelphia, it had many branches so the coins could have been moved around.
Of note is that, like other dates of the period, the 1815 was not always well made. The dies were frequently used for too long.
There is a somewhat unusual trait for the half dollars of the period in that they tend to be about VF-20. Examples in lower grades are not that common, primarily because the coins did not see that much circulation. Higher grades are not common because they were not saved in any numbers when released.
Overall, however, the type is available, but the 1815/2 is not primarily because it had a mintage of just 47,150 pieces. That results in a price today of $1,100. An MS-60 is $14,500, and an MS-65 is $85,000. The most available VF-20 would be around $3,650.
In terms of price, it could be a lot worse. However, according to the March 1881 Coin Collector’s Journal, 100 examples of the 1815/2 were found in Economy, Pa., in the hoard of the Harmony Society. The hoard contained well over 110,000 silver coins but especially half dollars.
The Harmony Society was a utopian group that believed in paying “in money,” which meant silver. Their huge stash of half dollars has made an enormous difference in the number of half dollars from the period up to 1836 found in the market today. This might well be he case with the 1815/2. The 1815/2 half dollar has been graded 187 times by the Professional Coin Grading Service. Five of that total were called Mint State. At the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation, a total of 162 examples of the 1815/2 are reported with 21 being called Mint State.
It is difficult to determine why the Mint State percentage at NGC is higher than the percentage at PCGS. Assorted factors could come into play including very simply that NGC was sent nicer coins.
Combined, about 350 examples of the 1815/2 have been graded. Some were certainly repeats, but it seems fair to assume there might be 400 examples known. If so, that means the Harmony Society hoard accounted for 25 percent of the number known today. Even though the 1815/2 commands premium prices today, they could have been much higher were it not for the hoard
Prices Are Low Considering Mintages
|By Paul M. Green, Numismatic News
May 02, 2012
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It was the product of the inflationary time of the silver war. It is not made of silver. In 1865, that was the charm of the copper-nickel 3-cent piece. Silver and gold coins were not circulating. Today, if you are looking for an interesting collection from the 1800s at an affordable price, the copper-nickel 3-cent piece has a lot to offer. It’s an interesting coin and a historical one thatt while short-lived was in production for an important time in American history.
The idea of a 3-cent coin did not come naturally to the United States. It is not a natural fit in a decimal system nor does it seem to have any roots in the British system of pounds, shillings and pence.
With that in mind you will say no wonder there was apparently no consideration of such a denomination back when the first denominations were authorized in 1792. There was no U.S. Mint at the time and once one was established it was not capable of producing even the denominations that were authorized for a variety of reasons.
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In reality, the 3-cent piece while oftentimes joined with the other denominations no longer in production such as the half cent, 2-cent piece and 20-cent piece, it does have its own history as do the others. The half cent was approved in 1792 and had somewhat sporadic use until 1857 when it was discontinued.
In the case of the 2-cent piece it seemed to be an idea waiting for its time to come. It was not approved in 1792 but by the early 1800s there was a proposal in the Congress in 1806, which actually was gaining support before the Mint director raised potential problems with the proposed alloy. That would stall the idea for a few decades, but it was considered again in the 1830s, but that time too it was not approved. Ultimately, the Civil War would produce an emergency where the 2-cent piece could help and that would prove to be the case with a copper-nickel 3-cent piece as well.
The idea of a 3-cent piece did not really surface until the late 1840s. At that time there were problems on the horizon as the discovery of gold in California had upset the normal silver-to-gold ratio, making silver more expensive in terms of gold. As that was happening, a congressional committee was looking into the idea of new denominations. One of the denominations being considered was a 2.5 cent piece, which sounds ridiculous but actually made some sense as at the time there were still Spanish issues in circulation with one of the most frequently encountered being the “bit,” which was valued at 12.5 cents. Under the circumstances, the 2.5-cent piece if approved would make change for a “bit” possible. There are 8 bits in the Spanish dollar, also know as the 8 reales. The U.S. dollar was based on this coin. The proposal for the 2.5-cent coin was not approved perhaps in part because they were hoping to get the Spanish silver removed from circulation, and by 1857 this is in fact what happened.
As silver coins started to disappear from circulation because they were being hoarded in the late 1840s as they cost more than their face value to produce there should have been action to slightly reduce the amount of silver in the silver coins. The Congress, however, had a track record of moving very slowly with such reductions. The amount of gold in gold issues had needed a reduction for more than a decade before any action was taken in 1834.
Things were no faster when it came to silver. Rather than reduce the amount of silver, the Congress instead authorized a 75 percent silver 3-cent piece. The claim at the time was that it would help make change for the new lower priced first class postage stamps. It was a classic case of political spin as making change for postage stamps, which relatively few used anyway, was hardly a significant problem. It did, however, perhaps make the new denomination look like a public service and not a debasing of the coins thus making it a better political option.
As it turned out, the 75 percent silver 3-cent piece introduced in 1851 worked although only in a limited way. It did circulate at a time when no other silver coins would, but it could not be expected to solver all the problems presented by a lack of other silver denominations. Eventually the Congress had to face the fact that it needed to act, which it did in 1853, by reducing the amount of silver in the regular issues and increasing the silver to 90 percent in the new 3-cent piece.
With the change the 90 percent silver 3-cent piece had a problem in that it was not really needed for making change any longer. What little lingering problem there might have been because the copper half cents and large cents were bulky was solved in 1857 when the new and smaller Flying Eagle cent was introduced. The lack of demand for the silver 3-cent piece is clearly seen in decreasing mintages during the 1850s.
The silver composition of the 3-cent piece was to set it up for future problems and they were not long in coming. With a silver composition if there was another time of massive hoarding, while small the 3-cent piece was going to be hoarded right along with the other silver denominations. That problem was to surface the minute the first gun was fired in the Civil War.
The hoarding which began with the start of the Civil War was far worse than had been seen in the early 1850s. The 1850s hoarding was driven by economic considerations, which could be solved. The Civil War hoarding was driven by fear as the outcome and consequences of the conflict were unknown. It was not only silver and gold that were hoarded, but even copper-nickel Indian Head cents disappeared. Worse, there was no way of solving the problem other than ending the conflict and that was not possible. In fact, if anything the early years of the war suggested than if anyone was to win the war quickly it would be the Confederate States of America.
As the war dragged on, the situation became less tolerable. To conduct regular commerce people resorted to using postage stamps, tokens and then Fractional Currency with denominations as low as 3 cents, which they definitely did not like. The fact that they were hoarding cents simply made a bad situation worse. The first steps were taken with the approval of a change in the composition of the cent from copper-nickel to bronze in 1864. Bronze was also approved for a new 2-cent piece in that year.
The change from copper-nickel in the cent was not exactly music to the ears of a fellow named Joseph Wharton. We may not realize it, but even by the Civil War there were significant efforts on the part of lobbyists to get what they wanted from the Congress. Wharton was part of that tradition as it was his purpose to get the government to use nickel wherever possible and that included coins. Realistically there was no such thing as a copper-nickel coin that Wharton did not like as he just happened to have a small interest in the matter as he owned the only functioning nickel mine in the United States in Lancaster Gap, Pa.
Actually Wharton was not unusual in American history or even in the 1860s. The mining interests in the West had championed the idea of a new gold dollar and double eagle back in 1849. They had also gained approval for a new $3 gold piece a few years later and had only been stopped when they also made proposals for $25, $50 and $100 gold coins. Wharton had the same idea, but a different metal.
Wharton had been championing the idea of using nickel for years. It was used in Indian cents 1859-1864. He had a number of important friends in Congress and in 1865 they took action to approve a 3-cent piece with a 75 percent copper and 25 percent nickel composition as well as a 5-cent coin with the same composition. In both cases it was felt that without silver the coins could circulate and in both cases that proved to be the case. In fact, the composition worked so well that even today the composition of the nickel is the same one that was approved back in the 1860s.
Once approved the new copper-nickel 3-cent piece was rushed into production with an 1865 mintage of 11,382,000 pieces. That mintage was despite the fact that the silver 3-cent piece was still technically in production although with the suspension of specie payments and the hoarding the mintages of the silver 3-cent piece were small.
Actually the situation in 1865 was interesting as with the addition of the copper-nickel 3-cent piece the United States had a silver and copper-nickel 3-cent piece as well as Fractional Currency of the same denomination. It was an ironic situation when only 15 years earlier there had been no coins or notes of the denomination.
The arrival of the copper-nickel 3-cent piece would basically spell the end of the silver 3-cent piece, but it wasn’t officially discontinued until 1873. There is probably a case to be made that the silver 3-cent piece was on it’ way out anyway, but the copper-nickel 3-cent piece certainly did not help and it did allow the Fractional Currency of the denomination to be more quickly retired. The impact on the silver 3-cent piece is seen in its 1865 mintage of just 8,500 pieces and until the end in 1873 the mintages remained low.
In fact, the copper-nickel 3-cent piece had a large mintage in 1865, but it would experience some of the same problems as the silver version. The mintages would drop off quickly as there was limited demand and there were other production priorities as the Mint was trying desperately to get as many possible denominations in circulation as quickly as was possible and that saw the emphasis shift the following year to the new 5-cent coin. The 1866 3-cent nickel mintage was still 4,801,000, but that was still down from the first year and the 1867 total would be another million pieces less than 1866. In 1871 there would be the first copper-nickel 3-cent piece to have a mintage of less than 1 million pieces.
The trend of lower mintages would not be a perfect pattern. There would be ups and downs. In 1873 when the silver 3-cent piece was officially eliminated there would be another mintage of more than 1 million copper-nickel coins and that would happen again in 1881. Generally speaking, however, the mintages were low and slowly declining as the 3-cent piece no matter what its composition was not really playing a major role in commerce.
The mintage pattern makes for a collection that can really be divided into sections. The coins of the first years are available and at low prices with no G-4 from 1865-1876 topping $21. In fact some of those dates are good deals as the 1875 had a mintage of just 228,000 while the 1876 was just 162,000 and those totals are well below something like a 1916-D Mercury dime, which has a $1,000 price in G-4. Certainly the demand for the 1875 and 1876 copper-nickel 3-cent piece is far less than for a 1916-D Mercury dime, but the fact remains that at today’s prices the copper-nickel 3-cent pieces are excellent values on low mintage dates.
With the exception of the higher mintage 1881, the years after 1876 are much tougher. Two dates that stand out are the proof-only 1877 and 1878, which had mintages estimated at 900 for the 1877 and 2,350 for the 1878. Those mintages result in Proof-65 prices of $3,750 for the 1877 and $1,20 for the 1878.
The prices of most of the lower mintage business strikes from the period are very reasonable. While certainly higher, when you consider the mintages you have to feel you are getting good values. The 1883 with a mintage of 10,069 is a good example as it lists for $200 in G-4. The 1889 meanwhile with a mintage of 21,561 is just $90 in G-4. The most expensive business strike of the period is the lowest mintage 1885, which is $470 in G-4. The 1885, however, had a mintage of just 4,790 and it is not often when you can find a coin with a mintage of less than 5,000 for under $500 in G-4.
There was another proof-only date in the form of the 1886, but it had an estimated mintage of 4,290, which was high for a proof and that results in a price of $715 in Proof-65 as with proofs the chances of survival are far better than they are for top grade business strikes. In fact, many proofs of the period for dates where there are both proofs and business strikes can be found at surprisingly affordable prices and that even includes the 1887/6 overdate which is just $940 in Proof-65. With limited demand a copper-nickel 3-cent piece collection is possible in upper grades at reasonable prices. For example, in MS-60 other than the proof- only dates, the only business strikes even close to $1,000 are the low mintage 1884 and 1885 and they are $800 and $900, respectively. In the case of other low mintage dates the prices are usually $525 or less with some of the earlier dates at just $200.
Things are more complicated in MS-65 as realistically finding some dates in MS-65 can be a challenge. The cost is sometimes not the issue as much as the chance to buy one of the better dates. The most expensive is the 1884 at $6,250 while the 1883 is $4,850 and the 1885 is at $2,300. There are a couple other dates that are higher like the 1876 at $1,550, but generally speaking the set is not as expensive as might be expected.
There is an option that might surprise some and that is to assemble a set in proof as in the case of many dates a Proof-65 is much more available and much less expensive than an MS-65. It was a simple case of the proofs being obtained by collectors and then receiving better care leading to greater numbers that have managed to survive to the present day. The price differences can be striking with a Proof-65 1883 at just $690 while an MS-65 is $4,850. In the case of the 1884 which is $6,250 in MS-65 it is just $700 in Proof-65. The prices are no mistake as the Professional Coin Grading Service has seen just 8 examples of the 1883 and 6 of the 1884 in MS-65 but the Proof-65 totals of either are in the hundreds.
The one tougher proof is the 1865, which is currently listed at $6,500 in Proof-65 as proof sales when the copper-nickel 3-cent piece was introduced were lower. Even at that price the 1865 is still relatively inexpensive when you compare it to the proof rarities in other denominations where a set in proof might also be an option as the 1864L Indian Head cent or 1867 with rays Shield nickel are much tougher and more expensive.
Not many think about it, but realistically the copper-nickel 3-cent piece is a set that is well worth considering in proof as roughly one-half the dates are under $1,000 and some are below $700. For a set in top grade it’s really a bargain.
Whatever your decision in approaching the copper-nickel 3-cent piece it is a set that is an interesting reflection of its times. It was a coin that was helpful in a time of national crisis but as time passed it became clear that the denomination was not really needed, Th Mint produced its final production in 1889 and the coin passed into history as a lesser known but certainly interesting denomination
Canada To Cease Producing Cents. Will US Mint Soon Follow?
By Patrick A Heller on April 1, 2012 1:23 AM
By Patrick A. Heller
Commentary on Precious Metals Prepared for CoinWeek.com
On March 29, the Canadian government announced that it would permanently cease minting 1-cent coins by the end of April 2012. The final shipment of these coins to banks will occur in the fall. After that, the Canadian government will start calling in the coins for destruction.
Although transactions paid by check or credit card could still be paid to the exact penny, the Canadian government expects the public to quickly get used to rounding transactions to the nearest nickel.
The main reason for the end of production is that it costs the Royal Canadian Mint about 1-1/2 cents to produce each penny. This is the same problem that affects the US Mint, where it costs more than 2 cents for raw materials, labor, and overhead to produce each cent.
I believe that Canada is the first nation to discontinue production of coins equal to .01 of its monetary denomination. If the economy quickly accepts the disappearance of these coins, that will improve the likelihood that the US could follow suit sooner rather than later.
The US Mint continued to strike Half Cents through 1857, several years after that denomination was made obsolete from the effects of inflation. The US Cent has been economically obsolete for at least a decade, so it just might be time to end production in America. It would not be necessary for the US government to recall the coins, as there are several hundred cents per capita already in private hands.
Even if the US mint abolished production of the cent, it would still be burdened by continuing losses in the production of nickels. With a metal value close to face value, and the Mint figuring that labor and overhead costs about four cents to produce each nickel, the US Treasury could increase profits simply by discontinuing fabrication of nickels.
Just because the Royal Canadian Mint will curtail striking cents does not necessarily mean that these coins will become instant rarities. There are comparatively few collectors of these coins relative to available mintages. If the US stopped striking cents, I similarly suspect that many people would hoard them thinking that they would become valued collectibles. Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen. There were a lot of people who did not turn in their silver certificates in the mid-1960s, thinking that they would be valuable in the future. Most Series 1935 and 1957 $1.00 Silver Certificates today are worth little more than face value. I suspect that will be the same long-term story for US and Canadian cents.
Patrick A. Heller owns Liberty Coin Service and Premier Coins & Collectibles in Lansing, Michigan and writes Liberty’s Outlook, a monthly newsletter on rare coins and precious metals subjects. Past newsletter issues can be viewed at http://www.libertycoinservice.com. Other commentaries are available at Numismaster (http://www.numismaster.com under “News & Articles). His award-winning radio show “Things You ‘Know’ That Just Aren’t So, And Important News You Need To Know” can be heard at 8:45 AM Wednesday and Friday mornings on 1320-AM WILS in Lansing (which streams live and becomes part of the audio and text archives posted at http://www.1320wils.com.
Half Cents Advocated to Help Poor
|By R. W. Julian, Numismatic New
March 12, 2012
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One of the questions being heard today, both among collectors and the general public, is whether or not the 1-cent piece should continue to be made. Not only does it cost the government more than a cent to make but it is worth so little that many people simply ignore it.
Yet the American people once used a coin worth only a half cent and it circulated widely for many years. Like the cent, however, the half cent eventually came to be regarded as a coin of little value and was dropped from our monetary system in 1857.
The half cent, in the opinion of many collectors, has a charm all of its own. The low value meant that half cents were handled by all segments of the population, especially the poor, giving it a certain aura not possessed by coins such as the half eagle, used only by the more wealthy classes.
2012 U.S. Coin Digest: Cents
This easy-to-search pricing and identification download is solely focused on U.S cents! Get your downlaoad today!
Thomas Jefferson, then a congressman in the Confederation government, suggested in 1784 that the United States strike a coin of this value; he felt that it would benefit the poorer classes. Jefferson left in that year to replace Benjamin Franklin as Minister (Ambassador) to France but his ideas, in a well-thought-out paper, were presented to Congress in the spring of 1785.
On July 6, 1785, the legislators formally approved, in the form of a resolution, most of the Jeffersonian monetary suggestions and we find for the half cent the following: “Resolved, That the smallest coin be a copper, of which 200 shall pass for one dollar.” During the following year Congress enacted a formal law which included the half cent as one of the coins to be issued from the proposed American mint.
The legislation enacted in August 1786 created a mint and coinage but there was a flaw which could not be overcome. The Confederation government had so little money that there was difficulty even in paying the salaries and expenses of the congressmen who attended the sessions. In theory the law was a good one, and would have served the nation well, but the lack of funds doomed the legislation before the ink was even dry.
The Confederation government remained in existence until early 1789, when the new federal government replaced it. Under the Constitution of 1787 George Washington became the first President. In addition the newly elected first Congress met in March 1789 and it was now only a matter of time before monetary questions were again discussed, but this time by a government with the financial resources to carry out the necessary ideas.
During 1789 Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton wrestled with the problem of properly funding the new government. He was brilliantly successful and within a matter of months the new Administration of George Washington was accomplishing more in a short time than the old Confederation had done in years of effort.
Great changes often come about because of some small event and this was to be the case with the monetary system of the United States. In early 1790 a South Carolinian entrepreneur named John Hinckley Mitchell petitioned Congress for the privilege of striking American coins from “his mint in Europe.” Mitchell did not actually have a mint overseas but had made an arrangement with Matthew Boulton, who did have mint at Birmingham in England, to strike coins for America.
Because the new secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, was well acquainted with monetary matters, Congress asked him to study the proposal and report back to the solons. Jefferson did just that. He indicated that the Mitchell proposal was not acceptable and that our coins ought to be struck in the United States and nowhere else.
Congress recognized the principles involved and asked Treasury Secretary Hamilton to prepare a comprehensive report on a mint and coinage. Not stated in the congressional request, but well understood, was that Hamilton would confer with Jefferson in preparing the report. Hamilton was the key figure in the problem, however, as he had the necessary foreign contacts to determine the critical questions concerning gold and silver and their proper roles in the new system.
The report took several months to prepare but in January 1791 was sent to Congress for their use. In one of the sections clearly influenced by Jefferson, Hamilton noted that “If there are only cents, the lowest price for any portion of a vendible commodity, however inconsiderable in quantity, will be a cent; if there are half cents, it will be a half cent, and, in a great number of cases, exactly the same things will be sold for a half cent, which, if there were none, would cost a cent. But a half cent is low enough for the minimum of price. Excessive minuteness would defeat its object. To enable the poorer classes to procure necessaries cheap, is to enable them, with more comfort to themselves, to labor for less.”
The initial response from Congress was to pass the problem to the President. In March 1791 the legislators passed a resolution which stated, in part, “That the President of the United States be, and he is hereby authorized to cause to be engaged, such artists as shall be necessary” to create and staff a mint.
The President did his best to carry out the congressional mandate but in the end little was accomplished. In October 1791 he pointedly remarked to Congress that a law was needed, not just a resolution. The Senate took the hint and appointed a special committee, chaired by Robert Morris, to write the necessary legislation. Both Jefferson and Hamilton were closely involved in this effort, though the final result did have provisions that neither man would have advanced.
It took several months to iron out all of the fine points in the proposed legislation but in late March 1792 the Senate and House of Representatives finally agreed on the key provisions. The bill was signed into law by the President in early April 1792. Washington soon persuaded David Rittenhouse, the foremost American scientist, to be the first Mint director.
The opening year of the Mint was mostly an effort on the part of Rittenhouse and Chief Coiner Henry Voight to put into practice the provisions of the basic Mint act. In June 1792 the director requested permission to coin several denominations, including the half cent, but in the end only the half disme was coined in quantity. No half cent dies were prepared in 1792.
Rittenhouse had planned for gold and silver coinage in 1793 but these plans had to be shelved because of a legal impediment. The law required that the assayer and chief coiner each had to provide surety bonds of $10,000 and this proved impossible. The director had no choice but to strike only copper coins in 1793, as this metal was not subject to the bond requirements.
Copper coinage duly began in late February 1793 with the famous Chain cent. It was not long, however, before public criticism forced a change to the Wreath reverse. Little thought was given to the half cent at first because the cent was considered the more important of the two copper coins and of the most use in the marketplace.
There has been some controversy concerning the identity of the person or persons who cut the dies for the 1793 coinage. Various names have been proposed, including Director Rittenhouse, Adam Eckfeldt, Henry Voight, and Joseph Wright. Overlooked in the discussion is the fact that there is contemporary documentation bearing on the question.
In 1795 there was an investigation of the Mint by Congress and the report clearly stated that “It was also a considerable time before an engraver could be engaged, during which, the chief coiner was obliged to make the dies for himself.” This is definitive and indicates that Chief Coiner Henry Voight gets the honors.
There is no doubt whatsoever that Voight did the Chain and Wreath cent dies but there has been lingering doubt about the half cent. It is known for certain that Joseph Wright prepared the Liberty Cap cent dies used in September 1793 but whether he did the half cent dies as well has been an open question.
The matter is complicated by the fact that half cent planchets began to be prepared in May 1793 but abruptly put aside while cent coinage continued. This indicates that the dies were not ready. In the meantime, during June, additional half cent planchets were made and also laid aside.
Half cent coinage finally began in mid July 1793 and by the 26th of that month 31,934 pieces had been struck. It seems likely that coinage began shortly after the dies were completed.
Although Joseph Wright has been suggested as the engraver for the 1793 half cent dies this does not seem to be the case. His Liberty Cap cent dies used hubs but hubs were not used for the half cent. This in turn indicates that Chief Coiner Voight was the man responsible. The evidence against Wright is strengthened by the fact that there are no pay records for this engraver for July 1793.
Once the July coinage of half cents used all of the planchets on hand, little was heard of this denomination for several weeks. In the meantime Joseph Wright had joined the staff as engraver and proceeded to create the Liberty Cap cent dies. In mid September about 11,000 cents of the new design were coined, accompanied by another 3,400 half cents.
Joseph Wright died of the Yellow Fever in September 1793, forever ending his involvement with the Mint and coinage. His replacement, appointed in November of that year, was Robert Scot. As in any new undertaking, it required several weeks for the new engraver to become acclimated to his work and learn the necessary intricacies of die engraving. He had already engraved dies but these were primarily for seals and coinage dies needed to be done in very low relief, a careful and demanding task.
As the cent was to remain the most important copper denomination Scot first turned his attention in this direction. Chief Coiner Voight was able to deliver 11,000 cent coins on Jan. 13, 1794, but the half cents had to wait for a few weeks as the demand for cent dies took up much of Scot’s time.
The half cent coinage of 1794 finally began with 10,000 pieces in mid February, but after that it was fitful. Most of the half cents that year were struck in June and July and the year’s total came to only 81,600 pieces.
The 1793 half cent has the head of Liberty facing left but this was changed for 1794 when the Liberty Cap design was introduced. The head is now facing right and would continue to face in that direction until 1809 and the advent of a new design by John Reich.
Because of the plans to begin silver coinage in 1794, the striking of copper after August of that year declined sharply. Some copper cents were struck in December, during a lull in the silver coinage, but after that it would be several months before the chief coiner again delivered cents or half cents.
David Rittenhouse resigned as director at the end of June 1795 and was replaced by Henry William DeSaussure. Under pressure to strike copper coins due to public demand, in October 1795 DeSaussure authorized a limited resumption of copper coinage. On the 27th of that month 14,800 half cents were delivered.
These first half cents of 1795 had lettered edges (“Two Hundred for a Dollar”), which had first been seen on the 1793 half cents. The point of a lettered edge was not mere decoration but a deliberate reaction to the possibility of counterfeiting.
DeSaussure resigned at the end of October and was replaced by Elias Boudinot, a former congressman and one time president of the Confederation government. Boudinot also had some half cents struck in 1795, but for a totally different reason. He was forced to strike copper coins because the coinage of the precious metals had been suspended the last week in November. Albion Cox, the assayer, had died suddenly at that time, stopping all gold and silver operations. With nothing else to do, Boudinot turned to the copper coinage and some 10,800 half cents were delivered.
The 25,600 lettered edge half cents actually minted in 1795 weighed 104 grains (6.74 grams) each, theoretically at any rate. Unfortunately copper prices chose this moment in history to undergo a strong advance, making our copper coins worth more than face value.
Under such conditions President George Washington had authority from Congress to reduce the weights of the copper coins. The half cent was lowered to 84 grains (5.22 grams). None of the heavy 1795 half cents was melted at the Mint but some were no doubt used by coppersmiths.
Although coinage of the 1795 lettered-edge pieces was limited, they can be found by collectors today without too much trouble.
Because of the reduction in weight and several fortuitous purchases of copper, Director Boudinot was able to resume half cent coinage in early 1796 but using dies dated 1795. More than one-half million half cents were made in the opening weeks of the year. All such coins now carried a plain edge, making them easy to differentiate from the half cents actually struck in 1795.
While the 1795 Liberty Cap half cents were being struck, Engraver Robert Scot was engaged in executing new half cent dies carrying the correct date of 1796. There is some doubt as to the true number of 1796 half cents that were coined but the general belief is that less than 5,000 coins would see the light of day. Today of course the 1796 Liberty Cap half cent is a great rarity, found in only the best collections.
The first years of half cent coinage had been difficult for the Mint but after 1796 coinage of this denomination would grow. Coinage was heavy in 1797 but then there was a lapse until 1800; after that the Mint no longer had any problem in supplying all of the half cents necessary for the marketplace.
eBay and David Lawrence Rare Coins to Auction Rare Lincoln Coin Collection
By John Feigenbaum on March 6, 2012 7:19 AM
Turn-of-the-Century Pennies Ranked as World’s Fourth All-Time Finest Collection in Its Category
eBay and David Lawrence Rare Coins today announced plans to auction one of the world’s largest – and rarest – Lincoln penny collections. The collection – the Presidential Collection of PCGS Registry Lincoln Cents – is one of the finest collections of Lincoln cents ever assembled, according to the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS).
Made up of more than 300 individual pieces, the collection is market-valued at more than $1 million, with all pieces graded and certified by the strict standards of PCGS, and many coins featuring the additional CAC seal of approval for top quality.
“This is a first-of-its-kind opportunity for coin collectors and enthusiasts to add to their Lincoln penny collections through an exclusive auction event on eBay. We look forward to showcasing this rare collection on eBay,” said Brooke Segaran, eBay’s senior manager of Collectibles.
The private collection was assembled over more than 10 years, with the pieces hand-selected by the owner. Known as the world’s fourth all-time finest collection ever assembled in the “Lincoln Cents with Major Varieties, Circulation Strikes (1909-Present)” category, the collection includes two PCGS-certified examples of the very rare 1969-S double die cent.
Other highlights include:
- 1909-S VDB 1c PCGS/CAC MS66 RD
- 1911 1c PCGS/CAC MS67 RD
- 1911-S 1c PCGS MS66 RD
- 1914-D 1c PCGS/CAC MS65 RD
- 1920 1c PCGS/CAC MS67 RD
- 1920-D 1c PCGS MS66 RD
- 1922-D 1c PCGS/CAC MS66 RD
- 1924 1c PCGS MS67 RD
- 1928-S 1c PCGS MS66 RD
- 1943-D/D 1c PCGS/CAC MS67
- 1944-D/S 1c PCGS/CAC MS66 RD
- 1955/1955 1c PCGS MS65 RD (Doubled Die)
- 1969-S 1c Doubled Die (2 PCGS examples: AU53 and AU58)
“Our collectors love the Lincoln cent series, which is a mainstay among the coin community,” said John Feigenbaum, President of David Lawrence Rare Coins. “Through this exciting auction, longtime collectors and new fans alike can get excited about this magnificent collection on eBay.”
The auctions will run March 15 through 25, 2012. Interested collectors and buyers may preview the collection at http://stores.ebay.com/David-Lawrence-Rare-Coins/Lincoln-Cent-Collection.html. In addition, attendees at the Whitman Coin Expo in Baltimore from March 22 through 24 will have the opportunity to view the collection and place bids on the spot via an eBay bidding station.
Cleaned Copper May Be Challenging to Detect
By CoinWeek on October 25, 2011 3:18 PM
Posted by David W. Lange, NGC Research Director
This month Dave discusses the difficulty of detecting cleaned copper and bronze coins.
My recent column on the mistaken perception held by many that old coin albums will still prompt attractive toning on coins today elicited a great deal of comment from both collectors and dealers. It seems that everyone has an opinion on the matter, and it also suggested another topic of importance with regard to the aesthetic value of coins. This is the subject of cleaned coins, or, more specifically, cleaned copper and bronze coins. These can be extremely difficult to detect, and many a person has been startled to receive a coin back from one of the grading services with the notations “Improperly Cleaned” or “Altered Color.”
The cleaning of copper coins to make them appear mint red seems to have begun as soon as collectors began saving the old large cents and half cents. The cents in particular became quite popular after their discontinuance in 1857, and many a new collector was created at that time. All new hobbyists take some time to develop their taste, and the more perceptive will eventually come to value the appearance of an attractively toned copper or bronze coin. This is especially true when the coins tone to some color other than simply brown. Among my favorites are pieces toned to a vivid steel blue or emerald green. New collectors, however, tend to be disappointed in any unworn coin that does not look just like it did when made, and attempts to restore that appearance have been performed with varying levels of skill for generations.
Many of the large cents and half cents that exist unworn or just lightly worn have been cleaned at some point. The cleaned coins intended for more advanced collectors are usually found with some form of induced toning to mute the bright orange color that typically results. These can be very attractive coins, and in their early years the grading companies may have let a few slip through, though with experience they have since learned to spot such altered color.
More of a problem is the many thousands of small cents and two-cent pieces that have been improperly cleaned. The wholesale cleaning of such coins began during the 1930s and ‘40s, when the hobby grew in leaps and bounds. The introduction of coin boards and folders created many thousands of new collectors during those years, skewing the hobby population toward inexperienced and unsophisticated buyers. This trend only accelerated in the 1950s and ‘60s. Just as World War II was ending, a series of new chemical coin cleaning products for copper began to appear in hobby publications, and these were widely popular right up through the 1970s and into the early 1980s. It was not until the advent of certified and encapsulated grading in the mid-1980s that the downside of such treatments was revealed. Only then did distinctions begin to be made between original color and restored color, and it became evident just how few pre-1930 copper and bronze coins had survived unmolested.
Since that time many coins have been retoned in an effort to conceal evidence of cleaning, but huge numbers are still offered raw (uncertified) in the marketplace with full, blazing red color. To meet the continuing demand for mint red coins, it appears that new cleaning processes have been developed. These are so deceptive that only an expert can detect original from restored color, and both collectors and dealers may learn the truth only when submitting their coins for certification.
To show how challenging it is to discern modern methods of chemical cleaning I’ll illustrate a coin from my own collection. About 20 years ago I found this lovely 1916 cent in a dealer’s case and was drawn to it immediately. At that time the coin was blazing mint red, with what seemed to be very convincing color. Of most interest to me, however, was the fact that this cent displayed an amazingly sharp strike from new dies that had no signs of erosion. Indeed, it possessed the detail of a proof. The certification of Lincoln cents was not as common then as it is today, so the fact that this coin was raw did not set off any alarms. A price was agreed upon, and I quickly placed this gem in my type set. A few years later, however, the coin began to tone in a slightly unusual manner that I had not seen in coins known to have original color. I came to suspect that it had been dipped (chemically cleaned), and I would soon have my suspicions confirmed.
I teach a course on collecting USA type coins at the ANA’s Summer Seminar, along with co-instructor Frank Van Valen of Stack’s Bowers. For ease of handling by our students, I try to get all of my type coins encapsulated. Since this Lincoln was still the sharpest one in my collection (being even more detailed than my matte proofs of 1910 and 1913), I had a dealer submit it to NGC with some other coins of his own, knowing full well the outcome. The graders indeed pegged it as having Altered Color. Nevertheless, it remains a great teaching tool, both in developing students’ appreciation for coins of early die state and as an example of very deceptive cleaning.
David W. Lange‘s column, “USA Coin Album,” appears monthly in the Numismatist, the official publication of the American Numismatic Association.
Article re-posted on CoinWeek with Permission of NGC
Flowing Hair Design Starts Type Set
|By Paul M. Green, Numismatic News
July 25, 2011
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This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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The half dollar is one of only two or possibly three silver coins of the United States to be produced in 1794. It is a denomination that has been produced on and off from that day to the present. Some question whether half dollars are really needed and point out that since 2002 it has been produced just for collectors.
The fact remains that half dollars continue to be produced and with production stretching all the way back to 1794 it makes a half dollar collection a large and very interesting one that quite literally traces the history of the nation and its coins.
2012 U.S. Coin Digest: Half Dollars
This easy-to-search pricing and identification download is solely focused on U.S half dollars.
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The half dollar like the other original denominations was authorized by Congress in April of 1792. That authorization, however, left a lot to be done before the first half dollar would be produced. The first item of business was to establish and outfit a mint. At the time the closest thing to a mint was the saw-making business of a fellow by the name of John Harper in Philadelphia, which was where it is believed the 1792 half disme was produced. That establishment, however, was not in the running to be the United States Mint. That meant Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State was put to work quickly as he was responsible at the time trying for getting a Mint up and running. It wasn’t until 1873 that the Treasury took over oversight of the Mint.
In fact, Jefferson was able to get the Mint ready for operation in less than a year, but then a new problem arose as the officials had to post a bond before they were allowed to produce any coins made of gold and silver. They did not want to or were unable to post the bonds required. Jefferson’s considerable diplomatic skills were put to the test trying to solve that problem. While that went on, the Mint could only produce copper half cents and large cents in 1793.
Finally, in 1794 the bond issue was settled. The amount required was lowered. At that point officials made a curious decision. The largest press they had was not large enough to produce silver dollars. A larger press was expected to arrive the following year, but the decision was made to try to produce silver dollars even though the press was known to be inadequate for the purpose. The decision was made more on the political grounds of keeping merchants happy than technical ones.
The results were less than impressive as a total of 1,758 silver dollars were delivered. No one really believes that they set out to make exactly 1,758 coins. In all probability the attempt was to strike at least 2,000 and possibly more. The 1,758 were the number that managed to meet what were almost certainly very minimal quality standards. We can say that with some certainty as the known examples of the 1794 dollar tend to be weakly struck and they have other assorted problems as well.
The half dollar was next and a total of 23,464 1794 half dollars with a Flowing Hair obverse and Small Eagle reverse were delivered. These were the first examples of a type that would last through 1795. Fortunately for the budget of type collectors, you do not have to depend on the 1794 for inclusion in a set, although it is available. The 1795, however, with a mintage of 299,680 is much more available and much less expensive at a price of $1,025 for the most available variety in G-4 while an MS-60 begins around $46,500.
The best estimates are that at least 3,500 circulated examples of the type exist with perhaps 100 examples in Mint State. The total was helped by the discovery of a massive hoard of well over 100,000 coins in Economy, Pa., years ago. The Harmony Society hoard was primarily half dollars including dates from 1794-1836 and it has provided the market with significant numbers of types from the period, including significant percentages of our supply of both the 1794 and 1795 although the hoard is more important for later dates.
In the case of the coins available today of the first Flowing Hair type, it is likely that you will see most in grades of F-12 or lower. Assorted problems are to be expected even on the nicest examples as the planchets were routinely filed to reduce their weight, leaving adjustment marks. Strikes were also frequently light and that is especially common on the breast of the eagle.
In 1796 the design was changed to a Draped Bust rendition of Miss Liberty on obverse with a Small Eagle reverse. The type would last from 1796 to 1797, but it is extremely tough, causing Q. David Bowers in his book A Guide Book Of United States Type Coins to suggest that the type is “the Holy Grail, the rarest by far.”
The reason why the type is so tough is that half dollar mintages until 1804 tended to be determined by dollar totals. The people who brought in the silver were allowed to select denominations and if dollars were possible, they would routinely pick the larger dollars. If, however, there were no dollars being produced as was the case after 1804 the half dollar would become the largest silver denomination and its totals would rise.
In 1796 and 1797, however, there were dollars and that resulted in a combined half dollar mintage of the two dates of just 3,918 pieces. Moreover, these were not the first half dollars so there was basically no saving and even the large Harmony Society Hoard only had a couple examples. It all results in a G-4 price of $36,500 for the most available examples while an MS-60 is at about $300,000 and there are very few examples with any hope of being called Mint State. In all grades combined there are probably only a few hundred examples of the type, making it difficult to be too demanding as finding any example in any grade is a challenge.
The next half dollar would not be produced until 1801 at which time the reverse was changed to a large Heraldic eagle and that design would continue through 1807. While officials were apparently happy with the design it had a production problem as it would not strike up well almost always leaving at least one weak area. The 1806 and especially the 1807 are well known as being particularly troublesome to find with a decent strike.
While there are numbers of this type available, finding a well struck coin can be a real challenge potentially requiring you to pay more than the current price listings of $195 in G-4 and $9,750 in MS-60. Naturally the two dates that are most available are the 1806 and 1807, the very dates where the striking seems to be the biggest problem. The stars on the obverse and reverse tend to be the area most frequently poorly struck, but with this type a weak strike can be evident in almost any part of the design.
The long-lasting John Reich Capped Bust half dollar made its debut in 1807. The design would last until 1836 and with the production of silver dollars suspended in 1804, the half dollar mintages were frequently more than 1 million pieces. In addition, it was this type that was heavily represented in the Harmony Society Hoard thus making an already fairly large supply even larger. The result are prices starting at around $55 in G-4 while an MS-60 is $1,000 and up with a few MS-65 examples being available beginning around $11,500, Certainly there are nice examples of the type available but strikes can vary greatly and in some cases dies were used far too long, causing quality to suffer.
A modification of the design was required in 1836 with the denomination expressed as 50 CENTS with a reeded edge as opposed to the lettered edge used previously, which typically read FIFTY CENTS OR HALF A DOLLAR. The Bust was also changed being reduced in size. The reason for the changes was the introduction of a new steam-powered press. The type, however, was only produced in 1836 and 1837 and the 1836 mintage was really a trial estimated at 1,200 pieces. Fortunately, the 1837 total was 3,629,820 pieces, which makes it available at $58 in G-4, $1,100 in MS-60 and $24,500 in MS-65. Ironically although striking is better it seems to be the 1836, which is the better struck of the two, perhaps reflecting greater care taken as a test while the 1837 was produced in large numbers under routine circumstances.
While every collector knows that age does not necessarily mean rare and valuable, it still strikes me that it is a privilege to be able to buy a fairly large silver coin for less than $100 that was current when Andrew Jackson was President.
The change made for 1838 and 1839 was in the denomination, which was now expressed as HALF DOL. While there were only two years of production of the type but at both Philadelphia and New Orelans, the Philadelphia totals were large, making the type available at around $58 in G-4 with an 1838 in MS-60 being the most available at $1,125 with an MS-65 at $21,500.
In 1839 there was another half dollar in the form of the first Seated Liberty half dollar designed by Christian Gobrecht. The 1839 is considered by many to be a separate type as it had no drapery at the left elbow of Liberty. Later in the year Robert Ball Hughes would modify the design and add drapery making the 1839 without drapery slightly different. Without drapery the 1839 is $40 in G-4 but the type demand shows as it is $6,250 in MS-60 and $200,000 in MS-65. With the drapery added, the Seated Liberty design would remain basically unchanged until 1853, making it readily available at prices starting at around $30 for a G-4 with an MS-60 at $440 while an MS-65 starts at $4,500. Striking varies with New Orleans issues usually being weaker than those of other facilities but with solid supplies you can examine enough examples to find the coin you want.
There was a change in 1853 reflecting the fact that the amount of silver in the half dollar was reduced slightly. That had become necessary when gold was discovered in California as the huge amounts of gold had upset the traditional silver-to-gold ratio in the market, making the cost of producing silver coins higher than their face value. The public learned of this and immediately began to hoard silver coins with the Congress being forced to take action in 1853 to reduce slightly the amount of silver so that the regular silver issues could circulate. To mark coins made with the slightly lower amounts of silver, officials added arrows to each side of the date and rays on the reverse.
The 1853 Seated Liberty half dollar with arrows and rays would be a one-year type, but with mintages of 3,532,708 in Philadelphia and 1,328,000 in New Orleans and a surprising amount of saving, it is available but at higher prices than might be expected because of the type demand. The more available Philadelphia example is at $31 in G-4, $1,400 in MS-60 and $24,500 in MS-65 and it should be noted that they were produced in haste so they can be weakly struck.
In 1854 the rays were removed and for 1854 and 1855 there would only be arrows at the date. The mintages were fortunately large and the type can be found starting at $28 in G-4 with an MS-60 at about $675 while an MS-65 starts around $8,000 with the 1854-O with the largest mintage of over 5 million pieces being regarded by most as the most readily available date.
In 1856 the arrows at the date were removed and this would create yet another type that would last for a decade, although in reality it was basically a return to the design that had began in 1839 once the drapery was added. Produced for a decade and sometimes in large numbers the type is readily available at $28 in G-4 and around $350 in MS-60 and $4,800 in MS-65.
In 1866 the motto IN GOD WE TRUST was added to the reverse. Once again, finding an example is no problem as G-4 examples can be found at $28 and MS-60 at $350.
Arrows were put back at the date to denote an increase in the silver weight. These were used for two years. In 1875, the design reverted to the previous one.
An example of the arrows type can be purchased for $32 in G-4 and an MS-60 is $850.
For the 1875-1891 design, which matches the one in use 1866-1872, you can get G-4 examples for basically silver value while the MS-60 can be had for as little as $360.
The available supply tends to be from 1878 or before as after 1878 the mintages of half dollars dropped to basically token levels. The most available dates can be found for around $16 in G-4 while an MS-65 starts at about $3,500.
By the early 1890s officials were anxious to make a change in the design but they waited for Congress to decide whether congressional approval was needed or not. The Congress decided that any time after a design had been in use for 25 years it could be changed by the Secretary of the Treasury without consulting Congress. The Seated Liberty design at the time was basically at twice that total so attempts were made to find the best possible new design. The efforts did not work and ultimately Chief Engraver Charles Barber was assigned the task and the Barber half dollar was the result.
The Barber half dollar was never very popular or heavily saved and while there are still plenty around in lower circulated grades, finding a nice Barber half dollar for the current $465 MS-60 or $2,925 MS-65 listing can be a challenge.
The very law which had enabled officials to change designs in 1892 would be used to bring the Barber half dollar to an abrupt halt in 1916 when a design competition produced the A.A. Weinman Walking Liberty half dollar. The Walking Liberty half dollar is readily available at prices around $36 in MS-60 while an MS-65 would start at around $135.
It should be pointed out that while not considered a different type, the 1916 and some of the 1917 mintages from Denver and San Francisco had the mintmark below the word TRUST on the obverse. Starting with some of the 1917 mintage this would be change to a place on the reverse at about 8 o’clock. Many like to include an obverse mintmark coin in their type collection with the 1916-D at $360 in MS-60 and $2,500 in MS-65 being the least expensive of the uncirculated grades. In G-4, you can pick up a 1917-D for $23.50.
In 1948 it was Benjamin Franklin’s turn to be honored with a coin and the half dollar was the choice. The Franklin half dollar would be cut short after 1963 as it was decided to use the half dollar for the new John F. Kennedy coin. While it did not last 25 years, the Franklin half dollar is readily available as large numbers were saved over time. There was, however, virtually no attention paid to the quality of the Mint State coins and many are marked and relatively few have the full bell lines desired by demanding collectors today. That makes the Franklin half dollar slightly tougher than might be expected with an MS-65 starting at around $55 with an MS-65 with full bell lines will be $95 and up.
The first of the new Kennedy half dollars in 1964 would be 90 percent silver, but that would be the only year of the 90 percent silver composition. That makes the 1964 Kennedy half dollar a one-year type, but one with enormous mintages and that makes an MS-65 or even a Proof-65 about the same $15 price.
After 1964, the amount of silver in the half dollar was reduced to 40 percent and that would remain the composition through 1970. The mintages were frequently enormous, although the saving was limited as the 40 percent silver Kennedy half dollars were not very popular with collectors and later would be among the first of the silver coins to be melted as silver began its price rise to $50 an ounce in early 1980. Even with the melting, there are still significant numbers of 40 percent silver Kennedy half dollars around, putting the most available example in MS-65 at about $14.
As of 1971 except for special issues for sale to collectors, the Kennedy half dollar would contain no silver. As they remain the current Kennedy half dollars, the clads since 1971 are easily available and inexpensive although it is probably worth your while to spend a little extra and get an example on an extremely high grade like MS-69 or MS-70. The same can be said for the proofs and silver proofs offered to collectors each year as it is one time where quality does not cost a great deal.
There was one special issue in 1976 when the half dollar as well as the quarter and dollar celebrated the Bicentennial. That meant the half dollar had the dual 1776-1976 date and a reverse of Independence Hall designed by Seth Huntington and selected in a national competition. The special Bicentennial Kennedy half dollars thanks to large mintages are also readily available and here too paying a little extra for quality is worthwhile.
We certainly cannot predict the next new design for the half dollar although we are approaching the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy half dollar in 2014 and such anniversaries are frequently all the excuse officials need to change designs. Moreover, we know that at the time of the decision to make a Kennedy half dollar the Kennedy family was interested in a half length figure, but there was no time to consider one. Perhaps now with time such a change might be considered.
Whatever the future of the half dollar, it is already secure as a fascinating collection which virtually everyone can enjoy as the half dollar was really the top silver denomination seen by most Americans on a regular basis for much of the period up to the 1870s. Collectors who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s might also remember them fondly. That makes them an interesting collection and a great deal of fun for collectors of all ages.Newer Posts »