Saturday, July 18, 2009

Wisconsin State Quarter Extra Leaf Varieties: Mystery Solved?

Rick Snow, author of A Guide Book of Flying Eagle and Indian Head Cents, does a great job of examining and explaining his theory in this Youtube video on how the High Leaf and Low Leaf varieties of the Wisconsin State Quarter were created. Probably the best theory I've seen so far.

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Thursday, July 09, 2009

Valuing Your Coins Using Price Guides

How much is my coin worth?

You're sitting at your desk, looking at one of your most prized possessions from your coin collection and you want to know how much it’s worth. You pick up a recent price guide laying nearby and quickly look up your coin's value. Pretty simple – right?

Unfortunately it’s not so simple. There are a few things you need to know before you determine your coin’s value.


The prices listed in price guides are based on a coin being in a certain grade or condition. You need to know both the grade of your coin and the grade the guide is using before you can determine the price. Most price guides will have a section that explains what grade the guide is using for its prices and how to determine the grade of your coin.

For example, two beginning collectors with the same circulated coin might assume both coins would have the same price, but in reality each coin may have a different price based on its condition. The coin in better condition will usually sell for a premium over the other coin. Once you know which coin the price reflects, you can make an adjustment for the price for the other coin. Sometimes the price guide will help you on how to do this, but not always.

Market Conditions

One negative aspect of printed price guides is that they can quickly become outdated due to changing market conditions. A new 2010 price guide will have probably been released in the summer of 2009. Even then, a few months have passed since the prices were compiled. How accurate are they when you actually use the guide?

Keep in mind it’s not just rarity and condition that determines the price for your coin, it’s also demand or popularity. Is your coin still popular? For example, popularity among collectors may switch from commemorative coins to Buffalo nickels causing an increase in prices for the latter at the expense of price decreases for the former.

Retail Prices

Finally, those prices listed in the price guides are retail prices with a few exceptions such as the popular Blue Book. They are not the value of your coin. They are how much you would pay to purchase the coin from a dealer. The value of your coin is how much the dealer is willing to pay you – and that may be considerably less.

Dealers are just like any other retailer and need to make a profit in order to stay in business. So once you’ve determined a retail price for your coin, you need to subtract an amount that you think is a fair representation of what a dealer’s markup would be. For high value coins, this could be from 5% to 15%. For more common coins, this could be 25 to 50% or even much higher.

Insuring Your Collection

If you are insuring your collection, the retail price of your coins is the amount to insure. The retail price is what it would cost you to replace your collection in the event that something unthinkable happened and you lost your collection.

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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Large Cents of Smell

While much has been written about the enthusiasm and excitement that greeted the new Flying Eagle cent in 1857, I have never really seen anything that told what the public thought about the Large cent. After all, it had been struck almost continuously since 1793.

Apparently displaying a lack of sentiment for the old coin, a large crowd of over 1000 people showed up at the Philadelphia Mint on the Flying Eagle cent's first day to exchange their Large cents for the new coin. About 3,000,000 new Flying Eagle cents were paid out by the end of the day.

So it was with pleasure that I came across the following in an article from the February 7, 1857 issue of Harper's Weekly. The article was about the new Flying Eagle cent, but it let you know what at least one journalist thought about the old Large cent.

"[The Flying Eagle's] smaller size makes it much more convenient for handling, and less burdensome for transportation, while the neater look and the freedom from the brassy odor, renders it much more acceptable to fastidious delicacy. Ladies may now venture to touch with their ungloved fingers small change without being, like Lady Macbeth, unable to wash out with Cologne, or any other toilet detersive, the "damned spot" of a base contamination."

Apparently, the Large cents made your fingers stink so much that "ladies" wouldn't touch them without their gloves on. Since both the Large cent and Half cent were composed of copper, I would have to assume that the Half cent suffered this fate as well.

The new Flying Eagle cent was composed of 88% copper and 12% nickel, that little bit of nickel must have made the difference. At least enough of a difference to allow ladies to once more handle small change with their bare hands.

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