Dr. Sol Taylor

Coin Hunting Overseas

By Dr. Sol Taylor
"Making Cents"
The Signal
Saturday, October 21, 2006

n every trip outside the United States, I have made an effort to locate a coin shop, antique shop or coin dealer. While most yield nothing of interest, I have had some successes.
    My most successful venture came in Montreal at Expo '67. I was staying at a rented room downtown. One morning I visited a bank. I asked if they had any of the new Canadian coins — the centennial commemoratives. They had rolls of silver dollars with the flying goose design for $10 Canadian (U.S. $7). I bought six rolls. At the Canadian Pavilion at the Expo, they were selling the 1967 proof sets in plush boxes with the $20 gold piece. I bought 10 sets.
    In Zagreb in May 1980, I asked a Yugoslavian acquaintance if he could get me a bag of the new 5 para coins. These tiny brass coins, worth less than half a cent, look exactly like gold coins. I displayed them at my bourse table at the Queen Mary coin show in Long Beach. They drew lots of close stares, specially since my sign said "Ten 'goldą coins only $9.95." At a glance, they looked very much like U.S. $1 gold coins. I sold them all to foreign coin dealer Joe Goldberg for five cents apiece.
    In Bombay, after an official tour of the I.G. Mint, our guide, mint master B.M. Mistry, told me to visit Phillips Antiques where I might find some interesting coins. He had his driver take me there, where I was given the VIP tour of this storied business. I asked if they had any American coins. They showed me two trays — one with loose coins priced at 7 rupees (less than $1), and one with loose coins priced at 20 rupees.
    In the first tray were Indian head cents, Mercury dimes, Buffalo nickels and other common coins. Among the nickels, however, I found a 1914-D in Extremely Fine condition, a 1921, also XF, and three 1931-S nickels in VF-XF condition. The other coins were overpriced (in 1970). I did look at a tray of thin silver coins called "tankas" which were 17th- and 18th-century Himalayan coins for 3 rupees each. I took a leap of faith — since I couldnąt fathom the inscriptions — and bought 100 of them for about 20 cents a piece.
    Again, I managed to sell the lot to Joe Goldberg for 33.3 cents each — only to learn later that many catalogued for several dollars each.
    In Israel in 1998, I visited a small antique shop in the Old City. Most of their coins appeared to be ancient bronzes of low grade at high prices (even if genuine). None was even identified. In the tray of these small bronze pieces were a few Indian head cents — including an 1871 and a slightly pitted 1873 in Very Good condition, as well as an 1874 in About Good. For $1 each, I had to buy them. The other Indian cents were low grades and showed some degree of corrosion.
    Finally, going back to 1954 in Copenhagen, I found a coin shop by taking long walks from my ship. I was in the Coast Guard at the time, and we stopped in Denmark for three days. The shop owner said he had no U.S. coins but sold me on the commemorative 2 Kroner silver coins of the past four rulers for about $2 each. These handsome coins reminded me of U.S. commemoratives, and I had to buy them. Several years later, I sold them for many times the price I paid.
    I have made several other overseas trips and visited banks, post offices and other places of business in the never-ending search for a coin find. These are only a few of the better outcomes.

    Dr. Sol Taylor of Sherman Oaks is president of the Society of Lincoln Cent Collectors and author of The Standard Guide to the Lincoln Cent. Click here for ordering information.