Dr. Sol Taylor

What to Collect, Hoard or Save

By Dr. Sol Taylor
"Making Cents"
Saturday, February 2, 2008

n my 70 years as a collector and more than 50 years as a dealer and appraiser, I have seen thousands of collections, hoards and accumulations of every conceivable type of material.
    More than 90 percent of the coins I have been asked to evaluate consist of a few numismatic items and mostly coins of no collector value (or even potential value). In the past 10 years or so, I have seen more than 100 accumulations — including, in one home, five coffee cans filled with foreign coins. Fortunately approximately 20 percent were silver; thus this was a valuable hoard. Most of the accumulations seemed to have a few, or many, Morgan and Peace dollars. This was primarily the result of people visiting Las Vegas or Reno in the days before 1970 when real silver dollars actually came out of the slot machines.
    Here is a capsule for those who have hoards, collections or accumulations to evaluate.
    Starting with Lincoln cents, all those minted before 1959 (known as "wheat back" cents) are worth about 2 cents each. For dates before 1940, they are worth at least 3 cents each.
    Of course, there are many highly collectible dates in those years, and one can expect a few "finds" in a large hoard. Those minted since 1959 have no numismatic value except the 1960 small-date variety and uncirculated rolls of many dates in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.
    In the five-cent category, all Buffalo nickels have a premium value, regardless of condition. Dateless coins are worth at least 10 cents each. Coins with a date that is partially visible are worth 20 cents or more. Full-date coins can start at 50 cents. Dates before 1934 are worth more.
    Jefferson nickels have no premium except for a few dates: 1938-S, 1938-D, 1939-D and 1950-D, plus the silver wartime issues of 1942-45 with the large mintmark on the reverse. The 2004 and 2005 commemorative nickels are too numerous to be saved except in mint-condition rolls.
    All dimes before 1965 are worth their "junk" silver value. When the spot silver price is $20, the 90-percent silver coins issued through 1964 are worth 14 to 15 times face value. Prices depend on silver bullion prices. Among the Mercury (Winged Liberty) dimes, there are many premium dates prior to 1934. Among the Roosevelt dimes, only the 1955 issues have a premium. Dimes dated after 1964 have no premium value.
    All quarters minted before 1965 are worth their silver value. All Standing Liberty quarters have a premium above that value, except for well-worn coins. Among Washington quarters, only the 1932-D and 1932-S have a significant premium over the silver value. The 1955-D also carries a premium. Those dated after 1964 have no premium value, and so far, none of the 50-state quarters series is worthy of saving.
    All half dollars dated 1964 and earlier are worth their silver value. In the Franklin half dollar series, the 1949-S, 1955 and 1956 coins are worth more than silver value. Among the earlier issues (1916-47), only those prior to 1940 are worth more than their silver content, and many dates are worth quite a bit more — such as the 1916, 1917-S obverse, 1921 issues, and 1938-D.
    The 1964 Kennedy half is 90 percent silver and worth 14 to 15 times face value at today's silver prices. The 1965-69 issues are 40 percent silver and worth about $2 each at today's prices. The 1970-D and 1970-S are worth several times their face value but were not issued for circulation and thus are not likely to wind up in a typical hoard of old coins. Most circulation issues after 1970 have no premium value.
    The Eisenhower dollar has no premium value, and almost every hoard I have seen has several pieces. The same is true for the Susan B. Anthony dollars. The current Sacagawea dollar is so numerous that the Mint stopped making them since there is no demand for them.
    Many hoards also have a few silver certificates which, in used condition, are worth face value. Nice, crisp specimens are worth $2 and up, depending on the series year. The same applies to the $5 and $10 silver certificates. They are not redeemable in silver; that stopped in 1969. Two-dollar bills are also hoarded, but except for the red-seal series, they are worth face value. Crisp red-seal types are worth $5 and up.
    The rule of thumb for most hoarders and accumulators is that silver coins are the best premium items in the hoard or accumulation. For collectors with albums (full or not), annual mint or proof sets, certified coins and collector coins bought at auction are the best bet for long-term holdings.
    The items described above are best left at the supermarket or bank at face value. They have not appreciated in the past 30 to 40 years and are not likely to appreciate in the next 30 to 40 years — so why keep them?

    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.