Dr. Sol Taylor

Some Interesting E-mails

By Dr. Sol Taylor
"Making Cents"
Saturday, September 29, 2007

ne email we received recently showed images of a 1909-S VDB cent being offered on eBay. It had drawn several bids and was around $250. The owner wanted to know if this was reasonable.
    From the images on e-Bay, the coin is either very worn and damaged or not really a 1909-S VDB. The mintmark is hard to see clearly and may not be the true "S." Uncertified 1909íS VDBs are very hard to market and thus a price of "only" $250 is fair considering the risk the buyer is taking.
    Another e-mail explains in detail why the current cent (1982-date) will be worthwhile hoarding while the pre-1982 cent is already a valuable commodity as a hoarded coin.
    Unless the price of zinc matches that of copper or beyond, the chances of current post-1982 cents being worth more than face value is remote — and certainly not in the near future. As for the 95-percent copper cents, although they are worth more than one cent now, the value of copper has to rise significantly in the near future to make hoarding these coins worthwhile.
    Right now, the cost of melting such coins and the processing into bars or ingots is not profitable, and neither scenario would make such coins any more collectible than they are now. The wheat-ear cents (pre-1959) are of some value now and will continue to rise to meet collector demand — not to match the bullion market.
    Another e-mail outlines why the bicentennial quarters, halves and Ike dollars are worthwhile hoarding and keeping for investment.
    The fact that most of these coins do not circulate anymore (although the quarters show up in change more than the others) does not make them investment-caliber coins. The mintages were very large, and many people hoarded these coins by the roll, bag or more. Almost every estate I evaluate contains quantities of all three of these coins. Except for the "S" mint issues, these coins are worth face value — in fact, few dealers would pay any (or a very tiny) premium for all three, even in mint condition. That includes the "P" and "D" mint issues.
    Another e-mail is from a woman, probably over 80, whose husband was in the banking business many years ago and had put away some large notes including a few $500 and $1,000 bills. She is fearful that such bills are unlawful to own or that her husband might have done something illegal to acquire them or in failing to report them.
    Her fears are history. Such bills are very valuable, and even well-used big bills are worth 10 to 20 percent over face value and are easily sold to any reputable coin dealer. In mint condition, they are worth multiples of their face value. There was no requirement that owning such bills had to be reported — to anyone. And if he acquired them illegally (let us say 65 years ago), who cares?
    Another e-mail: "I have a one-cent-sized copper token that has a shield on one side and Army-Navy on the other. I was told this is a Civil War token and I saw a similar one on eBay sell for about $78 not long ago. Is it worthwhile putting this on e-Bay?"
    They key issue is, what condition is your token? If it is in mint or near mint condition, it might go for something close to $78 (although that still seems pretty high for this common token), and in well used condition it might bring as little as $10 — or less. It may be preferable to offer it to a coin dealer, or if you can go to a coin show, offer it to several dealers and get a consensus value. This is the same advice for any coin- or token-owner looking to sell.
    This e-mail details a coin find in a construction site:
    "My father was a general contractor. As a boy, I would go to some sites where he was demolishing a building. At one site of an old church in New York near Albany, he found dozens of coins in the rubble — not that unusual, except some of them were punched in tiny letters that look like "COREY OINTMENT" on two lines. Does that make them more or less valuable?"
    The counterstamp is a well-known one listed in the book on United States tokens, and depending on its condition and denomination can be worth several dollars each. They are worth more with the counterstamp than without.
    One woman brought me eight silver dollar-sized coins of various types including three bust dollars, a Morgan dollar, a Peace dollar and three dollar-sized tokens. The pieces sounded and felt like silver, but all were counterfeit. The bust dollars had reeded edges; real ones have lettered edges. The other features are not good fakes, either. The Morgan dollar was 1889-CC — the mint mark was two "Cs" different from the real "CCs." Who would make such fakes? Hard to say — but such pieces can be passed on to unsuspecting people at swap meets and garage sales. At a glance, each piece looked real and when bounced on my desk sounded very much like a silver dollar. Once each coin was looked at with a loupe, it was evident each one was fake.
    I suggested they be donated to the ANA for its collection of counterfeit coins — which the ANA is legally allowed to own and use for educational purposes. Otherwise, if detected such pieces can be confiscated and the owner subject to prosecution.

    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.