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Collecting United States Coins..

Learn about:
Overview & a little History of Coin Collecting

{Determine Value}*{Buying Coins}*{Mints}
{Early Coins}*{19th Century Coins}
{20th Century Coins}*{Gold Coins}
{Commemorative Coins}*{Specialties}


How Value is Determined

Several factors affect the value of a coin: 1.Rarity is an important consideration. In general, the rarer a coin is, the higher its value will be. However not all rare coins are valuable. There are some series in which rarities can be purchased for a few hundreds dollars or even less. 2.Popularity is important. Coins in popular series such as one-cent pieces, silver dollars, and commemoratives (among many others) will sell for more than coins in a series collected by a few (such as streetcar tokens). 3.The condition or grade of a coin is important. A coin in Uncirculated or Mint State is worth more than one of the same variety in a worn grade such a Good or Fine. Carefully preserved Proof coins (with mirrorlike surfaces especially made for collectors) are also valuable. Coins are often graded on a numerical scale from 1 (worn nearly smooth) to 70 (perfect). A grade such as MS-65 (Mint State 65) represents a superb quality Uncirculated piece. 4.The coin market varies and sometimes moves in cyclical patterns. This affects price and demand. 5.Other considerations contributing to value include the beauty of the design, a coin's historical significance, and, in some instances, its bullion or metallic value. Curiously, age is not particularly important. There are United States coins issued within the past 50 years that are worth thousands of dollars, and there are 2000-year-old ancient Roman coins worth less than $10.

Buying Coins

Coins are bought and sold in many ways. New or current coins including modern commemoratives can be obtained from banks and government agencies. Older coins are available from professional numismatic firms by outright purchase or auction. In general there are several rules to observe when buying coins:

1.Buy a coin because you like it, because you want to own it. Rely upon your own preferences. If in doubt, acquire some books and formulate a collecting strategy. A basic numismatic library is inexpensive and will easily repay its cost.
2.Buy from a knowledgeable seller who is known for quality. Grading is important, and a small difference in grade can mean a big difference in price and value.
3.Learn market values so you can determine that you are obtaining good values for the money spent. An ideal way is to subscribe to weekly and monthly numismatic publications.
4.Hold your coins for the long term. In the past the greatest profits have gone to collectors who have built their holdings over a long time. Buying today and selling next year is rarely profitable.
5.Build an organized collection and work towards its completion. This is vastly preferable to acquiring a hodgepodge of miscellaneous coins.

Branch Mints

Philadelphia is the parent mint. Beginning in 1838 several branch mints were established. Coins struck at these facilities bear tiny letters known as mint marks. The mint at New Orleans used an 'O', the mint at Charlotte (North Carolina) used a 'C', etc. Mints used by the United States are as follows:

Philadelphia: 1793 to date. No mint mark until recent years when 'P' was used on certain (but not all) coins.
Charlotte: 1838-1861. 'C' mint mark...
Dahlonega: 1838-1861 'D' mint mark...
New Orleans: 1838-1909. 'O' mint mark...
San Francisco: 1854 to date. 'S' mint mark...
Carson City: 1870-1893. 'CC' mint mark...
Denver: 1906 to date. 'D' mint mark....
West Point: 1984 to date 'W' mint mark..
Sometimes the addition of a mint mark can make a coin very valuable. For example, a Mint State 1927 $20 gold piece made at Philadelphia (no mint mark) can be purchased in the $500 to $1,000 range, but a 1927-D $20 (with a small 'D' mint mark) in Mint State is a major rarity and costs hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Early American Coins

The first coins struck in what is now the United States were silver NE (for New England) threepence, sixpence, and shilling pieces made in Massachusetts in 1652. From then until 1790s, numerous individuals, state governments, and merchants issued coins. Did you know that at one time Vermont, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Massachusetts each issued copper coins in the 1780's? Struck from hand-engraved dies, such coins were made in many interesting varieties.

In 1793 the Philadelphia Mint issued its first coins in quantity for circulation, copper half cents and cents. The one-cent pieces, called large cents by collectors today, are larger than a present-day quarter dollar. The small-sized cent was not made for circulation until 1857, at which time half cents and large cents were discontinued.

Among large cents there are many common issues in the 1840s and 1850s which can be purchased inexpensively. On the other hand, such dates as 1793, 1799, and 1804 are considered to be rarities and are expensive. Many books have been written on the subject of large cents alone. Forming a collection of them can be a fascinating challenge and pursuit.

19th-Century Coins

During the 19th century the various United States mints produced a dazzling variety of copper, nickel, silver, and gold coins. Many of the early silver coins were of the Draped Bust and Capped Bust types, while many of those issued from the late 1830s through 1891 were of the Liberty Seated design.

Morgan silver dollars (named for the designer, George T. Morgan) were produced from 1878 to 1904 and again in 1921, were particularly popular in circulation in the American West and are avidly sought today. Many varieties were made in large quantities and are quite inexpensive. Collecting as many varieties as possible of a given design is a popular pursuit of many numismatists

Flying Eagle cents were made for circulation in 1857 and 1858, after which the Indian cent made its appearance and was produced through 1909, when it was replaced by the Lincoln Cent. In 1892 the Barber or Liberty Head design appeared on the dime, quarter, and the half dollar denominations and was used for over two decades following.

20th-Century U.S. Coins

Twentieth century coins include many familiar motifs, including the Lincoln cent (introduced in 1909 and still used), Buffalo (1913-1938) and Jefferson (1938 to date) nickels, Mercury (1916-1945) and Roosevelt (since 1946) dimes, Standing Liberty (1916-1930) and Washington quarters, Liberty Walking (1916-1947), Franklin (1948-1963), and Kennedy (since 1964) half dollars, and the Peace silver dollar (1921-1935).

Coins made of a special clad or "sandwich" composition have largely taken the place of silver since 1964. Included among the clad coins are current denominations from the dime to the half dollar as well as the Eisenhower dollar (1971-1978) and the small-size Susan B. Anthony dollar (1979-1981, & 1999).

You now have the introduction of the 50 State Quarter program where for the next 10 years the mints will produce one quarter for each of the 50 states. 5 new quarters will be introduced each year. The "P" mints will be made in Phila. mint and "D" mints from Denver. This will make a 100 piece circulated set with talk of a few more. Also proof coins will be produced at the San Fransco mint. We also can not forget the New Sacagawea Dollar coin introduced in 2000. This gold colored coin can not be misstaken for a quarter like the S.B.A. dollar.

Coins of the 20th century are popular to collect by design types or by date and mint mark sequences. There are numerous scarce and rare varieties to challenge the avid numismatist. Considered hard to find are the 1909-S V.D.B. (with the initials of the designer on the reverse) and the 1914-D Lincoln cents, and the 1916-D Standing Liberty quarter, and the three half dollar varieties of the 1921 (one each from the Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco mints), among others.

U.S. Gold Coins

Gold coins, first minted by the federal government in 1795 form a rich and romantic chapter in American coinage, for these were the largest denominations, the most valuable coinage of the realm. Although $20 gold coins, containing approximately one once of gold, were first issued for circulation in 1850, these impressively large and heavy pieces were primarily used in banking channels and were not used by the average citizen, for whom $20 might be the best part of a weeks wages. Surprisingly, many different varieties of $20 coins are available today for only slightly more than their gold content value! On the other hand, the beautiful MCMVII (1907) High Relief $20 by noted sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens is apt to cost into five figures (over $10,000) for a Mint State specimen.

Other gold coins from $1 to $10 are also avidly collected. Among the various United States mints, Charlotte and Dahlonega struck only gold coins. All such pieces are scarce today.

U.S. Commemorative Coins

The first United States commemorative silver coins were the 1892 and 1893 half dollars issued for the World's Colombian Exposition. From then to the present time, nearly 100 different types of commemoratives have been issued in silver, gold, and clad metal.

Some events commemorated were significant, more or less - such as the 150th anniversary of American Independence, various anniversaries of statehood (Alabama, Missouri, Iowa, and others), and the 1984 Olympic Games held in Los Angeles. Other events were obscure - such as the 100th anniversary of the founding of Fort Vancouver (in Washington state) and the 200th anniversary of Norfolk, Virginia's operation under the borough form of government.

Significant or obscure, all commemoratives have one thing in common: They are interesting to collect.

Other Specialties

Under the heading of numismatics will be found many other collecting specialties, each of which furnishes its own challenge. Medals of George Washington, Hobo Nickels, tokens used as emergency money during the Hard Times era of the 1830s and during the Civil War, many different varieties of paper money (some of which are extraordinarily beautiful), and more.

Many such pieces are very affordable. As examples, numerous 19th century medals honoring George Washington can be purchased in the $10 to $100 range, 1863-dated Civil War tokens can be acquired for $15 to $20 each, and many varieties of ornately engraved banknotes from the early 19th century are obtainable for $20 to $35 each. On the other hand, gold coins privately issued in California in the 1850s by bank, assay offices and others can each cost from several thousand dollars upward.

" History of Collecting Coins "

Coin Collecting has been around forever and has grown over the years.
Rare coins or any modern day coin can offer history you can hold in your hand; tangible reminders of years gone by. Every period of man's history during the last 2,500 years is reflected in coinage. The achievements of ancient Greece, the court of Queen Victoria, the Gold Rush in California and through US coins great people - all are reflected by coins from those times.
Today, coin collecting - numismatics, as it is called - is one of the world's most popular and rewarding hobbies. The gathering of coins over a period of time can add up to a fine collection can be your passport to untold hours of enjoyment. At the same time, a quality collection formed with care and held for a period of years can be a worthwhile investment and store of value that can be handed down to generations over the years..
In 1792 the federal government established the Philadelphia Mint, which began striking half cents and large cents for circulation in 1793, followed by silver half dimes, half dollars, and silver dollars in 1794, and gold $5 and $10 pieces in 1795. Sence 1986 we have been striking Silver Dollars (Eagle Doll.) but they are not for circulation..Today in the 1990s only the cent, nickel, dime, quarter, and half dollar are struck for circulation. However, during the past 200 years the United States has issued many other denominations, some of them quite unusual. These have included half cents, two cent and three cent pieces, and also 20 cent pieces (produced only for four years, from 1875 to 1878), and gold coins of the denominations of $1, $2.50, $3, $4, $5, $10, $20, and $50.
The largest coin denomination, the massive $50 gold piece, was made on several occasions, including during the California Gold Rush and years later in 1915 for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

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