Category Archives: April 2011

Coins Appeal To People Of All Ages

Child collecting coins

Is there such a thing as a really “typical” coin collector? Probably not. They seem to come in all styles and range from youngsters of around the age of ten, up to at least one very active individual I know who is 100. There are some good demographics on the kinds of people who collect coins, so we know what the average person is like. But average is not necessarily typical. Best observation is that nearly every collector is an individual who enjoys the

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hobby in a unique fashion. There are no regulations or rules that must be followed to be a successful collector, so practically everyone just sets their own pace and has fun.

The world of coin collecting is divided into several areas of activity. There are those who just like the challenge of collecting and owning something of interest and value. There are also students who love the history and artistry of old coins, but sometimes do not even own any of them. There are also investors who speculate on the value of rare pieces and enjoy beating the market when prices go up and they make a profit. There are dealers, both professional and amateurs, who buy and sell coins to accommodate the market.

Many, if not most, people interested in old coins are some kind of a combination of all of the above. It is because of this diversity that everyone seems to have a different approach to their involvement in numismatics. Then too, most interests change or evolve over the years. Collectors become specialists, or investors, or even go into dealing when it is time to sell a collection.

The really great thing about this hobby is that there are no “norms.” Everyone is free to participate at any level, and to enjoy their coins as they see fit. Youngsters often become dealers and businessmen from their involvement. Investors learn to appreciate their holdings as works of art, and the senior generation sees coins as a healthy means of relaxation and a satisfying challenge to stimulate both mind and psyche. It would be dull if everyone enjoyed the same thing. Vive la difference.

Posted in April 2011 | 2 Comments

Early San Francisco Mint Coins Hard To Find Today

Old San Francisco Mint

Old San Francisco Mint - 1874

If you have been trying to accumulate a set of old Lincoln cents you know how difficult it is to find those early dates from the San Francisco Mint. Very limited numbers of coins were ever made in the early years, and they only saw limited circulation east of the Rockies. Even collectors on the West Coast rarely see such coins any more, and it is practically impossible to fine early “S” Mint coins in the East.

The government established an official mint in San Francisco in 1854 to help assure that there would be enough coins to accommodate the blossoming economy in California after the discovery of gold there

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a few years earlier. It was slow and expensive to ship coins all the way from the Philadelphia Mint to California; and it was dangerous. Many shipments never reached their destination even though the transfer was entrusted to the army. Setting up a mint on the West Coast was an economical way to eliminate the nagging problem of never having a ready supply of coins to meet growing needs.

Production of coins in San Francisco was never large when compared to the millions of pieces made at the Philadelphia Mint each year. Only 130,000 “S” Mint half-dollar coins were made in 1855, for example, while over four million were made in New Orleans and Philadelphia that year. When the San Francisco Mint began production of nickels for the first time in 1912, only 238,000 coins were produced. In that same year over eight million nickels were made in Denver, and in Philadelphia more than 26 million were manufactured.

1909 Lincoln Cent

1909 Lincoln Cent

The most widely publicized and sought after early San Francisco coins are the 1909-S Lincoln cents with or without the designer’s initials VDB on the reverse. The classic 1909-S VDB that is lacking in most collections is rarely available today for prices under $400.00 even in worn condition. It is the one coin that most collectors remember from their childhood days of coin searching, and continue to long for when they attempt to complete that Lincoln cent collection later in life. Eventually buying the elusive coin is an attainable goal for most adults, but actually finding one in change is the like searching for the Holy Grail.

Collectors and non-collectors alike have long known that most early date “S” mint coins were worth saving because of their scarcity. The quantities of those early coins that have been removed from circulation over the years has further added to their scarcity and today it is extremely rare to find any “S” coins in circulation or even in old accumulations.

Manufacture of circulating coins was halted at San Francisco from 1956 to 1967 because of costs and diminished need. When production was resumed in 1968 it was confined to special proof coins, commemorative issues, and sets for collectors. Now it is practically impossible to locate an “S” coin in your change. But if you do, you will know immediately that you have found something very special and worth saving.

Posted in April 2011 | 2 Comments

America’s Master Coin Designer

Portrait of Christian Gobrecht

Christian Gobrecht

Few people still recognize the name Christian Gobrecht, but they should. He was arguably the most talented coin engraver this country has ever seen. The flying eagle he designed for use on the silver dollars minted from 1836 to 1839 were more beautiful than any other United States coin before or since. Unfortunately, the rarity of those pieces prevents them from being enjoyed by more than a handful of lucky owners, but we can see nearly the same image in the much more plentiful cents that were made in 1857 and 1858. A decent specimen of the Flying Eagle cent can usually be purchased for as little as $20.

Christian Gobrecht was appointed draftsman and die-sinker to the U.S. Mint and assistant to Chief Engraver William Kneass in 1836. He was subsequently elevated to Chief Engraver upon Kneass’ death in 1840, becoming the nation’s fourth Chief Engraver of the Mint. He served in that position for three years and eight months before his death on July 23, 1844.

The beautiful designs of Gobrecht lived on long after his passing and became endeared to collectors for generations. If it were not for Gobrecht’s persistence in being appointed to the Mint’s engraving staff, someone else’s designs may have appeared on the coins of that period, and we would

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have been deprived of his beautiful work. Not only did he design the memorable flying eagle used on the cent and dollar, it is his rendition of a seated figure that appears on nearly all U.S. silver coins made from 1840 to 1891.
Many changes were made at the Mint during Gobrecht’s tenure. It was a time of growth and modernization, but the most important thing this talented man brought to our nation’s coinage was an appreciation of engraving talent and beauty.

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Uncirculated American Silver Eagle

2009 American Eagle Silver Dollar

2009 American Eagle Silver Dollar

The American Silver Eagle is the official silver bullion coin of the United States. It was first released by the United States Mint on

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November 24, 1986. It is struck only in the one-troy ounce size, which has a nominal face value of one dollar and is guaranteed to contain one troy ounce of 99.9% pure

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silver. The United States Mint certifies its content, weight, and purity. In addition to the bullion version, the United States Mint has produced a proof version and an uncirculated version for coin collectors. The Silver Eagle has been produced at three mints: the Philadelphia Mint, the San Francisco Mint, and the West Point Mint.


The authorizing legislation for the American Silver Eagle bullion program stipulated that the silver used to mint the coins be acquired from the Defense National Stockpile with the intent to deplete the stockpile’s silver holdings slowly over several years. By 2002, it became apparent that the stockpile would be depleted and that further legislation would be required for the program to continue. On June 6, 2002, Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada) introduced bill S. 2594, “Support of American Eagle Silver Bullion Program Act,” “to authorize the Secretary of the Treasury to purchase silver on the open market when the silver stockpile is depleted.”

From 2006 to 2008, the United States Mint issued a collectible uncirculated Silver Eagle coin produced at West Point (bearing the “W” mintmark). The coins were struck on specially burnished blanks and sometimes are referred to as “W Uncirculated” or “Burnished Uncirculated.”

Posted in April 2011 | Leave a comment

Fascinating Coin Fact

2010 Lincoln Cent

2010 Lincoln Cent

The 3/4 inch size of the pennies you use today were suggested by a doctor who tried to convince the government that smaller coins made

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of copper-nickel would be cleaner and longer-wearing than the old large size copper cents. Dr. Louis Feutschwanger made the recommendation in 1837, but it was not until twenty years later that the government took action to do away with the bulky large cents that had been used since the beginning of the Mint in 1793.

Posted in April 2011 | 2 Comments