The Buffalo Nickel, Another Iconic American Coin

Buffalo-nickel

The Buffalo nickel is another iconic American coin that is very enjoyable to collect. Preceded by the Liberty Head nickel and succeeded by the Jefferson nickel, this coin pays homage to Native Indian history and the history of the American West. It is a piece of Americana and, in the words of Eames MacVeagh, “a permanent souvenir of a most attractive sort.”

The Earlier Version - The Liberty Head Nickel

Before the Buffalo nickel the Liberty Head nickel was in use. It featured designs by then Mint Engraver, Charles Barber. This coin was first issued in 1883, but its design created a sticky problem. The Liberty Head nickel was very similar in size to the half eagle. This meant that criminals could pass it off as a five dollar coin with a little work. Because of this, the design was modified to add the word CENTS to the reverse. With this modification, this nickel continued to be minted until 1912.

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The History of U.S. National Bank Notes

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Most Americans have lived their entire lives using the standard American currency we all recognize. They might be surprised to learn that in its earlier years the American money system was the opposite of standard. The genesis of our modern currency was the National Bank Act which President Lincoln signed into law in 1863. This created the United States National Banking System, a prototype of what we use today:

“The National Banking Act (ch. 58, 12 Stat. 665; February 25, 1863), originally known as the National Currency Act, and was passed in the Senate by a narrow 23–21 vote. The main goal of this act was to create a single national currency and to eradicate the problem of notes from multiple banks circulating all at once. The Act established national banks that could issue notes which were backed by the United States Treasury and printed by the government itself. The quantity of notes that a bank was allowed to issue was proportional to the bank's level of capital deposited with the Comptroller of the Currency at the Treasury. To further control the currency, the Act taxed notes issued by state and local banks, essentially pushing non-federally issued paper out of circulation.”

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How Did the "In God We Trust" Coin Motto Originate?

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Americans are very familiar with coins and currency that display the motto, “In God We Trust.” It’s our nation’s motto, so it only makes sense that it would appear on our money. This was not always the case, however. Why was the motto added to our coinage and when?

Civil War Upheaval 

The first coin to display the “In God We Trust” motto was the 1864 two-cent coin. Given the timing, you can imagine the impetus for the change. Shaken by the worst war that Americans had ever experienced and great casualties for both the North and the South, many people were looking for reassurance that all would be fine and that God had not abandoned them during this terrible ordeal. In 1861, the Secretary of the Treasury, Salmon P. Chase, received the first request for an acknowledgement of God on the national coinage. Rev. M.R. Watkinson wrote to him with a design for a coin in mind involving a ring inscribed with the words PERPETUAL UNION, the all-seeing eye crowned with a halo, the American flag with all the stars of the once again United States, and the words GOD, LIBERTY, and LAW. 

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Mullen Coins Is Now Grand Rapids Coins

Grand-Rapids-Coins

Name Change: Mullen Coins Is Now Grand Rapids Coins 

Our longtime customers may have noticed that our name has changed on social media. Mullen Coins is now Grand Rapids Coins, a name we believe reflects our relationship to the market we primarily serve in West Michigan. We also are excited to announce that Ben Soldaat has joined our team as an associate. Ben and Pat Mullen have known each other for many years, have had countless discussions about coins, and have been involved together in the coin market for over a decade.

Grand Rapids Coins Welcomes Ben Soldaat 

There has been a great deal of growth in the coin market in West Michigan in the past few years. In particular, more members of older generations of collectors are passing on their coins to their children as they downsize their possessions or in their wills. Many people inherit coins and do not know what they are worth or what they should do with these collections. The collections must be assessed before they can make the best choices. 

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How to Detect Counterfeits

How to Detect Counterfeits
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As a Grand Rapids coin dealer, we at Mullen Coins have an especially strong interest in the detection of counterfeit and altered coins. In point of fact, anyone who deals with rare coins will develop a basic understanding of how to detect counterfeits, whether out of interest or necessity. If you are considering purchasing a rare date coin, or if you are looking to sell your coins, you may need to pay special attention to authenticity.

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To Be a Better Coin Buyer, Be a Good Coin Seller

To Be a Better Coin Buyer, Be a Good Coin Seller

I urge you to occasionally sell some of your coins—you will become a wiser, more educated collector. [You may also avoid unpleasant surprises when you do decide to sell some or all of your collection.]

Learn from my own story…I started collecting coins as a child.  Like most new collectors, my method was a trip to the bank to get rolls of Lincoln cents to search for better dates to put in my Whitman blue book.   It was a really fun treasure hunt.  I was buying valuable coins at face value!  But I did not sell any.

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What a Difference a Star Makes (1922 Grant Commemorative)

What a Difference a Star Makes (1922 Grant Commemorative)

When it comes to rare coins Grand Rapids (as well as other places across the country) Mullen Coins has many collectors who specialize in early American commemoratives. Indeed, commemoratives have been popular with collectors and history buffs ever since their inception, as we describe in our recent post about “Why Collectors Enjoy Commemoratives.” As an example of what makes commemoratives an interesting specialty, we can take the mystery of the 1922 Grant with Star commemorative silver half.

As the story goes, the Grant commemorative was originally requested by the Ulysses S. Grant Centenary Memorial Association, with the idea of raising funds to erect monuments and coordinate special observances in Ohio for the 100th anniversary of Grant’s birth. Originally, a bill was approved by Congress in 1922 to mint 10,000 gold dollars and up to 250,000 silver half dollars.

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Christmas Gift from Dad

Christmas Gift from Dad

Would you love to own a treasure chest? Filled with coins and other treasures?

For Christmas, two of my Grand Rapids clients displayed a true creative streak! They gifted each of their four adult children with a full treasure chest--loaded with his divided coin collection and other little beads and chocolate gold coins. You could pull this idea off for Valentine’s Day or other celebration.

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Why Collectors Enjoy Commemoratives

Why Collectors Enjoy Commemoratives

Depending on how you become interested in coin collecting, and where your interest leads you, you may someday find yourself talking to a Grand Rapids coin dealer about U.S. commemoratives. For those not familiar with the term, commemorative coins in the United States are issued to honor people, events, institutions, or places. Commemoratives have developed into a separate class of coins, intended as collector’s items or as an economic investment. They can be either circulating or non-circulating.

  • Circulating: Technically, there are a few examples of circulating commemoratives that are intended to be used for commerce, and the U.S. Bicentennial Quarter (1975-1976) and the 50 State Quarter (1999-2009) programs serve as prime examples. For these programs, the designs were only issued for a limited time, and were intended to draw some attention to a specific event or person.
  • Non-circulating: In most cases, commemoratives are non-circulating legal tender (NCLT), and are often produced in gold or silver.  The funds raised by the sale of commemoratives have been used to pay for monuments or fund a specific project, as an alternative to raising taxes. For example, the 1925 California Diamond Jubilee half dollar was issued to help fund the state’s celebration, and the famous 1893 Isabella Quarter was issued to help raise funds for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

 

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5 Very Famous Coin Collections

5 Very Famous Coin Collections

It’s easy to see how the history and provenance of any one rare coin can become a passion for any coin collector (and especially for this Grand Rapids coin dealer!).

But what makes a coin collection or its collector particularly famous? The reasons vary. Some collectors, like Wayne Gretzsky, are otherwise-famous people who have also become known as coin collectors. In other circumstances, a high-quality collection becomes famous because it is publicly accessible, such as the Smithsonian collection or the U.S. Mint collection, mentioned in “5 Best Places to See Rare Coins.”

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Why Are Coin Values Increasing?

Why Are Coin Values Increasing?

One question I am sometimes asked (by people who know that I am a Grand Rapids coin dealer) is, “What are the trends in rare coin values?”

In general, over long periods of time, rare coin values tend to increase.  This has certainly been the case for rare coins over the past two years… but the key word is “rare.”   When a coin’s value is largely determined by rarity (along with condition and desirability) vs. bullion content, values tend to rise over time.  However, when a coin’s value is largely tied to the spot price of silver and gold, its value will rise and fall with the value of the metal.  Gold and silver prices have declined in the past two years; hence, bullion coin values have also declined.  

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Insuring Your Coin Collection

Insuring Your Coin Collection

Whether you’re an avid rare coin collector or a Grand Rapids coin dealer, insuring your coin collection can be one of the best ways to protect your investment and give you peace of mind. With an annual cost that is often around 1% of the value of your collection, it may be worth considering for any collector. For professional collectors and dealers, the cost is even a deductible expense. 

Many beginning collectors assume that their homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy covers their rare coin collection. It’s true that some homeowners’ policies will cover small coin theft, but many policies have exclusion clauses. Read your insurance policy carefully to find out what it does and doesn’t cover.

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6 Tips for Selling an Estate Coin Collection

6 Tips for Selling an Estate Coin Collection

For most people, an inherited rare coin collection is a part of a larger estate, which may also include property, IRAs, investment assets, cars, or land. Since the coin collection is usually a smaller part of the inheritance, the inheritors often would like to liquidate the collection. As a Grand Rapids coin dealer, we have had many opportunities to assist with estate coin collections, and can offer few suggestions for how to proceed (although please understand that I am not an estate attorney):

  1. Resist any temptation to clean the coins. Again, do not clean the coins, because much of the value of coins is their “original” condition. You will devalue the coins if you clean them.
  2. Look for any written directives about how to divide the collection, or documentation of the collection. If everyone involved decides to sell the collection and share the proceeds, in most cases it’s necessary to determine the value of the collection as a part of the total estate.
  3. Get a general sense of the value of the collection. In the absence of an inventory, you can do a little sorting and value estimation on your own, with the help of coin books and websites, depending on the time and interest you have. For non-experts, the main issue with selling an estate coin collection is to determine whether you have a collection or an accumulation. An accumulation may be either pocket change, or a group of coins that interested the owner but has no real numismatic value. It can be helpful if you can find some indication of where the coins were originally purchased and what was paid. This information could come from an inventory, or original flips (the old coin holders), or receipts and notes.
  4. Seek the help of a reputable coin dealer for a valuation of the collection.   Check to see if dealer is a member of the local Better Business Bureau, the local Chamber of Commerce, and state and national coin organizations such as the American Numismatic Association.   If you would like to work with a Grand Rapids coin dealer, contact Mullen Coins for a free coin valuation.
  5. Decide whether you’d like to keep any part of the rare coin collections as a memento. How do you decide which coin(s) are representative of the collection? You can always choose a rare coin that has most interested you over the years, or one that you know was the collector’s favorite. If you’re not sure which coin reflects the collection, you can always ask when you have the collection evaluated. One of the things we find most fascinating at Mullen Coins, when evaluating a coin collection, is that we get a real sense of the interests and workings of the collector.
  6. Sell the collection. The way you sell your coins most profitably will depend on their value. Several of the avenues for selling your coins follow:

 

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5 Best Places to See Rare Coins

5 Best Places to See Rare Coins

When you collect rare coins, you can learn a lot from what you read in books, websites and forums. You also learn whenever you visit a show or a Grand Rapids coin dealer. However, if you wanted to see some of the most interesting specimens of rare coins, there are a few exhibits that nearly any collector would enjoy:

  1. The Smithsonian museums house the amazing National Numismatic Collection, and no coin collector’s trip to Washington, D.C., is complete without a visit to the Smithsonian. Many people don’t realize that the Smithsonian museums started with James Smithson’s donation of a large number of gold British sovereigns, with the purpose of melting and financing a national museum. The Smithsonian collection includes U.S. coins and currency, world coins such as U.S. Grant’s sizeable Japanese coin collection, and a large array of medals as well. It features some of the rarest specimens in the world, and entire famous collections like the Josiah Lilly collection of gold coins. The National Numismatic Collection contains over 450,000 coins and 1.1 million pieces of currency. The exhibit, housed in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, is sure to yield some interesting new tidbits for any collector, whether novice or expert.
  2. The U.S. Mints display some prime examples of both U.S. and world coins.  Because of the free coinage provision of the Coinage Act of 1792, people sent in foreign coins to be melted and re-minted into U.S. currency. The U.S. Mints decided, however, to set aside some of the best foreign collections of coins. The Mints also display examples of some of the most beautiful U.S. coins ever created. You can tour the Philadelphia Mint if you happen to be visiting that city, or the Denver mint as well (as long as you make reservations in advance).
  3. Numerous national coin shows have educational exhibits, and rare coins are often on display prior to auction. Google “national coin shows” for full lists. Good possibilities are the World’s Fair of Money (Chicago), the FUN Shows in Orlando, and several others would be well worth your time!
  4. TheWorld’s Fair of Money, sponsored by the American Numismatic Association, will be held August 5-9 this year near Chicago. This is a world class event where dealers, collectors, auction houses, and money organizations will have incredibly rare coins on display, and you’ll find educational displays on a variety of high-quality rare coins. There is also a Museum Showcase display, where one coin sure to draw a large amount of attention is the finest PCGS-certified 1922 Matte Finish High Relief Peace dollar, graded PCGS PR67.
  5. The ANA Money Museum in Colorado Springs, Colorado, has another diverse exhibit of rare coins. This collection includes over 250,000 numismatic items, with rotating exhibits.

Apart from these, you may sometimes run across great websites, such as auction house websites that share a history and spectacular images of rare coins. When you do find an informative site, certainly add it to your bookmarks. However, viewing a coin online is somehow not the same as seeing it in person. So another option is to check with your local coin dealer and see what particularly interesting specimens they currently have in inventory. Whether you work with a Grand Rapids coin dealer or any other, you never know what you may find. At Mullen Coins, we always welcome your inquiries about great coins in our current inventory, so contact us, or visit us by appointment or at an upcoming show.

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What Accounts for Differences in Coin Values?

What Accounts for Differences in Coin Values?

One of the fascinating aspects of rare coins is the variation in their values. Whether you’re selling a coin collection or acquiring interesting specimens, you might wonder why Rare Coin A is worth more than Rare Coin B, especially if you are just starting out. Here is some food for thought.

I have two of the same coins from the same date. Why would one be worth more than the other?

First, look for the mint mark… even two coins of the same denomination and date often bear different mint marks.   One could have had a much lower mintage, and possibly worth considerably more. 

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Choosing the Right Storage to Protect Coin Values

Choosing the Right Storage to Protect Coin Values

When collecting rare coins, you should consider several factors when deciding where and how to store them.  Proper storage will preserve the condition and appearance of the coins and, therefore, maximize value.  Here is a list of helpful hints about what to consider when storing your coin collection. 

  • The coin’s container is critical to long-term storage.  Avoid soft plastic PVC holders and other soft plastic packages.  Over time, PVC will damage the coin's surface and destroy its potential value.  Coins should be stored in hard plastic mylar flips, in coin books such as Dansco albums or in hard plastic coin roll containers.  Cardboard/plastic flips requiring staples are acceptable for coin storage, assuming the staples are properly clamped.  Improperly stapled flips can easily scratch other coins.
  • Avoid other containers that might allow chemical reactions over long periods of time.  Any box or can that might rust or decay over time is not a good container to store coins.  A rusting can will eventually damage the contents.  Avoid soft plastic bags such as baggies… over time, these will also damage coins. Again, consider using hard plastic containers specifically designed for long-term coin storage.
  • A climate-controlled environment is critically important to long-term storage. Coins should be stored in locations which are not subject to large temperature variations or humidity changes.  Attics and basements are possibly the worst imaginable environments.  Keep coins in safes, safe boxes, or at a minimum, in main floor locations with consistent temperatures. 
  • More valuable coins should be stored in hard plastic containers such as TPG (Third Party Grading Service) holders or modern hard plastic holders designed specifically for coins.  Even holdered coins should be stored in a properly climate controlled environment. 
  • Avoid storing coins in containers with other items which might cause unattractive toning.  Similar to the way silverware darkens when stored, silver coins will also react to environmental gas emissions from variety of common household items.   Even coins stored in appropriate holders  may "tone" over time due to gas emissions from such things as cardboard boxes, fabrics, or paints. 

Whether your coin collection consists of one rare coin or a whole safe full, the method you choose for storage requires thought and care.   It is also wise to physically examine your coins' appearance to be certain they remain in pristine condition.

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Famous Coin Hoards

Famous Coin Hoards

Hoarders these days get a bad name, with reality TV programs dedicated to their rehabilitation. Among coin enthusiasts, though, a “hoard” takes on a whole different meaning, more in tune with the archeological definition. A hoard is a wealth deposit of valuable artifacts, usually intentionally buried or hidden for later retrieval. Coin hoards can result from individual investors’ ongoing passion, shipwrecks, bank reserves, and even government collections. 

Coin hoards intrigue collectors and investors alike because of the special history of the coins, and the story of how the coins come to light. Depending on a number of factors (circumstances surrounding the discovery of the hoard), the hoard can have a huge impact on the market for a particular type of coin, or the coins may be more valuable than other coins of the same type. Famous coin hoards are generally those that were successfully dispersed back into the market, increasing the coins’ popularity with collectors and the market.

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Negotiating a Coin Transaction

Negotiating a Coin Transaction

Long before I became a Grand Rapids coin dealer, I realized that certain coins no longer fit into my collections. At a certain point, as a coin hobbyist or investor, you will undoubtedly come to the same realization. Maybe you have decided to collect a different series, or trade up to a higher grade. Or perhaps one of your set just doesn't measure up to the appearance of the others.

It pays to hone your negotiation skills, and a few basic tips can take you far when negotiating sales and trades from your coin collection.

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Origins of Rare Coin Grading

Origins of Rare Coin Grading

Coin grading, as Kathy Mullen mentioned in “Introduction to Coin Grading”, is the process of determining the grade or condition of a coin, and it’s one of the key factors in determining coin values as a collector's item. The appearance of a coin can be broken down into several key components – strike, surface preservation, luster, coloration, and eye appeal – and then the grade is assigned accordingly based on the overall quality of the piece.

Coin grading has evolved along with the coin collecting hobby over hundreds of years. The earliest systems simply used a one- or two-word description or a letter grade to describe a coin’s condition. Later William H. Sheldon developed a numerical grade scale of 1-70, and although it was originally intended for large cents, collectors found that the system translated well for any type of coin. The current system of grading in the United States combines the letter grade and numerical grade, ranging from a PR-01 (poor coin with an identifiable date) to MS-70 (perfect uncirculated) for regular business strike coins. The system, which is credited to the American Numismatic Association, is detailed in James L. Halperin’s How to Grade U.S. Coins.  

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Rare Coin Prices Continue to Increase!!

Rare Coin Prices Continue to Increase!!

The Eric Newman collection of 1,800 exceptional examples of US rare coins sold at auction this past week for more than $23,000,000! Not bad for a $7,500 investment!!

As a Grand Rapids coin dealer, I was an active bidder for some of these exceptional coins. The bidding was fierce and I was outbid by record prices on nearly every lot. Rare coin prices are STRONG!

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