Coin Collector Blog

Mullen Coins Collection Blog provides valuable articles and content about coin collections, rare coins, currency, antiquities and interesting reviews of news and events within the numismatic community.

Grand Rapids Coins Charges No Sales Tax on Coins Bought In Michigan

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If there’s anything most customers want to avoid, it’s paying sales tax. That’s why buying online had such an advantage over brick-and-mortar stores for so long. Did you know that Grand Rapids Coins charges no sales tax on purchases of coins bought in Michigan? There is no sales tax at all on coins or bullion in Michigan so all transactions that we make with our customers - either sales or purchases - are tax free as long as they’re purchased in the state. 

Michigan’s Sales Tax Law 

Prior to 1999 Michigan did charge a sales tax on transactions of coins, and it meant that there were fewer coin dealers and almost $2 million dollars fewer coin sales per year. That’s because rare coins and precious metals bullion are largely fungible products. If a buyer couldn’t find the coins he wanted in Michigan or didn’t want to pay sales tax, with the exception of very rare coins, it was possible to buy a similar coin from a buyer in a state with no sales tax. Many people who live in states with a sales tax on coins, like Ohio, will now travel to states like Michigan in order to avoid paying taxes of 6-8% of the sale price. 

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How Does Toning Affect the Value of Collectible Coins?

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Grand Rapids Coins recommends to our clients that they not clean their coins. Cleaning coins decreases their value. Generally speaking, every time a coin is improperly handled or used, its value goes down. Coin collectors prefer to have coins in as close to mint condition as possible. However, there are a few coin alterations that can positively affect a coin’s value. One of these is toning. 

What Is Toning? 

Toning is coloring that occurs on the surface of a coin as a result of it interacting chemically with its environment. We often see coin toning that is beautiful and has a spectrum of colors like a rainbow. Not all toning is pretty, however. Sometimes it can be a dark color that obscures the images on the coin and makes the coin look pitted or ugly. How a coin tones depends on the chemical composition of the coin and what it has interacted with. 

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Mint Marks: What Difference Does a Letter Make?

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In a previous blog we talked about the great American Money Experiment. In its infancy our country broke with the British currency system. In 1792 the fledgling United States Congress passed the Coinage Act which authorized the building of the United States Mint and created a brand new currency: the U.S. dollar. The first mint was built in Philadelphia, but eventually coins were minted in eight different locations. Mint marks help coin collectors identify where their coins originated. 

What Are Mint Marks? 

Mint marks are letters located on either the reverse or obverse of a coin that identify the location where a coin was minted. They were instituted as a way of keeping the different mint branches accountable for the quality of the coins they produced. This was especially important when circulated coins had a high gold or silver content. In fact, at one time there was a commission that evaluated coins from different mint facilities to ensure that they had the correct percentage of specific metals. 

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How Does a Coin Evaluation Work?

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When someone requests an evaluation of his or her rare coins, it is usually for a specific reason – an insurance appraisal, a division of assets, or to learn the value for the purchase or sale of a collection. It’s important to understand the basics of how coin evaluations work to make sure you get a fair valuation and – if you’re planning to sell your coin collection – a fair price.

How do you choose a coin evaluator/appraiser?

Many people who live near a trusted and reputable coin dealer prefer to visit the dealer in person. It is best to arrange your meeting ahead of time so that neither of you is rushed. You’ll want to make sure the dealer handles the type of coins you have, and whether they may be interested in buying your coins.

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The Franklin Half Dollar, a Popular Collector Coin

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The Franklin half dollar is a popular series to collect. These coins were minted between 1948 and 1963 and remain in demand today for many reasons, not the least of which is their relative affordability and the ease with which they can be obtained. This is a great coin set project for beginning collectors.

Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father

Benjamin Franklin, while never an American president, was a founding father who is well remembered for his inventions and his work during the American Revolution and afterwards on behalf of the new nation. In 1947, Nellie Taylor Ross, the director of the U.S. Mint and a fan of Franklin’s, pushed for a coin that would feature his likeness. She asked the mint’s chief engraver, John Sinnock, to create a design. Sinnock had also designed the Roosevelt dime, but he died before he could complete the Franklin project. His successor, Gilroy Roberts, finished up the work on the Franklin half dollar.

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How Much Was a Biblical Talent Worth?

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The Bible contains many mysteries within it, but not all of these were meant to be mysteries. Some are just references to a culture that no longer exists. One of these is found in The Parable of the Ungrateful Servant in the Gospel of Matthew. In this parable a king (or “master”) forgives the debt of a man who owes him ten thousand talents. The reader is meant to understand this is a huge sum of money and the king, who represents God, is very generous. How much money was a talent worth, though? What was a biblical talent? Here we will answer those questions. 

The Parable of the Ungrateful Servant 

For those unfamiliar with this story, the details are these: a servant who owes ten thousand talents to a king is brought before him unable to pay back his debt. He and his whole family are to be sold into slavery to settle what he owes. The man throws himself at the mercy of the king and begs a little more time to pay back the money. The king, in response, shows him pity and tells him the debt is forgiven and he can go. 

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The Walking Liberty Half Dollar, a Beautiful Collectible Coin

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The Walking Liberty half dollar is one of the three most collectible U.S. half dollar coins, with the others being the Kennedy half dollar and the Franklin half. This historic coin is not only very collectible, it’s also a beautiful and beloved American coin. Let’s talk about how the Walking Liberty half dollar came to be and what it’s worth to coin collectors today.

Early 20th Century Coin Revamps

In the early years of the twentieth century, several U.S. presidential administrations were motivated to update the coinage with designs they thought were more beautiful and modern than the Barber coins in circulation. In 1890 Congress had passed legislation regulating the design and issue of new coins, putting a 25-year limit on when the treasury could replace old designs for new. The Barber half dollar and other denominations were introduced to the American public in 1892, so the U.S. Treasury instigated the design process for a new half dollar in January of 1915. 

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The History of Vatican Coins

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For Americans who collect primarily American coins, it can be hard to know where to start with coins from around the world. There are so many beautiful and history rich coins that have been produced over the millennia. Collecting Vatican coins would be a rewarding place to begin. The Vatican has a long and storied history of politics and art. Its mint produces new Vatican City money every year, and those coins tend to increase in popularity and value. 

The Catholic Church dates back to the death of Jesus Christ and the evangelism of his disciples, in particular Peter. In Catholic history, St. Peter is one of the earliest martyrs and saints. Tradition has it that he was crucified upside down in Rome in Nero's amphitheater in 67 A.D. This is the site on which the Vatican stands today. 

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Grand Rapids Coins Buys Scrap Gold and Sterling Silver

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Gold is a highly coveted precious metal that has held its value over time. Grand Rapids Coins buys and sells coins and currency, but we also buy scrap gold and sterling silver. If you’ve ever wondered about the value of your gold jewelry or silver items, in this blog we will go through the differences between types of gold and silver. We will also discuss how scrap gold is processed into investment grade gold bullion.

Different Kinds of Scrap Gold

Gold is a very precious metal that has held value over time, unlike many other mediums of exchange. There is currently a great deal of interest in gold because the price of gold has been high and rising for some time. That high price is an incentive for people who may have jewelry or other gold items lying around that they do not use. Those items can be sold as scrap gold for cash. 

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Barber Coins - Affordable and Enjoyable Coin Collecting

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For people who have an interest in coin collecting but don’t know where to begin, one common recommendation everyone gives is to search out Lincoln cents. There are so many different varieties of this coin, and they are everywhere in circulation, so even young children can successfully hunt for them. Barber coins are another wonderful entry-level choice - attractive coins that can be found at mostly affordable prices. There are enough Barber coins available that a collector can build a year set without breaking the bank. Halves are readily obtainable, quarters have three challenging years, and dimes have the mammoth rarity being 1894 S. Given some very low mintages compared to Walking Liberty halves, Standing Liberty quarters, Mercury dimes, and Washington quarters there is upside potential. The Walking Liberty half dollars series has a mere 9 coins with mintages under one million compared to 20 for the barber half series. Considering the extra years in circulation, this makes higher grade circulated coins a fun challenge.

What Are Barber Coins? 

U.S. Mint engraver Charles E. Barber designed these coins, and they get their name from him. Specifically, Barber coins are dime, quarter, and half dollar denomination coins that were minted between 1892 and 1916. Barber dimes, quarters, and half dollars all have the same design on the obverse of the coin, so size is the best way to tell them apart, along with the different details on their reverse sides. 

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High Bullion Prices Bring out the Sharks

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It must have been my lucky day. I couldn't sleep the other night, and I turned on the television. The first channel I caught was running a commercial for a coin dealer offering a very limited number of rare coins for sale. The first question I asked myself was, “How can these coins be rare if there is enough supply to run the same commercial several times?” While there are certainly many rare and valuable dates on most coins series, there are infinitely more common dates in uncirculated condition. Unfortunately, high bullion prices are bringing out the sharks, so would-be coin investors better be wary of the “good deals” on coins right now.

Morgan Dollars, Gold Eagles, and Double Eagles were minted in large numbers and are readily available in mint state condition for more years than not. In the past, not unlike today, most people preferred to use paper money instead of coins for their daily transactions, with the exception of those in western states. When was the last time any of us received a Susan B. Anthony or Presidential Dollar for change? Most of these coins were used for bank-to-bank transactions thus preserving these coins in their mint state. My definition of a rare coin is a coin that is not readily available for sale with years passing before one might become available. 

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Why Do We Do Business By Appointment Only?

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Grand Rapids Coins operates our business by appointment only. We do this to ensure the safety and security of our customers. You may wonder why we do not operate a retail showroom or have hours in which we are open to the public. Let’s talk about the advantages of meeting by private appointment only. 

Meeting By Appointment Is More Secure

Could you imagine meeting your financial advisor, accountant, or banker to obtain a home mortgage in a room full of strangers hanging around you? Most of us have an expectation of privacy when it comes to our finances. In addition to being a fun hobby, coin collecting is also an investment. When it comes time to make a purchase or dispose of a collection, the last thing anyone wants is to feel rushed or uncomfortable.

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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

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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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What Are Doubled Die Coins?

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Coin errors that occur during minting have often created coins that are in demand by collectors. There are many different types of coin errors. In our last blog we discussed off-metal coins. In this blog we will talk about doubled die coins - what they look like, how they are made, and which are especially collectible. 

Doubled Die Coins

Doubled die (not “double die”) is a numismatic term referring to doubling or repeating in the design elements of the die which creates the coins. As the term suggests, it is the die that is doubled and then used to create thousands of coins. 

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What Are Off-Metal Coins?

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In an earlier blog we discussed coin errors, how they occur, and what makes them special. In this piece we will talk about off-metal coins, another kind of rare coin that can occur accidentally as the result of error. Finding off-metal coins can be exciting for coin collectors, and many will search them out as part of the treasure hunt that is coin collecting.

What Are Off-Metal Coins?

Off-metal coins are coins that are struck using a different metal alloy planchet than the one that is typically used. This usually happens accidentally as in the case of the 1943 Copper Cent. The typical metal for the Lincoln cent that year was zinc-coated steel. In 1943, the U.S. government had substituted zinc-coated steel for copper to mint cents because copper had been allocated for other war purposes. There were, however, about 40 copper Lincoln cents struck, likely on planchets left over from 1942.

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What To Do with Inherited Coins

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You’ve inherited coins from a friend or relative or been gifted a coin collection. What will you do with it? That’s a very good question. We’ve talked before about whether coin collectors should leave their collections to their heirs, but if you have inherited coins and don’t know their value, it’s challenging to know what to do with them. In this blog we will go through your options. 

Determining coin value takes both familiarity with coins and knowledge of the market. It’s not something that anyone learns overnight. So if you have been given coins and don’t know their value, don’t feel overwhelmed. The good news is that even if you have no idea about the worth of your coins, it is unlikely to change very rapidly so you have time to decide what to do while you educate yourself. 

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Early American Coins: Baltimore Coins

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Have you considered collecting early American coins? Since there were relatively few coins minted either in or for the American colonies, they may not be as accessible as Lincoln wheat cents, but they have a rich history attached. In this blog we will examine the Baltimore coins and the very rare Baltimore penny.

Colonial Coins Are Diverse

What we consider colonial coins are all the coins in circulation in the British colonies before the creation of the U.S. Mint in 1792. The original 13 colonies were settled by different countries and some of these territories were ruled by the Dutch, the Spanish, or the French before finally being taken over by the British. The coinage used throughout was both very diverse and scarce. A few colonies tried to mint their own coins. The British frowned on this, but in some cases, including Boston during the reign of Cromwell, colonists did succeed in creating their own money.

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Franklin Roosevelt and the Roosevelt Dime

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You have probably heard of the March of Dimes, but the origins of that organization have faded from the public’s memory. One ever present reminder is found on the Roosevelt dime - the  ubiquitous coin you use everyday to pay for small items or make change. President Franklin Roosevelt, the March of Dimes, and the change in your pocket are all connected, and in this blog we will explain how.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt had an enormous impact on the history of the United States. He was the 32nd President of the United States, and he won four national elections - more than any other president. His presidency lasted from the early days of the Great Depression until the final days of World War II. He was loved (and hated) by Americans and citizens of many other countries.

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Viking Coin Hoard Could Rewrite English History

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We’ve talked before about how coins preserve human history. They’ve been used to locate the lost location of Teutoburg Forest and determine the breadth and power of the once great Spanish Empire. Recently, a Viking coin hoard that the police seized in County Durham and Lancashire has shaken up historian’s ideas about Alfred the Great, King of Wessex, the Viking fighter and English king. 

Who Was Alfred the Great?

Alfred was the son of Aethelwulf, king of the West Saxons. During this period of time England was routinely being raided, sacked, and plundered by Vikings from Denmark. By 866 these Vikings had seized York and established their own kingdom. They then captured East Anglia and Mercia, two other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. By 870 Wessex was next on their list of goals. At this time Alfred was a very young man. He fought the Vikings bravely but suffered devastating losses and retreated to the Somerset tidal marshes where he continued to wage guerilla warfare against them. In 878 he was able to defeat the Vikings finally at the Battle of Edington, take back Wessex for his people, and establish a peace with King Guthrum who converted to Christianity as a provision of the treaty they made. Guthrum honored that treaty, left Alfred in peace, and history has accounted Alfred the savior of English England.

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