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.

Interested in coin collecting? Learn the basics of coin collecting, coin valuation, and gain advice from top collectors.

Mint Marks: What Difference Does a Letter Make?

mint-marks

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?

coin evaluation

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

Franklin-half-dollar

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?

biblical-talent-denarii

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 History of Vatican Coins

Vatican-coins

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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Barber Coins - Affordable and Enjoyable Coin Collecting

Barber-Coins-1

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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What Are Doubled Die Coins?

doubled-die-coins-2

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?

off-metal-coins

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

inherited-coins

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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Coin Myth #1: Old Coins Are The Most Valuable

old-coins

People who are new to coin collecting may assume that because many of the coins in numismatists’ collections are old that age is what makes them valuable. This is not true at all. Here we will talk about this myth about old coins and what does affect the value of coins, old or new.

Old Coins Aren’t Valuable because They Are Old

Ultimately, supply and demand determine the value of a coin just as they determine the value of everything else in a free economy. Coin dealers consider a number of factors when they value coins, including availability, metal content, condition, and the current popularity of specific coins. However, if there is no great demand among coin collectors for a certain coin, its value is going to be low. You can have an incredibly rare item, but if no one wants it, it’s not worth anything.

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The Rare, New 2019-W America the Beautiful Quarter Dollars

2019-W-America-the-Beautiful-quarter-dollars

This April the United States Mint announced that the West Point Mint was striking 2019-W America the Beautiful quarter dollars for general circulation. These 2019-W quarters will be added to commerce in select cities in 29 states throughout the year. The mint is releasing them into circulation as a bid to spur interest in numismatics among the general population. Coin collectors are already searching for and finding W mint mark quarters of the first two designs. The hunt for these coins is on.

The 2019-W America the Beautiful Quarter Dollars

The U.S. Mint has been issuing America the Beautiful quarters since 2010 at a rate of 5 per year. The coins depict national parks and other national sites. The five designs for the 2019 America the Beautiful quarters are:

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The Jefferson Nickel, a Classic American Coin

jefferson-nickel

Most Americans have Jefferson nickels in their spare change or under their couch cushions. Even if the vast majority of our purchases are done through electronic means these days, the nickel remain ubiquitous. We are all familiar with it and have made hundreds or thousands of purchases using a Jefferson nickel. What is the history and value of this popular coin?

 

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What Are Large Cents?

large-cents

If you’ve had a chance to browse Mullen Coin’s online inventory, you’ll see that we have a category for copper coins that is subdivided into small cents, two-cent pieces and large cents. What is the difference between a small cent and a large cent? Here we will discuss early American cents and which ones are most rare and valuable.

 

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The U.S. Mint's First Pink Coin

pink-coin Breast Cancer Awareness 2018 Proof $5 Gold Coin

The United States Mint unveiled its first “pink coin” in October of 2017. This coin, designed by Emily Damstra of the Artistic Infusion Program, is intended to raise awareness of breast cancer as well as funds for the Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation’s research programs. This is an interesting case for how activism and coin collecting intersect. Sales of the coin began in mid-March, and so far seem successful.

The Breast Cancer Awareness 2018 Proof $5 Gold Coin is the first pink gold coin that the U.S. Mint has ever produced. It is 85% gold, 14.8% copper, and 0.2% zinc and features a design of two women, breast cancer patients past and present, and a butterfly on the obverse. In the upper background of the obverse is a ribbon which references the pink ribbon the public has come to associate with the battle against breast cancer. A tiger swallowtail butterfly flies above the women and under the word “LIBERTY.” The butterfly is also the focus of the reverse.

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Should You Invest in Bullion or Bullion Coins?

bullion-coins

There is no shortage of advertisements encouraging people to invest in either gold or silver bullion as “the greatest investment of all time.” If you watch television, you’ve probably seen them and wondered if the hype about bullion is real. While it’s true that gold does retain value over time better than many other investments, you are guaranteed to lose money on gold if you buy it when the price is high and sell it when the price is low - just like with everything else. So what is bullion and why should you consider including it in your investment portfolio?

Bullion is “a bulk quantity of precious metal, usually gold or silver, assessed by weight, typically cast as ingots or bars, and sold by major banks and dealers.” Bullion is also available in coin form. Since 1986 the U.S. Mint has produced gold, silver, and platinum coins - the American Eagles - for banks, coin dealers, precious metal dealers, and brokerage firms to purchase, guaranteeing their precious metal content. There are two types of bullion coins. These are:

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Indian Head Gold Pieces Are Unique American Coins

Indian-head

Do you have an Indian Head gold piece in your coin collection? If not, why not? Both the half eagle and quarter eagle Indian Heads are great coins with a rare incuse design and an interesting history.

The Indian Head Design

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Giving the Gift of Coins

gift-of-coins

This time of year the news is always full of stories of people being generous to others, and invariably there will be a report of a valuable coin being dropped into a Salvation Army kettle. On December 15, in fact, someone donated a gold 1979 Krugerrand coin in this way in Reno, Nevada. Even more interesting was the report that an anonymous donor was giving $86 million dollars worth of Bitcoin to charitable causes. This is a new twist on an old story!

For the coin enthusiast, the holidays are always a good time to spread numismatic cheer. In fact, it’s tradition. The wise men brought the infant Jesus gold, frankincense, and myrrh, after all, and, according to legend, St. Nicholas gifted bags of silver coins to the girls of a noble family that could not afford their dowries. This is what began the habit of hanging out stocking for St. Nicholas to fill. Most parents do not fill Christmas stockings with coins, but why not? It’s hard to find good stocking stuffers.

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Should You Leave Your Coin Collection to Your Heirs?

heirs

Last time we discussed some of the practical considerations coin collectors need to keep in mind if they intend to leave their collections to their heirs. This time we’ll talk about whether you should leave all or part of your collection to your loved ones. What are some reasons you might choose to gift or sell it beforehand instead of leaving it to friends or relatives in your will?

Families are complicated, and, sadly, money can cause problems in families. These problems can persist for years after an estate has been transferred. The question of fairness in terms of who gets what and who might deserve it more often comes up in these situations, even when people explain their wishes in person to everyone. If you think there’s a possibility that your heirs will fight over your collection or that hard feelings will arise between them because of it, it might be better to sell the collection ahead of time and leave cash amounts behind in your will. While it’s very satisfying to leave a collection to someone who will value and cherish it, weigh that against any damage that might be done to relationships because someone feels slighted or overlooked.

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Will Your Coin Collection Be an Inheritance?

coin-inheritance

Coin collecting, like golf, is a hobby people can and do enjoy over a lifetime and one that can grow more enjoyable and satisfying with age (and additional resources). At Mullen Coins we see many older clients, and some of them are at the point in their lives when they are trying to decide what they will do with their collections due to downsizing, investment liquidation, or when making a will. No one enjoys thinking about death, but for many collectors, their coins are personally very meaningful, and so it’s appropriate that they are afforded this consideration.

The first thing that all coin collectors need to decide is if they want to sell all or part of their collections or if they want to transfer them to their heirs. This may be a complex decision if the collection is quite valuable, if there are multiple heirs, or if one or more of the heirs has an interest in coins. For people who are worried about arguments breaking out among family or friends later, selling a collection and dividing the money between heirs is one way to bypass that problem.

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What Are Pedigree Coins?

What Are Pedigree Coins?

There are many things that make objects valuable. Origin, usefulness, condition, scarcity, and history all make a difference when considering value. We understand this easily when it comes to other items. For instance, a pipe may have value to someone who likes to smoke a pipe and no value to someone who doesn’t. A pipe made from rare or valuable wood might have value as a piece of artistry. The same pipe once owned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would be a very sought after item among Sherlock Holmes fans, and if it could be proven that Conan Doyle smoked that pipe while he wrote A Study in Scarlet that item would even more valued for the role it played in the history of an iconic fictional character. The proof that that particular pipe was owned by Conan Doyle and smoked during the writing of a specific novel would be its pedigree. It’s much the same with coins.

We’ve often discussed the importance of scarcity in regard to coin value. Mint origin is also important to collectors who like to locate and purchase all variations of a certain coin. Coins that have never circulated are much more valuable than ones that have. All of these things factor into the determination of value. If a coin has a rare pedigree, this can make a large difference as well.

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