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.

Coin Value: Should You Handle Your Coins?

handle-your-coins

New coin collectors have many questions when it comes to their coins. This is natural. Whether people collect coins as an investment strategy, because they enjoy the hunt for rare mintages, or because they are true numismatists at heart, they want to be able to find the coins they desire and care for them well so they retain their value. One common question people have is: Should you handle your coins - or not? Here we will answer that question. 

Do Not Clean Your Coins

First and most importantly, we do not recommend that people clean their coins. Cleaning your coins decreases their value. An uncirculated coin that you clean will no longer be considered in uncirculated condition. 

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What Is Rainbow Coin Toning?

rainbow-coin-toning

When you begin collecting coins, one of the terms you will run into over and over again when reading coin descriptions is toning. We have discussed toning and how it affects coin value previously. In this blog we will discuss a specific type of toning - rainbow coin toning - and why it makes some coins more valuable. 

What Is Toning? 

Toning is more commonly called tarnishing. It’s a chemical process that occurs naturally over time, causing metal to become discolored. Toning is primarily caused by oxygen or sulfur reacting with the metal of coins. This can be accelerated or amplified by the presence of heat, humidity, or the presence of other chemicals, such as those found in certain types of paper or in the oils of your skin. What results can make a coin more attractive or quite ugly, even corroded. 

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Tools for Coin Collecting - What Do You Need?

Tools-for-coin-collecting

In our last blog we talked about finding valuable coins by going through your spare change. This is one way coin collectors - often young ones - get hooked on the hobby. In order to grade, handle, and store your coins, you will need some supplies, though. In this blog we will talk about six tools for coin collecting you will need. 

Reference Books 

Buy the book before the coin.” – Ancient numismatic proverb

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Looking through Your Spare Change for Coin Treasure

coin-treasure

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, there have been many shortages that consumers and businesses have experienced. One of them is a coin shortage, and it’s still continuing today. There are good reasons to turn your change in at the bank or the store, but before you do, you may want to check it for coin treasure. You’d be surprised at what might be hiding in your spare change.

The Great Coin Shortage

The reason for the coin shortage banks and businesses are experiencing now is two-fold. First, the lockdowns meant that the free circulation of cash and coins was halted. People didn’t go to the store as frequently to buy things. They ordered their groceries and other items online and paid for them with credit or debit cards. Some shunned using cash because they felt it might spread COVID-19.

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How Does Coin Grading Work?

coin-grading

Anyone new to the coin collecting hobby will wonder how coin values are determined and why a particular coin may be worth more than the same coin that is, at first glance, in similar or better condition. In this blog we will discuss coin grading, how it works, and what resources you can use to better understand coin values. 

“Buy the book before the coin.” 

While buying a book is perhaps not as interesting as buying a coin, the above is very good advice. You will need to become educated about the fundamentals of coin grading to begin to assess the value of your own coins or the coins you’d like to buy. 

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What Is the Difference between Proof Coins and Uncirculated Coins?

proof-coins

We have discussed a number of times before which factors determine the price for rare coins, including a coin’s availability, its condition, and what the market for that coin is at present. One aspect of coin condition is if it has circulated. Coins that have circulated will be worth less than uncirculated coins because they become damaged with time and use. Proof coins do not circulate either, but there are numerous differences between proof coins and uncirculated coins. In this blog we will go through those differences and how they affect value and collectibility. 

What Are Proof Coins?

Proof coins originated as evidence that the master die the mint used to stamp the coin worked correctly. The first proof coin was a test of the die and was struck multiple times to bring out the detail in the die design. Typically, a few proof coins were stamped to make sure there would be no coin errors. If the coins looked correct, the proof was approved, and the die was then used to strike coins meant for circulation. These coins were then struck only once and released to the public. 

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The 1964 Kennedy Half Dollar

1964-Kennedy-half-dollar

In an earlier blog we talked about the history of the Kennedy half dollar and why it has both sentimental and real value for American coin collectors. In this blog we will talk about the most valuable issue of this coin: the 1964 Kennedy half dollar, including the rare Accented Hair variety. 

A Coin Memorial for President Kennedy

When President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in late November of 1963, the United States went into mourning. A month after his death, Congress authorized the creation of a half dollar coin to honor and memorialize him. This coin was quickly designed, based on a Presidential series medal that was already in existence, and the U.S. Mint struck it in early 1964, with the first coins released in March. The president’s wife, Jacqueline Kennedy made one requested change in the design. She asked that his hair be slightly modified, and it was.

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The Eisenhower Dollar and the U.S. Space Program

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With the passing of Michael Collins, an astronaut from the famed Apollo 11 moon voyage, it might be time to discuss how the history of the U.S. space program intersects with U.S. coins. Do you know the history of the Eisenhower dollar coin? It was created to honor a successful general and past president at a very interesting time in our country’s history - when the space program was at its zenith.

The Eisenhower Dollar 

Younger Americans today may be less familiar with the name Dwight D. Eisenhower, or “Ike” as he was known, but he wasn’t just a two-term president. He was also the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe during World War II, and a five-star rank General. Eisenhower ran for president in 1952 and presided over the post-war expansion of the economy. He ended the second term of his presidency in January of 1961 and was succeeded by John F. Kennedy

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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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How Does Toning Affect the Value of Collectible Coins?

toning

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?

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

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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?

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

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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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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?

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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