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.

Find valuable articles and content about rare coins, coin collecting, coin evaluation, and coin prices.

How Much Were Judas Iscariot's 30 Pieces of Silver Worth?

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Judas Iscariot’s 30 pieces of silver are so well known, so infamous in history, that it’s a euphemism for betrayal in Western culture. Have you ever wondered what those 30 pieces of silver were exactly - or how much they were worth? Scholars have debated these questions for years. Let’s go through some of their ideas.

The details of this story are found in the biblical book of Matthew, chapters 26 and 27. Before the Last Supper, Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus’s disciples, went to the chief priests and arranged to hand over Jesus to them, saying:

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The History and Value of the Kennedy Half Dollar

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The Kennedy half dollar is a very popular collectible coin that has both sentimental value for many Americans as well as numismatic value for coin collectors. Why is this coin worth seeking out? Which ones are the most valuable? We will answer those questions here. 

The History of the Kennedy Half Dollar

When John F. Kennedy was elected President of the United States in 1960, he was the youngest man to ever hold that office, and many saw in him hope for the future of the country. The war years were over, the economy was booming, and the future seemed bright. When Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963, the nation was shocked and mourned him deeply. It was a pivotal moment in our nation’s history. Generations of people still can say where they were when they heard Kennedy was shot. An outpouring of grief resulted from this tragedy. One tangible symbol of that grief was the Kennedy half dollar.

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What Is Rainbow Coin Toning?

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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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Looking through Your Spare Change for Coin Treasure

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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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The American Women Quarters Program Debuts

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For a little more than a decade, from 2010 to 2021, the U.S. Mint issued 56 different types of quarters in the America the Beautiful series. The reverse on these quarters commemorated one site of national interest from each state, the federal district, and each U.S. territory, making this an interesting set to collect for Americans and travelers especially. In 2022, the U.S. Mint is switching gears with the American Women Quarters Program, minting a series of Washington quarters that honors famous American women. 

The American Women Quarters Program

"Each time we redesign our currency, we have the chance to say something about our country — what we value, and how we've progressed as a society. I'm very proud that these coins celebrate the contributions of some of America's most remarkable women.” –Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen

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What Is the Difference between Proof Coins and Uncirculated Coins?

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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 1943 Copper Cent, an Off-metal Treasure

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In December of 1941, Japanese bombers attacked Pearl Harbor. The United States entered World War II in both the European and Pacific arenas immediately after. This had a drastic effect on the price and availability of many common commodities, including metals. The U.S. Treasury changed the composition of coins it minted during the duration of the war years as a result, and some especially collectible coins like the 1943 Copper Cent exist because of it. 

1943 Lincoln Cents 

The bulk of Lincoln cents that were struck during 1943 were zinc-coated steel cents that over time became known as “steelies.” This is because the copper and tin the Mint had been using was needed for the war effort. To maintain the availability of cents in circulation, Congress passed a law in 1942 that allowed for this temporary change. In 1943, the Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco mints struck over a billion steelies combined. As a unique type of cent, these coins remain a favorite with coin collectors. 

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The Sometimes Overlooked Peace Dollar

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The Morgan dollar often gets the spotlight for American dollar coinage, but the Peace dollar is no ugly stepdaughter. It also has a rich history full of some controversy and is an attractive coin with interesting design elements. Due to a greater supply, the Peace dollar presents an enjoyable challenge for collectors. 

The Need for a New Dollar

The iconic Morgan dollar premiered in 1878 and was minted steadily from that year until 1904. More than 500 million Morgan dollars were in circulation by the time of the Great War. To help supply their English allies with bullion during World War I, Congress passed the Pittman Act of 1918. Short on gold, Congress decided to make use of the large number of silver dollars in circulation. This resulted in the melting down of more than 270 million silver dollars, almost half of all of the Morgan dollars in existence. 

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Why You Should Invest in Platinum Coins and Bars

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At Grand Rapids Coins we love coins. We love helping people collect coins with numismatic value, and we also enjoy finding investment coins for our clients. In this business, much of the focus is on rare coins or gold or silver coins and bullion. However, we are also excited about platinum coins as an investment opportunity. Why platinum coins? Keep reading to learn why you may want to invest in platinum now. 

Platinum, a Rare Earth Metal 

Precious metal investors are drawn to platinum coins as well as platinum bars because platinum is a very rare substance. This silver-white metal, found deeper in the earth’s crust, is much rarer than gold or silver. It’s usually in short supply because the demand for this metal is high and only a few tons of platinum are mined every year. 

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Finding Real Life Hidden Treasure

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Who doesn’t like a good treasure hunt? Many favorite movies and books, including Pirates of the Caribbean, The Hobbit, and Romancing the Stone, are about finding lost treasure in unexpected places. Here at Grand Rapids Coins we also hear stories about hidden treasure - but these stories are real. Let’s talk about a few of our customers’ more interesting finds. 

Hidden Treasure in Expected Places

There are many news stories about coins hoards that people, often with a metal detector, find buried in an English field or in the basement of an old theater. Some coin finds help historians to date or place certain events, the details of which were previously unknown. While there have been some incredible finds of coins buried underground, nature isn’t really the best place for stashing something if you want it to remain in good condition. Water is quite corrosive to metal, especially over time. 

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The 1964 Kennedy Half Dollar

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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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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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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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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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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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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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