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.

Learn about the history behind various coins, currency, and gold. Why where they created, how where they used, and why were they important.

Early American Coins: the Pinetree Shilling

Early American Coins: the Pinetree Shilling

When people think about American money, they think about the coins and currency that are probably sitting in their wallets right now. It never occurs to many people that there weren’t always dollars and quarters, nickels and dimes. But, of course, American money has a history like every other tool out there, and before there was U.S. currency people still used money to buy and sell things. What did they use?

While every July 4th we celebrate Independence Day, it’s important to remember that the American colonies weren’t a country, per se, until after the Revolutionary War was well under way and delegates to the Second Continental Congress drafted the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union and then went back to their own colonies to see it ratified. This finally occurred in 1781. Remember, the war ended in 1783, and this needed to occur in order to manage military and monetary affairs, as well as to solicit the support from foreign countries needed to win the war.

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Why Collect Double Eagles?

Why Collect Double Eagles?

Double eagles are another type of collectible coin rooted in a key period of American history - which makes collecting them interesting for both coin and history aficionados.

Would there have been a double eagle coin without the California Gold Rush? Very likely not. The double eagle, a $20 U.S. coin, was first minted in 1849, two coins in proof, after an Act of Congress authorized them. Prior to this there was neither gold in quantity to mint them or a practical necessity for a $20 coin. Double eagles began to be minted regularly the following year, in 1850, and continued to be until 1933. Before 1850, the largest coin denomination was the $10 eagle. Since the face value of the new coin was twice that of the eagle, it was called the double eagle.

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What Do You Know about the Morgan Dollar?

What Do You Know about the Morgan Dollar?
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The coining of the Morgan dollar followed the Fourth Coinage Act of 1873 which demonetized silver bullion. The “Free Silver” issue is something Americans might have a hard time understanding now, but prior to 1873, people could bring their silver (or gold) bullion to the mint and, for a small processing fee, have it made into coins which would be worth their face value and could be spent.

At that time the ratio of the value of gold to silver was 16:1, meaning that 16 ounces of silver was considered equal in value to one ounce of gold. The problem was that, with increased mining of silver in the west, the price of silver was dropping rapidly, which meant that savvy bullion owners could take their devalued silver to the mint and, by having it made into coin, make a profit.

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Mining California Fractional Gold

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American history has frequently been one of fads and extremes, and the fifth decade of the nineteenth century gives us another fine example: the California Gold Rush. While Americans had been moving westward almost since they put foot on Plymouth Rock, on January 24, 1848, at the time gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill, what we know today as California was a part of Alta California, a Mexican territory. San Francisco was tiny; only 200 people lived there in 1846.

That changed almost overnight. Despite the fact that there was at the time no straightforward or fast way to get to the West Coast from the East, a flood of Americans and immigrants set off by ship traveling either all the way around the tip of South America or down to Panama, overland, then up the coast via the Pacific Ocean. Others drove wagons west on the California Trail. The influx of 300,000 people from all around the world created a number of problems, and one of them was currency.

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The Story of the Currency of the Old National Bank of Grand Rapids

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People who have grown up using a universal United States currency are often surprised to learn how diverse historical American coinage and currency is. Local and state banks issued their own money, backed by reserve currency, and did business for hundreds of years this way. It wasn’t until 1863 that President Lincoln signed the National Bank Act into law. 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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Where Will the Next Big Coin Discovery Be Made?

Where Will the Next Big Coin Discovery Be Made?
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Amazing coin finds have been all over the news in the past several months. At SUNY Buffalo, faculty member Philip Kiernan recently hunted down a “lost” collection of Greek and Roman coins, both gold and silver, that had only been a rumor for decades. The coins’ previous owner, Thomas Lockwood, donated the coins, some of which date back to the fifth century B.C., as part of a larger donation of literature and relics. Twelve of the coins are a collection of Roman coins, one from the reign of the first twelve Roman Emperors, including a very rare coin featuring the Emperor Otho. He ruled only three months.

These coins had remained in archival storage for decades until Kiernan tracked them down. He is now planning a graduate level course around them so that students can use the coins as tangible aids to their study of history - the same purpose Lockwood originally purchased them. Fortunately for these students and the university, the coins did not show damage, despite the fact that the were not properly stored.

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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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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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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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6 Experienced Coin Collector Favorites

6 Experienced Coin Collector Favorites

Every experienced collector has a favorite coin, and as a Grand Rapids coin dealer, I have had the pleasure of seeing many of them.  While each collector’s personal favorite may not be the most valuable gem in their collection, there is usually a story behind it (as in the case of "The Extraordinary Eric Newman and His Extraordinary Favorite Coin").

As a Grand Rapids coin dealer, I am sometimes asked what the most important coins are for any experienced collector. There are, of course, a number of ways to answer that question, because every collector has different goals.   Instead of focusing on favorite coins, maybe the focus should be on coins that require a bit of collector knowledge.   As is the case with nearly all things, knowledge is power. In the collecting world, powerful knowledge can mean big value. 

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The Extraordinary Eric Newman and His Extraordinary Favorite Coin

Numismatists dream of owning the rarest and most desirable coins—perhaps an 1804 Silver Dollar, or just one of five known 1913 Liberty Nickels.  This Grand Rapids coin dealer is no exception!  Just imagine owning an 1804 Silver Dollar, AND all five 1913 Liberty Nickels!   As a foremost U.S. numismatist and numismatic scholar, centenarian Eric P. Newman has owned all of these, and many more.   Which of these noted rarities was his favorite? Answer: None!

Mr. Newman’s favorite coin is the gold 1792 George Washington President “pattern coin,” privately made by Obadiah Westwood at his mint in Birmingham, England, from dies engraved by John Gregory Hancock.   This one-of-a-kind numismatic treasure is part of the two percent of Mr. Newman’s collection on display at The Newman Money Museum in St. Louis*. 

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Politics in The Mint - Grand Rapids Coin Dealer Discusses 1933 St. Gaudens vs 1974 Aluminum Cent

Politics in The Mint - Grand Rapids Coin Dealer Discusses 1933 St. Gaudens vs 1974 Aluminum Cent

Although the exact details of these coin thefts are not the same, the big picture is the same… significant coins were “lifted.” Ironically, one party realized significant consequences, and the other has suffered none. Is that fair?

In one case, 20 of the 1933 St. Gaudens gold coins destined for melting were stolen from the Mint in 1933, coming into the hands of now-deceased jeweler, Izzy Switt. The US Government sued Mr. Switt’s heirs to recover the remaining 10 coins, valued at millions of dollars each, and won the case in July, 2011.

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Mullen Coins, LLC, Coin Dealers, Supplies, Grand Rapids, MI

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