Monday, May 24, 2010

The 49ers and their Legacy

In 1848, Alta California, the new territory acquired from the Mexican-American War, was very sparsely populated – only about 15,000 people lived there. After thousands of 49ers flocked west, just two years later, California became the 31st state. The huge amounts of money being found required new financial institutions, and President Fillmore signed for a new mint. The Legislature decided in April of 1852 that San Francisco would be the place for the new mint.

The government built a small, inadequate mint. When silver was struck in the mountains of Nevada, it was evident that a new mint was necessary for all coin supplies. Alfred Mullett designed numerous American governmental buildings, and planned the mint in the Greek Revival style. The basement’s outer walls were built with granite for coin storage to keep tunnel digging thieves out and to prevent against earthquakes and natural disasters. Granite was also used in the entrance stairs of the mint, and she was soon dubbed “The Granite Lady.”

In 1873, there was only one mint, in Philadelphia. The others around the country were branch mints. A new law effectively made all of the other mints, in New Orleans, Carson City, and San Francisco, their own mints, as well as abolished the silver dollar in favor of the paper dollar. Later the silver dollar retained a smaller circulation thanks to the silver output in the West and the S.F. mint as the center of silver coin supplies.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Emperor Leopold I and Holy Roman Coinage

At HR Rauch’s auction of ancient coins, a 10 Dukaten coin featuring Emperor Leopold I is expected to sell for at least €50,000 Euro. The coin, from 1675, features one of the most distinctive portraits of the king, which caricatures his Hapsburg jaw, a classic feature of the Holy Roman Emperors.

The “Hapsburg Lip” as it is sometimes called, was a deformation that was thought to have been caused by successive inbreeding. Charles II was the last Hapsburg king of Spain, and his mother was the niece of his father. Charles couldn’t chew his food, was retarded, and impotent. Consequently, the Hapsburg line ended in Spain. Leopold I, however, was more prolific, and was overshadowed in his time only by the Sun King Louis XIV of France, with whom he waged war almost until his death in 1705. When Charles II’s death led to the War of the Spanish Succession, in an attempt to keep separate Spain and France, Leopold I, along with the other European powers, fought to claim the Spanish Inheritance, due to his Hapsburg relations. The war outlasted Leopold, and eventually the Spanish empire fell.

Part of having a coin collection is learning about the empire under which the coin was produced. Coin collecting is a great way to learn about history. Needless to say, this 10 Dukaten of Leopold I would make a great addition to any coin collection.

Monday, May 10, 2010

1901-S Barber Sells Big!

The most talked about coin in 2010 is a 1901-S Barber quarter that was originally graded MS-68, and then regraded a MS-68+. Bids for it have reached and exceeded $300,000. Let’s just say that it’s not the kind of coin you keep in coin folders. This bad boy would be the centerpiece of my coin collection, and I would research specialized coin holders to showcase it for all of my friends to see.

There has been contention as to whether this coin was dipped. Dipping, or natural toning, is regarded differently according to different collectors. Some collectors value the “original skin” of a coin, but others don’t mind if it looks a little nicer. But because all older coins develop certain flaws,it is practically impossible for an antique coin to be graded a 70.

The Barber coins are named after Charles E. Barber, chief engraver of the U.S. Mint from 1880 to 1917. His Liberty Head design was very popular and appears on the nickel, dime, quarter and half. This quarter, the rarest of all Barber coins, is impressively graded, a true rarity, since all of the Barbers were in circulation for such a long time. The collector who bought it has surely made a good investment, and a great addition to his coin collection.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A New Addition to the Egyptian Coin Collection

About 75 miles from Cairo last week there were 383 coins found dating back to the third century B.C. During that time King Ptolemy III, a relative of Cleopatra, was ruling Egypt. Ptolemy I was one of Alexander the Great’s bodyguards, and was appointed king after his death. As a result, Hellenistic culture was fused with Egyptian culture for almost three centuries, until Rome’s conquest of the region in 30 A.D. Cleopatra was the last Ptolemaic ruler.

These coins have the Greek-Egyptian god Amun-Zeus on one side, and an eagle with the words Ptolemy and King on the other. They would be a pretty nice addition to any coin collection, but they probably wouldn’t fit in your penny coin folders or nickel coin holders. They have a diameter of about two centimeters, are made of bronze, and are in excellent condition.

Also found were pieces of a whale skeleton, more than 40 million years old, and necklaces made from an ostrich shell. They will likely be put on display at the new Egyptian museum near the Pyramids at Giza. I wonder how they get their coin holders. Anyway, it’s a great addition to the Egyptian coin collection!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Add the Hot Springs Quarter to Your Coin Collection

In honor of its 178th anniversary as a Federally protected national site, Hot Springs Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas is getting it’s own quarter.

U.S. Mint director Ed Moy launched the quarter-dollar coin at a ceremony featuring National Park Service Midwest Regional Director Ernie Quintana and Hot Springs National Park Superintendent Josie Fernandez. With the launch of the Hot Springs National Park Quarter, a uniquely American journey begins, a journey through coins in celebration of the beauty, history and impact of national sites in every state and territory," Director Moy said.

The Hot Springs coin is the first to be released from the America the Beautiful Campaign, so it’s time to get your coin collection going. Children who attended the ceremony were given a shiny new Hot Spring quarter for their coin collections.

The tails side of the coin depicts the fa├žade of Hot Springs National Park headquarters building with a thermal spring in the foreground. The head side features a 1932 portrait of George Washington by John Flannigan.

The America the Beautiful Quarters Program is a highly-anticipated, 12-year initiative to honor 56 national parks and national sites.

If you’re in need of supplies to get your American the Beautiful coin collection underway, visit

Monday, April 19, 2010

Coin Collection Rarity: 3 Legged Buffalo Nickel

For those who are really serious about coin collecting, an authentic 3 Legged Buffalo Nickel is high up on the “must-have” list. The 1937-D “three-legger” has fascinated collectors for nearly 3 generations. The three-legged buffalo was a result of a failed attempt to repair a broken die. These “duds” escaped into circulation before the inspectors at the Denver Mint caught on to the error.

The 3 Legged Buffalo Coin is a unique addition to many coin collections because of the missing leg. The stump and hoove remain, but the right leg is entirely gone. Unlike most high-value coins, finding a 3 Legged Buffalo Nickel in new condition could prove to be difficult since they all reached circulation. 

Circulated 3 Legged Buffalo’s are worth anywhere from $400 to $1000. Perfect, uncirculated coins can be worth up to $20,000. Counterfit 3 Legged Buffalos have been seen by appraisers, so if you are thinking of adding one to your collection be sure you know what constitutes as a fake.

Here are the tell-tale signs of an altered Buffalo Nickel:
-There is less metal on the area where the leg should be.
-There are raised dots under the belly of the buffalo
-The P in Pluribus and the U in Unum will be further away from the buffalo’s back than it will be on an authentic

Monday, April 12, 2010

Interesting Coin Collecting Facts

Coin collecting, also known as Numismatics, has been practiced since the middle ages. Some of the earliest known coin collectors have been Roman Emperors including Julius and Augustus, and grew to be known as “the hobby of kings”. Pontiff Boniface VI and Italian poet Petrarch were also known to have impressive coin collections.

The American Numismatic Association was founded in 1891 and currently has 28,000 members. The group’s goal is to further the study of coins and increase the popularity of coin collections. In 1962, the first international coin collecting convention was held in Detroit and more than 40,000 people attended.

One of the most impressive Numismatics success stories is John J. Pittman’s story. This North Carolina man, despite his modest income spent what he could on rare gold and silver coins, that had a rich history. He was known to be a truly avid collector who did it not for the potential money he could make off his collection, but because he loved the lore behind the coins and truly loved the art of coin collecting. His love is evident when you look at how much he spent on coins--Pittman spent over $100,000 on his collection in his lifetime. But all that hard work, money, and dedication paid off, literally. The collection ended up selling for $30 million.
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