Katherine Mullen's blogs on coin collecting basics.

 Katherine Mullen came on board in 2012 to manage the business side of Mullen Coins. Pat Mullen is Mullen Coins’ numismatist. Ride along as Katherine learns the basics of numismatics.

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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Early American Coins: Baltimore Coins

Baltimore-coins-1

Have you considered collecting early American coins? Since there were relatively few coins minted either in or for the American colonies, they may not be as accessible as Lincoln wheat cents, but they have a rich history attached. In this blog we will examine the Baltimore coins and the very rare Baltimore penny.

Colonial Coins Are Diverse

What we consider colonial coins are all the coins in circulation in the British colonies before the creation of the U.S. Mint in 1792. The original 13 colonies were settled by different countries and some of these territories were ruled by the Dutch, the Spanish, or the French before finally being taken over by the British. The coinage used throughout was both very diverse and scarce. A few colonies tried to mint their own coins. The British frowned on this, but in some cases, including Boston during the reign of Cromwell, colonists did succeed in creating their own money.

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Franklin Roosevelt and the Roosevelt Dime

Roosevelt-dime

You have probably heard of the March of Dimes, but the origins of that organization have faded from the public’s memory. One ever present reminder is found on the Roosevelt dime - the  ubiquitous coin you use everyday to pay for small items or make change. President Franklin Roosevelt, the March of Dimes, and the change in your pocket are all connected, and in this blog we will explain how.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt had an enormous impact on the history of the United States. He was the 32nd President of the United States, and he won four national elections - more than any other president. His presidency lasted from the early days of the Great Depression until the final days of World War II. He was loved (and hated) by Americans and citizens of many other countries.

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Viking Coin Hoard Could Rewrite English History

Viking-coin-hoard

We’ve talked before about how coins preserve human history. They’ve been used to locate the lost location of Teutoburg Forest and determine the breadth and power of the once great Spanish Empire. Recently, a Viking coin hoard that the police seized in County Durham and Lancashire has shaken up historian’s ideas about Alfred the Great, King of Wessex, the Viking fighter and English king. 

Who Was Alfred the Great?

Alfred was the son of Aethelwulf, king of the West Saxons. During this period of time England was routinely being raided, sacked, and plundered by Vikings from Denmark. By 866 these Vikings had seized York and established their own kingdom. They then captured East Anglia and Mercia, two other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. By 870 Wessex was next on their list of goals. At this time Alfred was a very young man. He fought the Vikings bravely but suffered devastating losses and retreated to the Somerset tidal marshes where he continued to wage guerilla warfare against them. In 878 he was able to defeat the Vikings finally at the Battle of Edington, take back Wessex for his people, and establish a peace with King Guthrum who converted to Christianity as a provision of the treaty they made. Guthrum honored that treaty, left Alfred in peace, and history has accounted Alfred the savior of English England.

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Coin Myth #2 - Only Rich People Collect Coins

rich-people

In our last blog we discussed a commonly held myth that people have about coin collecting: Old coins are the most valuable. In this blog we will explore another myth, that only rich people collect coins. While it is true that many rich people do collect coins and the most famous coin collections belong, obviously, to people with money, coin collecting doesn’t have to be expensive. It’s a fun hobby everyone can try with only a small investment of time and money.

Coins used to be much scarcer than they are now, especially before modern minting (and mining) techniques made it simpler to create coins. Commerce was more local and less anonymous and often involved bartering or the extension of credit. As a result the average 19th century person had few coins. Today it’s completely different. Coins are minted on a large scale, redesigned and minted again. Coins are so ubiquitous that we tell people to dig through their couch cushions to find enough money to pay for something. Most people have coins they don’t even know they have.

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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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The History and Value of the Kennedy Half Dollar

kennedy-half-dollar

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 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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Are You Thinking of Buying Silver?

Buying-silver

Previously we’ve talked about the reasons for investing in bullion. In this blog we’ll discuss the advantages of silver and why buying silver in bullion or coins might be a good addition to your overall investment portfolio.

 

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Why Are Coin Hoards Often Found in Wonderful Condition?

coin-hoards

Coin hoards are discovered quite frequently. Just last month, in October of 2018, three friends with metal detectors found a hoard of 18 silver Roman coins in Yorkshire. These coins are over 2,000 years old. In September, hundreds of Roman coins were unearthed in the basement of an Italian theater. These fifth-century gold coins were in wonderful condition, stacked carefully in a soapstone jar. How that can be? How can coins that are thousands of years old still be so well preserved? To answer that, we’ll ask these questions: What? Why? Where?

 

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Gresham's Law: Bad Money Drives out the Good

Greshams-Law

One of the underlying traits of human behavior is the tendency of people to seek out true value. This applies to crowds staking out a department store on Black Friday, and it also applies to coin collectors. People know value when they see it, and they search it out. In economics the principle of Gresham’s Law describes how the perception of true value affects which coins remain in circulation.

 

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Cleaning Coins Decreases Their Value

cleaning-coins

You may have seen this piece of advice on Mullen Coins’ Evaluations page:

The single biggest mistake you can make as a collector: Cleaning your coins. Your collection will likely be worth much less if the coins have been cleaned! An uncirculated coin that has been cleaned is not longer an uncirculated coin! Please do not clean them! The occasional exception to this rule would be a rare coin in heavily circulated condition that has dirt of PVC... in that case professional restoration might be an option.

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

30-pieces-of-silver

Judas Iscariot’s 30 pieces of silver is 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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Alexander the Great, Coining Money to Make Money

Alexander-the-Great

One of the really wonderful things about coin collecting is that behind every coin is a story. Coins are art, coins are instruments of commerce, but above all, coins are history. In this article we’ll highlight Alexander the Great’s quest to conquer the world and how coining money helped him achieve that goal.

The coins that Alexander III minted would become standard currency for hundreds of years, but when his father, Philip II, died, what he inherited was not wealth, but debts. In the treasure chambers of the Macedonian crown were only 60 talents and some gold and silver objects that could be melted down. Alexander couldn’t rule Macedonia on that budget, so he borrowed money - 800 talents. He needed it to fund an army to fight off the Thracian invasion of his father’s empire.

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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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Extremely Rare Gold Rush Coin Discovered!

Gold-Rush

The California Gold Rush was a life and state changing event. Americans and people from all over the world crossed oceans and the Great Plains, driven by the desire to pan for gold and strike it rich. Because of the sudden arrival of all of these diverse peoples in a boomtown economy, trading was complicated. Numerous solutions filled the gap temporarily, but it wasn’t until the U.S. Mint opened a branch in San Francisco that the economy had enough currency to run smoothly. Recently a $5-dollar Half Eagle surfaced in the possession of a New England man. This coin is so rare that coin dealers dubbed it a fake, but numismatists now believe it to be the authentic output of the early San Francisco Mint.

We’ve discussed California fractional gold before. These were privately minted coins, created to address problems that a currency vacuum had created. The people who traveled to California brought their own coins, but miners and settlers found it difficult to trade with so many varieties of coins. As a result, private jewelers stepped in and minted their own coins - over 450 varieties of California fractional gold. Fractional gold minting helped to oil the economy from 1848 to 1854.

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