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.

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 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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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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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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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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Giving the Gift of Coins

gift-of-coins

This time of year the news is always full of stories of people being generous to others, and invariably there will be a report of a valuable coin being dropped into a Salvation Army kettle. On December 15, in fact, someone donated a gold 1979 Krugerrand coin in this way in Reno, Nevada. Even more interesting was the report that an anonymous donor was giving $86 million dollars worth of Bitcoin to charitable causes. This is a new twist on an old story!

For the coin enthusiast, the holidays are always a good time to spread numismatic cheer. In fact, it’s tradition. The wise men brought the infant Jesus gold, frankincense, and myrrh, after all, and, according to legend, St. Nicholas gifted bags of silver coins to the girls of a noble family that could not afford their dowries. This is what began the habit of hanging out stocking for St. Nicholas to fill. Most parents do not fill Christmas stockings with coins, but why not? It’s hard to find good stocking stuffers.

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Should You Leave Your Coin Collection to Your Heirs?

heirs

Last time we discussed some of the practical considerations coin collectors need to keep in mind if they intend to leave their collections to their heirs. This time we’ll talk about whether you should leave all or part of your collection to your loved ones. What are some reasons you might choose to gift or sell it beforehand instead of leaving it to friends or relatives in your will?

Families are complicated, and, sadly, money can cause problems in families. These problems can persist for years after an estate has been transferred. The question of fairness in terms of who gets what and who might deserve it more often comes up in these situations, even when people explain their wishes in person to everyone. If you think there’s a possibility that your heirs will fight over your collection or that hard feelings will arise between them because of it, it might be better to sell the collection ahead of time and leave cash amounts behind in your will. While it’s very satisfying to leave a collection to someone who will value and cherish it, weigh that against any damage that might be done to relationships because someone feels slighted or overlooked.

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Will Your Coin Collection Be an Inheritance?

coin-inheritance

Coin collecting, like golf, is a hobby people can and do enjoy over a lifetime and one that can grow more enjoyable and satisfying with age (and additional resources). At Mullen Coins we see many older clients, and some of them are at the point in their lives when they are trying to decide what they will do with their collections due to downsizing, investment liquidation, or when making a will. No one enjoys thinking about death, but for many collectors, their coins are personally very meaningful, and so it’s appropriate that they are afforded this consideration.

The first thing that all coin collectors need to decide is if they want to sell all or part of their collections or if they want to transfer them to their heirs. This may be a complex decision if the collection is quite valuable, if there are multiple heirs, or if one or more of the heirs has an interest in coins. For people who are worried about arguments breaking out among family or friends later, selling a collection and dividing the money between heirs is one way to bypass that problem.

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What Happened to the Half Dime?

half dime

Did you know that 5-cent pieces haven’t always been called nickels? During George Washington’s presidency, the half-dime was first produced as part of the American money experiment that replaced the pounds-and-shillings monetary system of Great Britain. In 1792 the Coinage Act introduced the U.S. dollar to the world. One silver dollar was worth 10 dismes or 100 cents. The dismes became known as dimes, and half dimes were also struck and became a commonly used piece of American coinage for many years.

We don’t know much about the first half dismes. Legend has it that Martha Washington may have served as the model for the Lady Liberty portrait on its obverse side. George Washington himself may have supplied some of the silver for its first minting. The U.S. Mint in Philadelphia wasn’t even fully constructed at this point, and the half disme was the first American coin struck. Legend says this happened in the cellar of John Harper’s saw-maker shop.

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States with Sales-Tax Exemptions on Precious Metals and Bullion

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Late last month when Minnesota governor signed H1A into law, it was great news for Minnesotans who want to invest in bullion. This is because the bill contained a sales-tax exemption on precious-metals bullion, ushering Minnesota into a group of 35 states that have a full or partial sales and use tax exemption on precious-metals bullion and coins.  

While it may seem against Minnesota’s best interest to collect less in revenues from businesses selling bullion, studies done in other states show that the sales tax revenues from other sources are increased by these kinds of exemptions. Because some states do not charge sales tax, buyers from other states will purchase bullion or collectible coins in those states rather than pay taxes in their own state. This is terrible for local coin dealers in states that border states with exemptions, as was previously the case with Minnesota. The competitive disadvantage for them translates into fewer sales, fewer employees, and less money in payroll and income taxes collected.

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Europe Is Fighting Counterfeiting

€50 banknote

We’ve discussed before what a problem counterfeiting is in the coin world. In recent years counterfeit coins have proliferated in America so frequently, many of them imported from China via online sales, that the U.S. Mint has issued warnings. A few years ago, when the stock market was in freefall and real estate rapid lost value, collecting coins became not just a hobby but an investment for many people. The characteristics about coins that make them valuable - origin, condition, scarcity, and history - do not fluctuate much over time and, unlike bank accounts, coins are not hackable (although they can, of course, be stolen). Counterfeiting is a significant threat to collectors, however, and anyone involved with coins has an incentive to stop it.

In April the European Central Bank issued new €50 banknotes they designed to be far less vulnerable to counterfeiting. These orange-yellow bills were designed in consultation with Stanford neuroscientist David Eagleman to so that anyone - not just currency experts - would be able to spot a fake. The usual security measures are present, including watermarks, color-changing inks, threads, and microprinting, but instead of relying on high tech measures, the ECB took a new tack: focusing on face recognition. This is because the general populace doesn’t look at their money very carefully and the human brain isn’t designed to spot inconsistencies in objects that often decorate paper money.

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What Are Pedigree Coins?

What Are Pedigree Coins?

There are many things that make objects valuable. Origin, usefulness, condition, scarcity, and history all make a difference when considering value. We understand this easily when it comes to other items. For instance, a pipe may have value to someone who likes to smoke a pipe and no value to someone who doesn’t. A pipe made from rare or valuable wood might have value as a piece of artistry. The same pipe once owned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would be a very sought after item among Sherlock Holmes fans, and if it could be proven that Conan Doyle smoked that pipe while he wrote A Study in Scarlet that item would even more valued for the role it played in the history of an iconic fictional character. The proof that that particular pipe was owned by Conan Doyle and smoked during the writing of a specific novel would be its pedigree. It’s much the same with coins.

We’ve often discussed the importance of scarcity in regard to coin value. Mint origin is also important to collectors who like to locate and purchase all variations of a certain coin. Coins that have never circulated are much more valuable than ones that have. All of these things factor into the determination of value. If a coin has a rare pedigree, this can make a large difference as well.

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The Maine Penny: A Coin Mystery from History

The Maine Penny: A Coin Mystery from History

Do you know about the Maine penny? Also known as the Goddard coin, the Maine penny isn’t a penny like the Lincoln Wheat cent but a very old coin that dates to the time of the Norwegian king, Olaf Kyrre, who reigned as King Olaf III between 1067-1093. One of the silver coins minted to honor his reign somehow found its way to the Goddard site on Naskeag Point in Maine almost a thousand years ago. It was discovered in 1957 along with some worked copper, pottery remnants, and other evidence of human habitation.

The Goddard site has been dated by archeologists to 1180-1235, and historians believe the people who lived there were the ancestors of today’s Penobscot Indians. That means that this coin may have been used as metal currency in America some 500 years before the next New England silver coins, including the Pinetree shilling, were minted. What was going on that this coin could have been left behind there?

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What Was Executive Order 6102?

What Was Executive Order 6102?

Previously we talked about the Great Depression and what its effects were on coins minted during that era. However, the largest coin disaster of the 1930s was Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s infamous gold confiscation. His Executive Order 6102 of 1933 strikes fear, or at least anxiety, in the hearts of some coin collectors (and gold bugs) even now. Many coin collectors view the U.S. government’s confiscation of gold with anger and loathing as well as feelings of foreboding for the future. When a government has the right to or enforces a perceived right to confiscate gold bullion and gold coins from its own population, what does that mean for coin collectors today? Well, it’s not as ominous as you might think.

While what happened is a tragedy for historic gold coins and collectors, it’s unlikely to reoccur today because FDR’s confiscation of gold was done to bail out the Federal Reserve which in years prior to the Depression had issued millions more in gold-clause notes than it had gold to back them with. Today the Federal Reserve no longer has to pay back its liabilities in gold. It hasn’t since 1971 when President Richard Nixon closed the international dollar-gold exchange window.  

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The George Washington Quarter Dollar

The George Washington Quarter Dollar

As we discussed before, during the early years of the Great Depression far fewer coins were minted. An economy in a tailspin meant that coins were circulating less and fewer people were collecting them. The exception to this coin dearth in those early years was the 1932 quarter dollar minted in honor of the 200th anniversary of George Washington’s birth.

Originally, the Treasury Department intended to strike a half dollar, and in cooperation with the Commission of Fine Arts and the Washington Bicentennial Commission, it held a competition. Entrants were to design the obverse of this new coin using the celebrated bust of Washington sculpted by Jean Antoine Houdon as inspiration. Laura Gardin Fraser, talented artist and wife of sculptor James Earle Fraser, was a prolific medalist. In 1932 she designed the George Washington Bicentennial medal, and she entered this contest along with 97 other people. The Commission chose her design unanimously - but the U.S. Treasury declined to use her design on the coins it produced.

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U.S. Coins and the Great Depression

U.S. Coins and the Great Depression

Previously we’ve talked about the scarcity of U.S. coins minted during the years of the Civil War. Collectors looking for coins from another historic period - the Great Depression - will also have to search for some of them, particularly the ones struck during the earliest years of the 1930s. What was going on during this period, and why are coins from this era harder to come by?

The stock market crashed in October of 1929, and some of its effects were felt immediately. Fortunes were lost overnight, and millionaires jumped out of buildings rather than face financial ruin. For working class Americans who had not invested in the stock market, it took a little longer for this disaster to affect them, but in time the economic collapse brought them down too. Subsequent years saw unemployment at rates as high as 25 percent.

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The Most Collectible Lincoln Wheat Cents

The Most Collectible Lincoln Wheat Cents

Last time we discussed the origins of the 1909 Lincoln cent. This coin has been around for over a hundred years in various forms, and we’ve gotten used to seeing it in purses, on sidewalks, in cup holders in cars, and under the cushions of our couches. Have you ever wondered if any of those pennies you’ve overlooked for years are valuable? Many of them are. In fact, the most rare type of Lincoln wheat cent - the 1943-S - sold for $1 million dollars in 2012.

The United States entered World War II after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941. During the war years, the availability of metals significantly decreased as they were assigned for artillery use. This meant a change in the metal composition of the coins minted, therefore in 1943 the copper cent became a zinc-plated steel penny. U.S. mints struck more than a billion of this new coin between the mints in Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco. The public didn’t particularly take to it, although coin collectors have softened on it over the years and have come to view it as a novelty. These steel cents are available for purchase very inexpensively in either circulated or uncirculated condition.
 
The 1943 copper cent is another story. The reason that some 1943 pennies are so collectible is - as is often the case - due to a minting error. In 1943 between 30 and 40 Lincoln wheat cent coins were struck on copper planchets, likely leftover from 1942.  Because of their rarity, the Philadelphia copper cents are worth more than $45,000, the San Francisco copper cents are worth $100,000, and the one known 1943-D (Denver) copper cent is likely worth more that $500,000. No question they are the most collectible U.S. cents on the coin market.

Interestingly enough, the same thing happened in reverse the following year when the 1944 Lincoln wheat penny was stamped on leftover steel planchets. The U.S. Mint returned to using copper for coins in 1944, recycling metal that came from spent ammunition shells. These pennies differed from the pennies minted between 1909 and 1942 which were 95% copper and 5% zinc and tin. Pennies minted from 1944 to 1946 contained no tin so they were slightly different in color than the earlier version, but this is only visible in uncirculated coins now. The 1944 steel cents are worth upwards of $125,000 as well.

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The Story of the 1909 Lincoln Wheat Cent

The Story of the 1909 Lincoln Wheat Cent

Collectors of U.S. coins will no doubt be familiar with the many iterations of the Lincoln cent, but most of the public will go their whole lives without paying any attention to the details of this ubiquitous coin. It’s as familiar to Americans as baseball, and yet it’s completely overlooked, the story behind this everyday object unknown. 

Interestingly enough, the man behind this famous miniature portrait of Lincoln wasn’t American. He was Victor David Brenner, but he was born Viktoras Baranauskas to a Jewish family living in  Šiauliai, Lithuania - which in 1871 was a garrison town on the edge of the Russian Empire. At age 19, rather than be exiled to Siberia, he immigrated to the United States and settled in New York City.

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What Is the Difference between a Coin and a Medal?


Coin collecting has come crossover with other hobbies like stamp collecting or antiquing in the sense that these hobbies involve people seeking out everyday items that have managed to increase in value over time, no matter their original value.

When a single coin is minted among thousands, tens of thousands, or millions, the odds that it will become very valuable over time are small. However, as we discussed before, coins can be struck with errorsthey can be melted down, or otherwise be lost to time, with the result being that a once common coin becomes very rare. People will pay a great deal of money for rare coins. The same is true for everyday objects, and some of them are very coin-like so they have quite a bit of overlap with coins.

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