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.

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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How Do Coin Errors Occur during Minting?

How Do Coin Errors Occur during Minting?

Those unfamiliar with the ins and outs of coin collecting may be surprised to learn that coin errors - mistakes made when coins are minted - often enhance rather than detract from the value of said coin. While flaws that decrease a coin’s attractiveness can also decrease its value, error coins, or flawed coins made in the mint during the coin-making process, are also rare. This is because minting defects happen rarely, particularly with the advent of modern technology. Additionally, most error coins are detected before they are issued into the coinage, and they are recycled and remade in their proper form.

In order to understand why errors occur, it’s useful to understand how coin minting has been done historically and is done now. Here’s a fun primer from the U.S. Mint. A problem in each step of the minting results in a different type of coin error. Here are some of the most common types:

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5 Ways to Introduce New Coin Collectors to the Hobby

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As with any hobby, any good coin collector wants to find other people who share his passion and are willing to participate in exploring it with him. There are many groups, local, state, national, and international, dedicated to bringing coin collectors together, but another way to make this goal happen is to convert the people around you to your hobby.

Who should you start with? Well, cross off the people you know have no interest in collecting, paying attention to value and detail, or exploring history. Those are prerequisites for this hobby. To quote a famous book, “Cast not your pearls before swine.” Instead, look around your circle of acquaintance for like-minded souls, and, if they are few and far between, look younger. While you may have coworkers or friends with similar interest, people get set in their ways as they age. The great thing about younger people is that they have so much world to be introduced to, and they are still excited about that introduction. So if you have kids or nieces and nephews, they may the ideal audience to share your coins with.

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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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How to Detect Counterfeits

How to Detect Counterfeits
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As a Grand Rapids coin dealer, we at Mullen Coins have an especially strong interest in the detection of counterfeit and altered coins. In point of fact, anyone who deals with rare coins will develop a basic understanding of how to detect counterfeits, whether out of interest or necessity. If you are considering purchasing a rare date coin, or if you are looking to sell your coins, you may need to pay special attention to authenticity.

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To Be a Better Coin Buyer, Be a Good Coin Seller

To Be a Better Coin Buyer, Be a Good Coin Seller

I urge you to occasionally sell some of your coins—you will become a wiser, more educated collector. [You may also avoid unpleasant surprises when you do decide to sell some or all of your collection.]

Learn from my own story…I started collecting coins as a child.  Like most new collectors, my method was a trip to the bank to get rolls of Lincoln cents to search for better dates to put in my Whitman blue book.   It was a really fun treasure hunt.  I was buying valuable coins at face value!  But I did not sell any.

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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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Christmas Gift from Dad

Christmas Gift from Dad

Would you love to own a treasure chest? Filled with coins and other treasures?

For Christmas, two of my Grand Rapids clients displayed a true creative streak! They gifted each of their four adult children with a full treasure chest--loaded with his divided coin collection and other little beads and chocolate gold coins. You could pull this idea off for Valentine’s Day or other celebration.

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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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Why Are Coin Values Increasing?

Why Are Coin Values Increasing?

One question I am sometimes asked (by people who know that I am a Grand Rapids coin dealer) is, “What are the trends in rare coin values?”

In general, over long periods of time, rare coin values tend to increase.  This has certainly been the case for rare coins over the past two years… but the key word is “rare.”   When a coin’s value is largely determined by rarity (along with condition and desirability) vs. bullion content, values tend to rise over time.  However, when a coin’s value is largely tied to the spot price of silver and gold, its value will rise and fall with the value of the metal.  Gold and silver prices have declined in the past two years; hence, bullion coin values have also declined.  

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Insuring Your Coin Collection

Insuring Your Coin Collection

Whether you’re an avid rare coin collector or a Grand Rapids coin dealer, insuring your coin collection can be one of the best ways to protect your investment and give you peace of mind. With an annual cost that is often around 1% of the value of your collection, it may be worth considering for any collector. For professional collectors and dealers, the cost is even a deductible expense. 

Many beginning collectors assume that their homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy covers their rare coin collection. It’s true that some homeowners’ policies will cover small coin theft, but many policies have exclusion clauses. Read your insurance policy carefully to find out what it does and doesn’t cover.

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6 Tips for Selling an Estate Coin Collection

6 Tips for Selling an Estate Coin Collection

For most people, an inherited rare coin collection is a part of a larger estate, which may also include property, IRAs, investment assets, cars, or land. Since the coin collection is usually a smaller part of the inheritance, the inheritors often would like to liquidate the collection. As a Grand Rapids coin dealer, we have had many opportunities to assist with estate coin collections, and can offer few suggestions for how to proceed (although please understand that I am not an estate attorney):

Resist any temptation to clean the coins. Again, do not clean the coins, because much of the value of coins is their “original” condition. You will devalue the coins if you clean them.Look for any written directives about how to divide the collection, or documentation of the collection. If everyone involved decides to sell the collection and share the proceeds, in most cases it’s necessary to determine the value of the collection as a part of the total estate.Get a general sense of the value of the collection. In the absence of an inventory, you can do a little sorting and value estimation on your own, with the help of coin books and websites, depending on the time and interest you have. For non-experts, the main issue with selling an estate coin collection is to determine whether you have a collection or an accumulation. An accumulation may be either pocket change, or a group of coins that interested the owner but has no real numismatic value. It can be helpful if you can find some indication of where the coins were originally purchased and what was paid. This information could come from an inventory, or original flips (the old coin holders), or receipts and notes.Seek the help of a reputable coin dealer for a valuation of the collection.   Check to see if dealer is a member of the local Better Business Bureau, the local Chamber of Commerce, and state and national coin organizations such as the American Numismatic Association.   If you would like to work with a Grand Rapids coin dealer, contact Mullen Coins for a free coin valuation.Decide whether you’d like to keep any part of the rare coin collections as a memento. How do you decide which coin(s) are representative of the collection? You can always choose a rare coin that has most interested you over the years, or one that you know was the collector’s favorite. If you’re not sure which coin reflects the collection, you can always ask when you have the collection evaluated. One of the things we find most fascinating at Mullen Coins, when evaluating a coin collection, is that we get a real sense of the interests and workings of the collector.Sell the collection. The way you sell your coins most profitably will depend on their value. Several of the avenues for selling your coins follow:

 

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5 Best Places to See Rare Coins

5 Best Places to See Rare Coins

When you collect rare coins, you can learn a lot from what you read in books, websites and forums. You also learn whenever you visit a show or a Grand Rapids coin dealer. However, if you wanted to see some of the most interesting specimens of rare coins, there are a few exhibits that nearly any collector would enjoy:

The Smithsonian museums house the amazing National Numismatic Collection, and no coin collector’s trip to Washington, D.C., is complete without a visit to the Smithsonian. Many people don’t realize that the Smithsonian museums started with James Smithson’s donation of a large number of gold British sovereigns, with the purpose of melting and financing a national museum. The Smithsonian collection includes U.S. coins and currency, world coins such as U.S. Grant’s sizeable Japanese coin collection, and a large array of medals as well. It features some of the rarest specimens in the world, and entire famous collections like the Josiah Lilly collection of gold coins. The National Numismatic Collection contains over 450,000 coins and 1.1 million pieces of currency. The exhibit, housed in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, is sure to yield some interesting new tidbits for any collector, whether novice or expert.The U.S. Mints display some prime examples of both U.S. and world coins.  Because of the free coinage provision of the Coinage Act of 1792, people sent in foreign coins to be melted and re-minted into U.S. currency. The U.S. Mints decided, however, to set aside some of the best foreign collections of coins. The Mints also display examples of some of the most beautiful U.S. coins ever created. You can tour the Philadelphia Mint if you happen to be visiting that city, or the Denver mint as well (as long as you make reservations in advance).Numerous national coin shows have educational exhibits, and rare coins are often on display prior to auction. Google “national coin shows” for full lists. Good possibilities are the World’s Fair of Money (Chicago), the FUN Shows in Orlando, and several others would be well worth your time!TheWorld’s Fair of Money, sponsored by the American Numismatic Association, will be held August 5-9 this year near Chicago. This is a world class event where dealers, collectors, auction houses, and money organizations will have incredibly rare coins on display, and you’ll find educational displays on a variety of high-quality rare coins. There is also a Museum Showcase display, where one coin sure to draw a large amount of attention is the finest PCGS-certified 1922 Matte Finish High Relief Peace dollar, graded PCGS PR67.The ANA Money Museum in Colorado Springs, Colorado, has another diverse exhibit of rare coins. This collection includes over 250,000 numismatic items, with rotating exhibits.

Apart from these, you may sometimes run across great websites, such as auction house websites that share a history and spectacular images of rare coins. When you do find an informative site, certainly add it to your bookmarks. However, viewing a coin online is somehow not the same as seeing it in person. So another option is to check with your local coin dealer and see what particularly interesting specimens they currently have in inventory. Whether you work with a Grand Rapids coin dealer or any other, you never know what you may find. At Mullen Coins, we always welcome your inquiries about great coins in our current inventory, so contact us, or visit us by appointment or at an upcoming show.

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What Accounts for Differences in Coin Values?

What Accounts for Differences in Coin Values?

One of the fascinating aspects of rare coins is the variation in their values. Whether you’re selling a coin collection or acquiring interesting specimens, you might wonder why Rare Coin A is worth more than Rare Coin B, especially if you are just starting out. Here is some food for thought.

I have two of the same coins from the same date. Why would one be worth more than the other?

First, look for the mint mark… even two coins of the same denomination and date often bear different mint marks.   One could have had a much lower mintage, and possibly worth considerably more. 

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How Do Coin Evaluations Work?

How Do Coin Evaluations Work?

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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PCGS NGC Michigan State Numismatic Society 

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

 PMG Authorized DealerWest Michigan Coin Club