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Numismatic Research

  • Classic Commemoratives—Highlighting America’s History

    Nearly half of our almost 100 newest purchases are Silver Commemoratives, since a long-time client with a great eye sent us his collection. So today’s missive is on this highly collectible series. Between 1892 and 1954 there were 50 different Silver Commemoratives authorized by Congress: 48 Half Dollars along with a single Quarter and Dollar. Since many of these were issued for multiple years, were struck at the Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco Mints, and were issued with subtle design variations, the complete series is comprised of 144 issues. Majestic images portrayed by gifted sculptors highlight the milestones of America’s past, from the voyage of Columbus to the Monroe Doctrine to the Panama Canal.

    Commemoratives differ from regular issues as they are struck primarily for collectors rather than for circulation, although they are legal tender. Silver Commemoratives can be assembled in a nearly endless number of ways, in all price ranges, making them an easy area to pursue. Purchasing one of each of the 50 unique designs is referred to as a Type set. The ambitious pursuit of a complete set requires one of each of the 144 dates and mint marks referenced above. Of course, you can also pursue groups of coins from various subsets, such as Civil War, California, New York, or Art Deco issues. You can also assemble complete sets of the 6 designs that were issued over several years and at three Mints, resulting in highly popular Specialty Sets where one of each date and Mint is obtained.

    Specialty Sets

    Arkansas (1935-39) 15 coins
    Boone (1934-38) 16 coins
    Washington-Carver (1951-1954) 12 coins
    Oregon (1926-1939) 14 coins
    Texas (1934-38) 13 coins
    Booker T. Washington (1946-1951) 18 coins

    Besides the many historical and aesthetic attributes and the countless collecting possibilities, one of our primary reasons for promoting this area is that prices are at small fractions of their highs. Seventy of the 144 issues have original mintages of under 10,000, yet a large percentage can be purchased in MS65 and higher grades for less than $500. Silver Commemoratives have wide reaching appeal as beautiful objects in their own right. We have placed many fabulous examples from this series over the past two decades, and continue to have a high quality selection that is second to no other dealer.

    To view all of our newest acquisitions, click here.

    To view all of our newest Silver Commems ONLY, click here.

    For a link to items in the world class Sounder collection, click here.

    We look forward to hearing from you or seeing you at next week’s Baltimore Expo.



  • The Sounder Collection

    Pinnacle Rarities is pleased to announce the acquisition of an especially high-grade classic commemorative set assembled by an astute collector.  This offering of nearly 50 spectacular quality coins includes 13 MS68s, 4 MS67+s, 24 MS67s and 3 MS66s along with one PR66CAM and a single PR65CAM gold commem. Among them are several contenders for finest known status, with populations of less than 5. Whenever possible our client chose coins that not only met his strict technical standards, but displayed fabulous color. Quite a few of these coins have famous pedigrees such as Hidden Liberty, JFS, Jewell, the San Diego Collection, and Bruce Scher.

    The collector responsible for this outstanding achievement lives in our own Puget Sound backyard, which only partially explains the name of the collection. The other, less obvious reason is his passion for the game of soccer and the name of the local MLS team, the Seattle Sounders. He began collecting coins almost 40 years ago in a somewhat typical fashion—pushing coins into blue Whitman albums. After a 15- year hiatus, he returned to the hobby in 1999 and began working on several top-notch collections. The sale of this set funds his passion in the two other areas of numismatics that he continues to pursue. It is our pleasure to make available this gorgeous assemblage from one of our favorite series.


    Click Here to View the Collection




  • December Newps Featuring Beautifully Toned Morgans and Much More

    2013 is winding down, but we are not slowing down our pace here in the office. We have added nearly 70 new coins this week and will have many more great coins coming in next week as well. Already posted online are nearly 15 beautifully toned Morgan dollars along with one phenomenal Proof. Amongst our newest acquisitions are high-grade Barber and Seated type, a few terrific Walkers, some wonderful classic commems, as well as a diverse array of other numismatic treasures. So take a peek at our new purchases page now but don't forget to check back frequently as we are posting new items almost daily. We look forward to hearing from you.


    Link to New Purchases

  • Business Brisk During and After Baltimore Show

    As a city that is within driving distance for many, Baltimore is routinely well attended by collectors.   We always enjoy visiting with the many who attend.  In fact, some are almost like family as we have such great long-term relationships with them.  As we always say, relationships are the key to our success.  While attending conventions such as the one last week are important from the aspect of buying and selling, they are just as important for building and maintaining relationships with collectors and dealers alike.   While at a typical show, we look through many thousands of coins to come home with 50-100 select items.  This would never be enough for us to successfully run our business.  Most of our inventory is purchased back at the office from our collector base.  Another substantial percentage is received from our dealer contacts between shows.  Since we've been back in the office this week, we have gotten several boxes of fantastic coins, far more than we were able to acquire in Baltimore.
    As we will be posting 25 or so new coins daily, check our inventory page often between now and early next week.  We have a bit of something for everyone.  Also, don't forget to update those want lists.  We were very successful in filling want lists in Baltimore, but as is often the case, some of the items wouldn't have made it into our inventory.  For example, one want list item was a rare date AU $10 Liberty, which is outside of what we usually handle.
    As Thanksgiving is just around the corner, a huge THANKS to all of you who make our jobs so rewarding by allowing us to handle some of the nicest rare coins on the planet.   We will continue to work hard to deserve your business and trust by finding fabulous coins at fair prices and ALWAYS buying back what we sell.
    May you and your family have a fantastic Thanksgiving and we look forward to hearing from you soon.


    Link to New Purchases

  • An Overview of the Standing Liberty Quarter Series - Part 2

    By Kathleen Duncan

    Standing Liberty Quarters were struck at the Philadelphia Mint from 1916 until 1930 with the exception of only 1922, when no quarters were produced at any Mint.  Strikings at Denver and San Francisco were more sporadic.  This is the only 20thcentury regular issue U.S. coin for which no Proof coins were produced.  Altogether, there are 37 regular issues as well as the 1918/7-S overdate, the most elusive date in the series.  While containing many challenges for the advanced collector, the other two most notable keys are the 1916 and the 1927-S, one of the foremost condition rarities in all of 20th century U.S. numismatics and the toughest date to find with a fully struck head.

    Particularly beginning with the Type 2 format (a redesign by Chief Engraver George Morgan mid-way through 1917) coins graded Full Head (FH) are much scarcer and more valuable than those lacking this feature.  To qualify, a coin must possess these attributes: the three leaves in Liberty’s hair must be visible; her hairline must be complete; and her ear indentations must be evident.  Other areas prone to striking weakness on some issues are Liberty’s right knee, the date, the eagle’s breast feathers, and the rivets as well as the center of the shield.

    stand lib heads Collecting Insights for the Standing Liberty Quarter Series  Part 2

    For an in depth look at both historical and design details of this popular series, please refer to Part 1 of this articlePart 1 also contains collecting insights for the dates 1916 through 1918-S.  Here in Part 2, the article continues a date-by-date analysis beginning with the ever-elusive 1918/7-S and proceeding to the final issue, the 1930-S.

    1918/7-S: To help meet the high demand of the San Francisco Mint and the wartime economy, an old Type 2 1917-dated die was re-engraved with an 8 over the final digit in the date.  This practice was supposed to have been abandoned around the turn of the century, but once in a while it is still practiced, and usually results in a very low mintage.  The mintage figure of this quarter is unknown, but obviously miniscule. These pieces circulated freely, and were not discovered until nearly 20 years after they entered commerce. Accordingly few mint state survivors are known today, and it is one of the key silver rarities of 20th century numismatics.  Two notable characteristics can be found on these coins, struck from a single obverse die: a die clash in the area next to Liberty’s right knee, from the E in E PLURIBUS UNUM on the reverse; and a small dot of extra metal above and to the right of the last digit of the date.

    1917 stand lib kd Collecting Insights for the Standing Liberty Quarter Series  Part 2The 1918/7-S is rare and relatively expensive even in the lowest grades. Mint state specimens are extreme rarities and specimens with fully struck heads are almost non-existent.  Combining the populations, there are a total of 136 PCGS and NGC graded uncirculated examples.  As a certain percentage of these are certainly resubmissions, it is likely less than 100 mint state survivors exist.  The two services have graded only 11 MS65 or better specimens (again a number certainly inflated) and none that have received the coveted Full Head designation.  The highest graded Full Heads are MS64s.  There are only 14 Full Head uncirculated examples in all grades combined on the population reports of the two major services.

    1919:  This is one of the most available issues in the teens in high-grade due to its mintage exceeding 11 million.  High quality examples with strong striking characteristics are among the most available for issues before 1925.

    1919-D: For unknown reasons the Denver Mint coinage of 1919, across all denominations, was poorly made, creating Key dates for the nickel, dime, quarter and half dollar.  Liberty’s head is almost always weak and the rivets along the left side of the shield are usually poorly defined.  Like its sister 1919-S coin, there are often interesting die breaks on the obverse around the date.

    1919-S:  Like the 1919-D of similar mintage, the 1919-S is a key to the series and rare in high-grade, particularly with full striking characteristics.    Rarity and price in high-grade examples with Full Head attributes run parallel with the 1919-D, both of which are quite a bit rarer than the more famous 1916.

    1920:  Even though the 1920 has the highest mintage of the entire series (more than double any other issue) its availability in the better grades of uncirculated is surprisingly low.  The government’s need for 27.8 million quarters this year overwhelmed the usually competent production staff in Philadelphia making Full Heads surprisingly scarce.  It was another situation where quantity ruled over quality.

    1920-D: In high-grade, particularly with Full Head attributes, this ranks amongst the most challenging of issues in the series.  Most examples display striking weakness at the top of the date and the third and fourth rivets are usually missing from Liberty’s shield.

    1920-S:  Taken as a whole, the Roaring Twenties witnessed some of the poorest produced coins in the history of the San Francisco mint.  This is true not just of the Standing Liberty quarters, but also of the nickels, dimes and half dollars produced at the time.  Both obverse and reverse almost always display weak strikes, making it one of the top strike rarities in the series, eclipsing even the 1919-D and 1919-S.  It is second only to the 1927-S in terms of fewest high-grade survivors, with and without Full Head status.  The elusiveness of Gem quality and finer Full Head examples has lead to pricing pressure on non Full Heads as well, particularly in the upper uncirculated grades.

    1921:  A relatively low mintage (1,916,000) may account for the fact that mint state survivors are usually well-struck.  However, whereas many Standing Liberty quarters display striking softness through the top of the date, the 1921 displays this feature along the bottom of the digits.  The first and second 1 in the date are slightly different when compared to other issues, leading some to believe that the design was again modified in this year, as was absolutely the case with the 1921 Walker.

    1923:  Albeit a high mintage issue, this date is quite scarce in Gem, Full Head condition.  Although the San Francisco issue of this year gets much more recognition as a Key date, in gem and finer Full Head condition, this coin has far fewer examples graded. As it sells for a fraction of the price, this issue should be considered a sleeper.  When found, high-grade survivors can be located with razor sharp striking detail.

    1923-S:  This date is elusive from the standpoint of both absolute and condition rarity.  It is more available than one would expect, however, and is perhaps one of the more over-rated dates in the series.  Gem and finer examples, even with Full Head details, trade relatively frequently.

    1924:    As if foreshadowing the date modification the following year, the 1924 was one of the most poorly produced issues in the entire series.  Furthermore, the obverse die cracked early in production, resulting in most mint state survivors missing the top portion of their dates.  Although over 10 million coins were produced, Gem and better examples are not easy to acquire.  This is another relative sleeper in MS66FH and better conditions, although prices are beginning to escalate.

    1924-D:  As was the case in Philadelphia this year, this Denver issue was also one of the worst produced in the series.  Many examples come weakly struck, not only on Liberty’s head but on the date and shield rivets.  It is not uncommon to find the top third or half of the date missing from a broken die.  This is a date that has many survivors in uncirculated condition, even in very high-grade, but almost all are Flat Heads.  Full Heads are quite rare in Gem and finer.

    1924-S:  Nearly 3 million were minted but the vast majority were poorly produced.  Full Head examples are rare but the striking problems did not stop with Liberty’s head, as the shield detail is also typically abysmal, as are the eagle’s feathers on the reverse.  The lack of availability of Full Heads has lead to Flat Heads in the higher uncirculated grades commanding strong prices.  A mere dozen MS66FHs have been graded between PCGS and NGC combined, a surprisingly low number for a date not recognized as a Key.

    1925: The date positioned on the first step of the passway was one of the designs highest features and wore away quickly, leading to the entire area of the first step being recessed in 1925.  This was a high production issue with a mintage of over 12 million, so not surprisingly examples grading up to MS66FH are readily available.

    1926:  This issue is poorly produced by Philadelphia standards.  Although over 11 million were minted, a low percentage of those display strong striking characteristics.  Finding Gem and finer examples in Full Head, while not especially difficult, is harder than one would think given the high mintage, the Philly Mint’s usual better attention to detail, and the previous year’s design change.

    1930 stand lib kd Collecting Insights for the Standing Liberty Quarter Series  Part 21926-D:  This is one of the rarest issues of the series in Gem Full Head and finer conditions, although locating an example that is high-grade with a Flat Strike is extremely easy.  Indeed, it is branded as the classic Flat Head of the series by Standing Liberty Quarter specialist J. Cline. The reverse strike also proves problematic, with typical examples displaying few, if any feathers on the eagle’s wings.

    1926-S:  This issue is several times rarer than its already elusive Denver cousin.  The San Francisco mint had problems striking up any coin designs in the twenties, and the 1926-S quarter is no exception.  Besides displaying weakness on Liberty’s head, her shield and the eagle’s breast feathers are notoriously soft.  The third and forth rivets are always missing from the shield.

    1927:  Although not as common as the 1929 and 1930, this issue was well produced in high numbers, with a mintage of nearly 12 million.  Finding a high-quality example, while not necessarily easy, is not overly challenging.  However, finding a superb Gem with Full Head details, is a feat, as it is with nearly all but a handful of dates in this challenging series.

    1927-D: Although this issue and its famous San Francisco sibling are the only ones in the series boasting mintages of less than a million besides the 1916, it is surprisingly easy to locate a high quality example, up to and including coins at the Gem, Full Head level.

    1927-S:  With only a paltry 396,000 produced, the 1927-S is the premier rarity among the regular issue Standing Liberty quarters.  It is even rarer than the 1916, even though almost eight times as many coins were struck since it wasn’t saved in the substantial way witnessed by the first date of the series.  The 1927-S is one of the foremost condition rarities in all of 20th century U.S. numismatics and aside from the overdate, the most expensive of all Standing Liberty quarters.  Even Flat Head examples in mint state command considerable sums.

    1928:  This date is amongst the most common, and is readily available in all grades Flat Head and Full Head, up to MS66FH.  The obverse and reverse of this issue are amongst the better struck in the series.  As with nearly every Standing Liberty quarter it becomes rare at the MS67FH level.

    1928-D:  This issue was poorly produced and the striking characteristics tend to be weak in all of the usual problem areas.  Accordingly Full Head examples bring strong premiums and are fairly elusive.

    1928-S:  Large and small mintmark varieties of this year exist, with the small mintmark being three to five times rarer according to J. Cline.  The small mintmark is further to the right and down toward the date and does not touch the star.  This issue is relatively common and easy to acquire up to the MS67FH level.

    1929:  This is the second most common issue in the series behind the 1930.  All grades up to MS66FH are readily available and reasonably affordable, making it a popular choice for type collectors.

    1929-D:  The mintage of 1,358,000 coins was the fourth lowest of any date and mintmark issue in the entire Standing Liberty quarter series. The low production in combination with the typical poor strike of Denver Mint issues during the ‘20s makes the 1929-D is an important condition and strike rarity.  Gem and higher examples with Full Head details are elusive, although not as rare as several of the Denver and San Francisco issues from earlier in the decade.

    1929-S: This issue was better produced than any other San Francisco issue from the ’20s, and finding high-quality examples should not be a problem.

    1930:  This is the most readily available of all issues in the series, except for the 1917 Type 1.  Strike is not a problem, nor is finding an example in any condition.  It is most often the type collector’s issue of choice.

    1930-S:  While not as well produced as its Philly counterpart, this date is still easy to acquire in any condition, albeit with weaker striking attributes, particularly on Liberty’s head and the inner shield, as well as the third and fourth shield rivets.

    The Standing Liberty quarter was discontinued in 1931, a year in which no quarters were struck.  Although the Law of 1890 mandated that coinage designs should not be changed more often than each 25 years, the 200th anniversary of George Washington’s birth in 1932 seemed an important enough event to issue what was conceived as a one-year commemorative quarter.   The Washington quarter, obviously, ended up continuing as a regular issue.   MacNeil’s Liberty, carrying both shield and olive branch, is a poignant reminder of a time when the United States was on the brink of joining the Allied Forces in the World War that had begun in 1914.  Although it was produced for a mere 15 years, it remains one of American numismatics most beloved.

  • An Overview of the Standing Liberty Quarter Series - Part 1

    By Kathleen Duncan
    Previously published in the Coin Dealer Newsletter - Monthly Supplement, July 12th, 2013
    Historical Background

    The entire run of American coinage received a major overhaul and aesthetic upgrade between 1907 and 1921.  Each and every denomination was redesigned, and with the exception of the two-and-a-half and five-dollar gold coins, each had its own unique appearance.  These designs were a clear departure from the nation’s less artistic numismatic past, and remain among the most beautiful and beloved of all United States coin types.

    It was the beginning of the 20th century and to President Theodore Roosevelt’s thinking America’s coinage was unworthy of a first world power.  Necessarily, he turned to talents of outside artists, as Mint engravers previously focused on the mechanical suitability of a design rather than its artistry.   So departing from the Mint’s hundred-plus-year tradition, Roosevelt set America’s foremost sculptor Augustus Saint Gaudens to the task.  In 1907, Saint Gaudens produced his namesake twenty-dollar and gorgeous ten-dollar gold designs.  Bela L. Pratt was recruited to work on the two minor gold denominations.  Victor D. Brenner and James Earle Fraser were also chosen outright for their respective designs for the cent and nickel, and it was not until 1915 a competition was held among prominent artists of the day for the dime, quarter and half dollar designs that would replace the Barber type.

    According to the Law of 1890, coin designs could be changed after 25 years tenure.  The Barber dimes, quarters and half dollars had been in use since 1892, so replacements were allowed in 1917, although not mandatory.  As the public’s response to the other new numismatic designs was overwhelmingly positive, on Dec. 28, 1915 the Treasury held a competition for these three denominations.  For the first time in the history of the United States mint, distinctive designs were going to be created for these issues. Adolf Weinman won the rights to the dime and half dollar, and the winner for the new quarter was prominent American sculptor Hermon Atkins MacNeil.  He was well known for his works depicting Native Americans and historical events, and went on to create Justice, the Guardian of Liberty on the east pediment of the United States Supreme Court Building among a vast many other professional achievements.


    Design Overview

    MacNeil’s quarter features Liberty striding confidently through a waist-high gateway, carrying a shield bearing the national arms in her left hand.  The sheath from her shield is being removed by her right hand, in which she also holds an olive branch.  MacNeil stated that Liberty is “stepping forward in…the defense of peace as her ultimate goal.”  (Of course 1917 was also the year that the United States entered World War I, after striving for years to maintain its neutrality.)  Thirteen stars representing the original colonies are displayed on both the obverse gateway and flanking the eagle in flight on the reverse.  The designer’s initial M is located to the right of the date, while the mintmark appears just to the left.

    Standing Liberty quarters were struck at the Philadelphia Mint from 1916 until 1930 with the exception of only 1922, when no quarters were produced at any mint.  Strikings at Denver and San Francisco were more sporadic.  In fifteen years of production, 226 million coins were struck.  Interestingly, this is the only 20th century regular issue U.S. coin for which no proof coins were produced.  There are 37 regular issues as well as one overdate: a 1917-S Type 2 die, unused by the San Francisco mint, was recut and used to strike several thousand 1918-S coins, creating a rare variety and the most elusive issue in the series.  While the series contains many challenges to the advanced collector, the two other most notable keys are the 1916, which saw a low production of 52,000 pieces and the 1927-S, one of the foremost condition rarities in all of 20th century U.S. numismatics and the toughest date to find with a fully struck head.

    Chief Engraver George Morgan, who replaced the late Charles Barber that February, made extensive changes to MacNeil’s design mid-way through 1917, creating a distinct Type 2 format.  His modifications made the eagle higher on the reverse and moved three of the thirteen stars from its sides to below it.  Liberty’s nude torso is covered with chain mail and her shield rivets are reduced from 30 to 16.  Finally, a convexity was applied to the dies to aid in striking production. Unfortunately, the changes had the opposite effect, with Type 2 examples displaying poorer definition overall and notably to Liberty’s hair and face. Like Fraser’s nickel, the Standing Liberty quarter’s date was one of the highest features of the design and tended to wear quickly.  A subtype (sometimes called Type 3) was created in 1925, at which time the date was recessed.




    Date Style Modifications

    The Type 1 issues of 1916-1917 display straight sides on both the first and second numerals with very subtle serifs at either side of the top and bottom. Due to incomplete striking, these often appear to be sans-serif, having only subtle bulges at either end.  The 9 had a loop that was not quite closed and a tail that pointed directly to the left, which is a contrast to the upwardly curved tail found in Hermon MacNeil’s original models.  It’s probable that adjustments were made by the Mint’sengraving staff.  With the Type 2 issues, the 9 pointed upward as originally intended and the loop of the 9 is larger.

    The Type 2 issues of 1917-24 display plain, block figures throughout, except in 1921.  As with so many United States designs of this date, the 1921 had a distinctive appearance, in this case with broader numerals than the coins preceding or following it.

    When the date was recessed for the coins of 1925-30, all numerals were altered.  The previous san-serif style was replaced with curved, serif-style figures.  The 1 began displaying a tilting left serif at the top and broad, straight serifs at the bottom.  The 2 transitioned from flat to curved at the bottom.  The uniform upper and lower loops seen on the 8 in 1918 were changed to a small loop above a larger on in 1928. The flat-topped 3 of 1923 was replaced with a curved one in 1930.


    Collecting Insights

    Particularly beginning with the Type 2 format, coins graded Full Head are much scarcer and more valuable than those lacking this feature.  To qualify for this designation a coin must possess three attributes: the three leaves in Liberty’s hair must be visible; her hairline must be complete; and her ear indentation must be evident. Other areas that are prone to striking weakness on some but not all issues are Liberty’s right knee, the date, the eagle’s breast feathers, and the rivets as well as the center of the shield.

    1916: By the time dies were finally ready, the year 1916 near its end and only 52,000 coins were minted.  As such, it is among the premier rarities of 20th century numismatics.  That being said, examples in almost any condition are available up to MS66 if you are willing to pay the price.  As with any new design, many were saved from circulation by collectors and the general public alike. While the 1916 and Type 1 1917 quarters share the same reverse design, there are subtle differences between the obverse designs used for the two years:  Liberty’s hair detail is slightly different; her gown drapes a bit lower and is folded alternately; and the beading on the coin’s rim is cut to make room for her head. Other more subtle differences exist as well.

    1917 Type 1:  For those seeking a high-quality, inexpensive example of the Type 1 style, this is the coin.  Over 12 million were produced by the three Mints in the first half of 1917, and roughly three-quarters of that number originated from Philadelphia.  Unlike their Type 2 counterparts, Type 1 examples usually display solid definition on Liberty’s head and shield.  Examining the population reports in gem and finer grades, the numbers are 5 to 1 in favor of Full-Head issues, so premiums are accordingly reasonable for well-struck examples.

    1917-D Type 1:  Although not as common as its P-mint sibling, this is still an affordable example of Hermon MacNeil’s beautiful design and relatively obtainable even up to MS67FH.

    1917-S Type 1:  Although 443,000 more pieces were struck of the S-mint Type 1 than the D-mint, the S-mint is the most challenging of the three Type 1 issues to locate with Full-Head detail.

    1917 Type 2:  The modifications made to Liberty’s hairstyle, the eagle, stars and added chain mail caused the obverse to be more weakly struck than the Type 1 examples.  However, on this issue, the majority of mint state examples have fully struck heads and out-number the non-Full Heads about two to one. This is the most common of the 1917 to 1924 Standing Liberty quarters. The 1917-1924 dates, however, are notably rarer in all grades than their 1925-1930 counterparts.

    1917-D Type 2: Fully struck examples are a bit more elusive for this Denver Type 2 issue and Full Head examples in gem and finer bring strong premiums.

    1917-S Type 2:  Although a bit scarcer than it’s Denver cousin in absolute terms, the Type 2 San Francisco examples are a bit easier to acquire at the MS67FH and higher level, with a dozen coins so graded between PCGS and NGC combined. Of course it is unknown just how many of these are resubmissions.  As an aside, an important factor to consider when judging any coin's rarity is the number and frequency of auction appearances, as some the population data for some issues is more accurate than others.

    1918: The economy in 1918 was booming and the need for minor coinage had all three mints running at full capacity.  The result was quantity (more than 32.5 million pieces were struck at the three Mints) over quality.   The Philadelphia Mint did by far the best job in producing a high-quality product, and about 40% of mint state survivors have fully struck heads.  Locating a high-grade, Full Head example is not overly difficult.

    1918-D: Although often overshadowed by its San Francisco counterpart, this issue is conditionally scarce and infrequently encountered at the Gem level or finer. It is much rarer than you would guess from its almost 7.5 million coin production.  Strike is usually a problem, with most examples displaying poor definition on Liberty’s left (facing) leg, the date, and the eagle’s breast feathers, as well as on Liberty’s face and hair.

    1918-S: This is one of the great strike rarities in the series.  This is also the case with the Mercury dime and Walking Liberty half dollar series, with the 1918-S being a high mintage (over 11 million) issue with abysmal availability of candidates with strong striking characteristics.

    Our date-by-date analysis will continue in Part 2, resuming with 1918/17-S and proceeding through 1930-S.


  • A Selection of Buffalo Nickels from the Forsythe Collection

    Written by: Kathleen Duncan

    As a continuation of the drive to beautify the nation’s coinage that began with Teddy Roosevelt and Augustus Saint-Gaudens revamping the gold denominations, all five minor U.S. coins received design upgrades between 1909 and 1916. In 1913, Charles E. Barber’s Liberty Head nickel was replaced by the Buffalo nickel of sculptor James Earle Fraser, who formerly worked as Saint-Gaudens’ assistant. The obverse renders an authentic portrait of a Native American warrior facing right and the initial reverse (Type 1) depicts a bison on a raised mound.  As the words “FIVE CENTS” were quickly showing wear on the initial design, a modification (Type 2) removing the mound was made by Charles Barber.

    Over 1.2 billion Buffalo Nickels were minted at three Mints: Philadelphia, San Francisco and Denver.  Circulation strikes were issued from 1913 through 1938.  In most years they were struck at all three active Mints, but none at all were produced in 1922, 1932 and 1933.  Additionally, Denver didn’t mint any for the years 1921, 1923, 1930 and 1931.  The Philly mint struck no nickels in 1931 and the final year, 1938.  And San Francisco didn’t create any in 1934 or 1938.  The 1938-D/S was produced when it was decided that Buffalo nickel dies would not be sent to San Francisco during the issue’s final year.  Reverse dies earmarked for San Francisco were instead repunched with D’s and produced in Denver.  There are a total of 64 regular issues spanning 23 production years.

    Proofs were struck from 1913 until 1916 and again in 1936 and 1937. Mintages range from a low of 600 for the 1916 to a high of 5,769 for the final proof issue in 1937.  (In the late 1980s, five 1927 so-called Specimens were also discovered.)  Proofs from 1913 to 1916 display a matte finish and exhibit a slight granularity and frostiness.  For the most part, this style was not favored by collectors, and mintages declined steadily due to weak demand.  After a twenty year hiatus, Proof sales resumed with the more traditional “brilliant” or reflective style, which was much more favorably received.  There are actually two different Proof varieties in 1936: The Type 1, Satin finish, which is semi-prooflike; and the Type 2, Brilliant finish, which is more highly mirrored and reflective.  The 1937 also features the Brilliant finish.

    The Buffalo nickel has been resurrected not once, but twice – the first time as a 2001 commemorative silver dollar, and again in 2006 as a $50 gold bullion coin proving its enduring appeal. The series hailed from the time when renowned artists created some of numismatics’ all-time best designs.  We are pleased to provide you with a wide selection of over forty coins from one of the series’ premier aficionados, Gerald Forsythe.  Jerry has been collecting this series for decades and holds the honor of number one finest PCGS Registry sets (of all time) not only for this series, but for Mercury dimes and Walking Liberty halves.  When he has a few too many duplicates, we find those pieces good new homes.  So enjoy this unusually nice selection of one of America’s most beloved coins.

    Click Here to view the coins for sale



  • The History of the Trade Dollar

    Article Written by Kathleen Duncan
    Previously published in the Coin Dealer Newsletter - Monthly Supplement, March 9, 2012

    Until the 1850's, Americans spent most of their history looking towards the East Coast and Europe. Thereafter, we began to explore the strategic and economic significance of developing the West Coast and maintaining shipping routes from there to the Far East. The problem for U.S. merchants was that China preferred the higher silver content of the Mexican peso, also called the eight Reale. Seated Liberty Dollars were reluctantly accepted at a discount and most subsequently melted. To compete efficiently, American bankers and merchants often imported pesos, paying a premium of 7.5% over bullion value to acquire them. The concept of a special "commercial" Dollar of greater silver content that would facilitate Asian trade was born from this hurdle.

    History of the Trade Dollar

    Minted for circulation from July, 1873 until April, 1878, the Trade dollar represents one of the shortest-lived of all United States numismatic series. Across all dates and mintmarks nearly 36 million were produced. However, due to heavy circulation within Asian markets, frequent counterstamping with Chinese characters, or chop-marks (merchants in Asia stamped the Dollars with Chinese characters to attest to their weight and fineness, allowing them to be confidently accepted at face value) , and melting, nearly every issue is elusive in MS65 and finer conditions. Proofs, with the exception of the later proof-only issues, are also rare in gem and better.

    Besides its commonly known purpose as a United States coin to compete with the Mexican "Dollar", the Trade dollar had a lesser known, but equally imperative role. The politically important mining interests needed a new outlet for the huge supply of Silver glutting the world market. In the years during and after the Civil War, the Comstock Lode and other Western mines were producing large quantities of Silver. For a time, miners found outlets in foreign markets. Canada, Latin America and Europe all absorbed significant quantities during the 1860's. But after Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck united Germany in 1871 and subsequently placed it on a gold standard, Silver was dumped onto the international market.

    As supplies escalated, prices plummeted. Under a long-standing law, silver could be deposited with the U. S. Mint for conversion into Silver coins, for which it could then be exchanged. Miners invariably chose Silver Dollars, the one denomination that hadn't been changed when all other silver coins experienced a reduction in weight in 1853. As a direct result, Silver Dollar mintages soared above one million in 1871 and 1872. The Coinage act of 1873 (a.k.a. the Crime of '73) put a stop to this by suspending production of Silver Dollars. Mining interests were placated by the approval of the new Trade dollar that would provide an outlet for their metal and hopefully open it up to new Asian channels.

    In addition to providing a green light for the Trade Dollar, the Act of February 12th, 1873 abolished the Two-Cent piece, the Three-Cent Silver, the Half Dime and the Seated Dollar. Due to the declining price of Silver, weights were again reduced on the Dime, Quarter and Half Dollar as they had been twenty years prior. A rider on the bill made Trade Dollars legal tender, but only up to $5. In other words, no more than five could be spent at one time. As they weren't intended to circulate in the States, this must not have been considered a potential problem at the time, but would soon prove to be. At that time, the bullion value of a Trade dollar averaged $1.02.

    During the first two years of production, the vast majority of Trade Dollars were shipped to the Orient. In 1875 and early 1876 more were used in the states. A further decline in the price of silver in 1876 caused millions of Trade Dollars to return to the U.S. from China, leading Congress to demonetize the issue entirely. This was the first and only time the U.S. government revoked the legal tender status of any of our nation's coinage. After 1876, Trade Dollars could not legally be spent at face value; their value fluctuated in the metal market.

    Although coinage was intended solely for export to the Orient, generous numbers eventually found their way into domestic commerce. In 1877 Secretary of the Treasury John Sherman directed that Silver deposited for coinage into Trade Dollars would only be paid upon evidence that it would by exported. Evidence, sadly, was in some instances fabricated. Profiteers sold some of these "commercial" Dollars to unscrupulous employers who used them to pay their workers. One-sixth to one-fifth of these salaries were lost when the coins were redeemed, creating serious public discontent.

    This was the beginning of the end and on February 22, 1878, John Sherman mandated the end of production with his Sherman Silver Act. By this time Philadelphia had produced no business strikes, only proofs. Almost simultaneously, on February 28th, 1878, the Bland Allison Act directed the government buy vast quantities of Silver at subsidized prices to be coined exclusively into Morgan dollars. Proof Trade dollars were issued for an additional five years in mintages that ranged from 960 to 1,987.

    It wasn't until 1887 that the public was allowed to redeem them again at face value. All told 35,958,460 Trade Dollars were produced; 20,327,910 after they were demonetized on July 22, 1876. Of the grand total coined from 1873 to 1878 all were exported except for 6,607,632 pieces. 82% served their intended purpose as items for international commerce.

    Collecting Insights

    The Trade Dollar's design is widely viewed as an attractive upgrade to Gobrecht's Seated Liberty on which it was loosely based. William Barber's graceful Liberty is seated on bales of merchandise, facing westward. In her right hand she holds an olive branch which she extends to the West, while a ribbon inscribed with "Liberty" appears in her left. The 13 stars of the original colonies surround the upper obverse rim and waves representing the Pacific Ocean appear in her background. The reverse depicts an eagle with wings outspread above the coin's prominently displayed weight and fineness, 420 GRAINS, 900 FINE. The inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and TRADE DOLLAR surrounds.


    More than any other U.S. design, the Trade Dollar was a product of the western mints. Although production began at Philadelphia, the largest number of dies was sent to San Francisco where the majority of deposits were expected. The locale was also favored as the closest mint to the Orient. Trade dollars first reached China in October, 1873, where they were positively received. Nearly the entire production of 1873 went to that country.

    Although first-year examples typically experience collector hoarding, the scanty availability in the states at the time of production has made high-grade examples particularly elusive. Even the 1873-S was exported nearly in its entirety and most of the production was melted in either China or India insuring few returned back home. It is the rarest of all the San Francisco business strikes. The 1873-CC is one of the top rarities in the series. Although both PCGS and NGC record a coin each in MS65, no recent trades can be found in auction. The most recent trade for a PCGS MS64 was $46,000 in January of 2007. 1873 also has the honor of being the rarest issue from the official eleven year proof run (1873-1883).

    1874-CC Trade Dollar1874

    In this year the Philly mint experienced its highest production until 1877, although survivors in Gem are still obscure. The 1874-CC is one of the rarest issues in the series in high Mint State grades. The last recorded auction price realized for an NGC MS65 was $37,375 in September of 2008. Combined population in MS65 between PCGS and NGC is 5. The 1874-S is available in most conditions up to Gem. 1874 Proofs are exceptionally scarce and only slightly more available than 1873 Proofs.


    A new reverse hub was put into use. Proof and business strikes exist from both old and new hubs. Type I has a berry below the eagle's claw; the Type II lacks it. The Type I is considerably scarcer among the surviving 1875-S population and nearly all mint state examples known are of the I/II type. The 1875-S saw a record production of 4,487,000. The 1875 Philadelphia issue, however, saw a paltry mintage of 218,200, making it the scarcest among all of the Philly issues. The 1875-S/CC is the rarest of the regular issues in the series and the only over mintmark.


    In 1876 there was an obverse hub change. The Type I is distinguished by the ends of the ribbon 'held by Liberty( pointed to the left. The Type II obverse has the ribbon pointing down. This is the most plentiful Philly issue available. It was also the beginning of widespread use of the trade dollar domestically. Although the San Francisco mint saw record production as well, the 1876-CC is the third rarest regular striking in the series. This year also produced a highly popular 1876-CC Doubled Die Reverse variety. The reverse shows dramatic doubling on the eagle's left wing (on the right side of the coin), the branches, berries, leaves and much of the lettering, making it one of the strongest and widely spaced doublings known in any series. Finding one is not easy, however, as few have been graded in any condition, and none higher than MS64.


    The 1877-S was the highest production issue of the series, making it "relatively" common in Mint State, particularly at the lower levels. It is also the most common in all circulated grades, including chop-marked examples. All are Type II/II. Like all of its Carson City brethren, the 1877-CC is scarce in all grades and particularly in mint state. PCGS and NGC each show one MS65 example, the most recent auction trade being for a PCGS coin that brought $69,000 in November of 2005.


    The 1878-S saw the second highest mintage for the series at production of over 4 million. Conversely, no coins were produced at all in Philadelphia that year and the 1878-CC has by far the lowest mintage of the series at 97,000 coins. Additionally, a good portion were melted shortly after striking, making it the second rarest issue in uncirculated grades, after only the 1875-S/CC. PCGS and NGC have each pronounced exactly one coin MS65, and the last trade was an NGC example selling for $143,750 in January of 2007.

    The 1884 and 1885 Proofs

    These issues are two of the most coveted in the entire numismatic kingdom. They were produced secretly at the Mint and provide an interesting addendum to the series. Although there is an official record of dies having been made for 1884, no production is listed for either date and no specimens were given to the Mint Collection following normal Proof procedures.

    1882 Proof Trade Dollar

    These issues were generally unknown to the collecting community until John W. Haseltine announced he had found the coins in the 1884 and 1885 proof sets owned by his father-in-law, William Idler's estate. Idler was known to have had close ties to Mint personnel. Virgil Brand was the principle buyer after these coins were disclosed.

    Absent official records, it is uncertain how many were produced, but only 10 1884's and 5 1885's are known. Both are among the most valuable of all numismatic rarities. In November of 2005 an 1884 PCGS PR65 example, the highest graded of the date, sold for $603,750. In November of 2004, an 1885 NGC PR62 sold for $1,006,250. The highest recorded grade for this date is an NGC PR63 Cameo (which may or may not be the coin that sold as a PR62 above).

    Mintages ranged from a low of 97,000 for the 1878-CC to a high of more than 9 million for the 1877-S. The series includes 18 regular issues and 11 proofs (not counting the 1884 and 1885) making it a reasonable but not insurmountable challenge for collectors. Its intricate design and large size are intrinsically appealing to most, while its history places the United States on the precipice of becoming an major world power. This is a series that can provide years of satisfying exploration and collecting.


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