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Numismatic Research

  • Buying Coins From Digital Photographs

    My first job in the industry was in the back of a coin shop. The store had a “bid board” where collectors put up their coins for sale. Other collectors wrote in bids and the store took a small percentage for its troubles. Today most of the bid boards are gone from brick and mortar shops, and have migrated to the internet. Huge auction houses have flourished with giant full color catalogs online. Websites like Ebay, and Amazon, or industry focused sites like Collectors Corner or Collectors.com have given rise to the new “virtual bid boards”. But despite all this and the efforts of PCGS and NGC, rare coins remain a sight seen purchase item. They are, after all, tangible assets. So absent the big board of coins stapled in flips, the technology that drives these online sales portals is digital photography. While not all dealers have mastered the art, the quality of images has improved overall across the web. The lower cost of this ever improving technology has put digital photography into the mainstream with thousands of dealers and collectors selling coins online. Each coin has some sort of image posted in an array of quality that can make buying from just the image a tricky proposition.

    The smart collector seeks out a particular coin that suits their collecting interests. They view it and judge the luster, strike and surface quality. All of these can be controlled and manipulated in a digital photograph. The luster is simply the light reflecting back off the surfaces while rotating the coin. A photograph does not allow for this rotation displaying only a static image at the photographer’s discretion. Strike is the quality of how well the metals flowed into the recesses of a die. The judgement of this is often made by inspecting a particular 1868_flatvtiltdesign line or crevice or by gauging the fullness at a high point. We detect these and decipher them in our mind’s eye with a mental algorithm using light, color, shadows and experience. However, these focal points can be accentuated or concealed by crafty photographers (or less crafty Photoshoppers). And, the surface qualities can also be masked by a variety of “tricks” some as simple as rotating the coin when photographed or adjusting saturation, lighting and exposures to alter color. Some just post overall poor image quality making the surfaces impossible to judge.

    Experienced collectors can sometimes infer what a coin may look like. But until the coin is in hand for final inspection, it is impossible to get more than a good feel for a coin. With good same-lightsphotography, a collector can deduce if the coin is worth pursuing. Experience will teach you whose pictures to trust. Here a few rules that can help you from making a mistake when buying a rare coin from a photograph.

    1. Try to look at as many coins physically that you can. Attend shows, join local clubs, and visit your local shops to hone your eye. Nothing improves your numismatic abilities better than actually looking at coins.
    2. Continue to browse coins on the internet. Looking online may not be as valuable as physically holding them, but finding a few sites that provide quality images of the type you collect will help build a mental library and wish list. Look at other collections posted at PCGS or NGC Registries, or on coin forums.
    3. Compare coins you buy back to the images that may have prompted you to have a coin sent out. Note color and luster depictions. Compile a folder of these images or build a PCGS or NGC Registry sets and share these with others.
    4. Consider the coin when looking at an image. Don’t expect a three-cent-silver in MS62 to look like a gem Morgan Dollar when enlarged 100x its actual size. If the coin is toned, look to experience and imagine the coin in hand. If the coin is certified, understand the photo was shot through plastic. Sometimes these show lines in the picture, but are not on the coin.
    5. If buying from an auction you will be unable to attend, pay an dealer to represent you. Having someone look at an item to alert you to unseen blemishes or lacking diagnostics is second best to viewing it in hand yourself. The fees this incurs far outweighs the uncertainty.
    6. Only buy online from a company that provides a return privilege. If the coin doesn’t live up to its images, you can return for your money back. Some fees may apply, but paying a restocking fee is far better than living with a coin you aren’t in love with.
    7. Look for companies that provide large coin images and not just slab shots. Slab shots can hide small blemishes and problems. Their images usually don’t allow the actual coin to be enlarged well and lighting is limited or may not effectively illuminate the coin's surfaces. Best bet is a company that provides both - large coin image AND slab shot.
    8. Find a dealer you are comfortable calling and asking specific questions about a coin. Finding a trustworthy dealer is probably the most important factor to successful collecting.

    Every rare coin exhibits a mastery of arts. It is a loose blend of design, condition and nostalgia that catches our eye and draws us in. With the proliferation of internet sales portals collectors can view thousands of coins daily on a variety of virtual bid boards. But in the end, coins are a tangible asset. Until the coin is in hand, the smart collector should remain vigilant.

  • The Highly Collectible & History Packed Gold Commem Series

    The Gold Classic Commemorative series is an easily obtainable collection, containing only 11 gold commem-small issues, not including the exceptionally rare Round and Octagonal Pan Pac fifty dollar slugs. The coins are readily available in high grades and reasonably priced considering their low mintages.

    The first gold commems were issued in 1903 to celebrate the centennial of one of the biggest events in American history, the Louisiana Purchase, which roughly doubled the size of the country overnight. It contained all or part of the following states: Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming.   In celebration of the centennial of this important occurrence, an exposition was planned in St. Louis in 1904. Congress authorized up to 250,000 commemorative gold dollars for the event. Two obverse designs, both by U.S. Mint Chief Engraver Charles Barber, feature different Presidents and share the same reverse. The first displays a bust of Thomas Jefferson, responsible for the purchase of the Louisiana territory from France. The second portrays William McKinley, the president who approved the Louisiana Purchase Exposition where the coins were distributed. Sales were conducted by numismatic promoter Farran Zerbe for $3 each. Unfortunately the majority of the mintage remained unsold, and 215,000 were melted, leading to approximate mintages of only 17,500 for each variety.

    Lewis and Clark’s explorations of the west from 1804 to 1806 were honored 100 years later with the issuing of a gold dollar commemorating their discoveries. U.S. Mint Chief Engraver Charles Barber was chosen to design the coin, and to this date, it remains the only two-headed coin the U.S. has ever struck. Gold dollars were struck in both 1904 and 1905, with remaining mintages after melting of approximately 10,000 coins each.

    The next gold commems produced were for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition, held in San Francisco to celebrate the completion of round_obvthe Panama Canal the previous year. Congress authorized a silver half dollar and four gold pieces: a dollar, a quarter eagle, an octagonal fifty dollar and a round fifty dollar. The two fifty dollar gold pieces are the largest coins ever issued by the United States and are major rarities, not generally collected as part of the gold commemorative series. Charles Keck, a well-known New York sculptor, was chosen to design the gold dollar. A representation of a Panama Canal laborer appears on the coin’s obverse. Dolphins appear above and below the denomination on the reverse, symbolizing the joining of two oceans by the canal. Of the original 25,000 coins minted, 10,000 remained unsold and ended up in melting pots, leaving a net mintage of 15,000. Charles Barber designed the obverse of the quarter eagle using a mythological hippocampus to transport Columbia across the water.  Columbia carries a caduceus as a nod to the successful medical triumph over the yellow fever that afflicted many of the canal's builders.  The reverse, designed by George Morgan, depicts an eagle similar to the motif used on some pattern coins from the 1870s. Total sales of the 1915-S Pan-Pac $2.50s reached a mere 6,749 pieces and all remaining coins were destroyed.

    Two McKinley gold dollar commemoratives were issued in 1916 and 1917 to help pay for a Memorial in his birthplace of Niles, Ohio. While the original request from the memorial association was for commemorative silver dollars, William McKinley’s pro-gold stance while President led Congress to change the bill to call for gold dollars instead. The obverse features a likeness of the 25th President by Charles Barber, while the reverse depicts a view of the memorial structure by George T. Morgan.  Net mintages were 15,000 for the 1916 and a surprisingly small 5,000 for the 1917.

    The 1922 Grant Memorial Gold Dollar is one of four coins honoring the 100th anniversary of the grantbirth of the 18th President and famous Civil War General Ulysses S. Grant. Two half dollar silver commems (with and without a star punched into obverse die), and two gold commemorative dollars (with and without a small incuse star above Grant’s name on the reverse).  Aside from the different denominations and the obvious size difference, designs on each of these coins are identical.  A grand total of 10,016 gold dollars designed by Laura Gardin Fraser were struck, an equal number of each variety, including 16 pieces intended for assay.  None of the mintage was melted.

    To mark the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, two commemorative Sesquicentennial coins were issued: a half dollar and a quarter eagle gold piece. The chief sculptor-engraver of the U.S. Mint, John Ray Sinnock, was the designer of both coins. On his quarter eagle commem, Liberty is standing upon a partial globe. She holds a long scroll representing the Declaration of Independence in her left hand and a torch in her outstretched right. The reverse portrays Independence Hall, where delegates met and signed the document. This proved a popular design, as the final mintage after unsold examples were melted was 45,793, by far the largest mintage of any gold commemorative.

    The eleven coins that comprise the smaller issues of the Gold Commemorative series are packed with important historical leaders and events in our nation’s early history.  This series has proven to be extremely popular with collectors, as it is one of the few gold series that can be completed in gem condition. Examples for most of these issues are relatively available up to and including superb gem.  If you have an interest in this fascinating series, we would love to assist you in building a collection.



















  • Proof Seated Dollar Overview

    The Seated series is from a captivating period in both the nation’s history and the Mint’s. The series, in all its denominations, saw at its inception a budding nation pushing west and during it’s midlife the Civl War. The Seated coin’s demise came as industrially we grew to a nation whose monetary concerns were focused on international trade. The demand for silver as a unit of foreign commerce caused much of the mint state examples to be exported to the Orient.

    1841_proof_smallThe design was born from desire for new designs that implemented the technological advances of the Mint. Steam presses had been employed and the new machinery greatly improved the processing of the dies from plaster models. New Mint Director Robert Patterson and Chief Engraver William Kneass envisioned a new uniform design that would take advantage of the new technology for faster and better quality production. Patterson commissioned Thomas Sully, a renowned painter, to create renderings of a Seated motif similar to the Britannia coinage circulating at the time. When Kneass suffered a stroke in 1836, the Mint turned to Christian Gobrecht as the new engraver.

    Gobrecht prepared dies and dollars were struck for the first time since the early 1800′s. For the obverse of this dollar (now called the Gobrecht dollar), he used Sully’s seated rendering. He modeled the reverse after a sketch by Titan Peale. The Gobrecht's “onward and upward” eagle was replaced with a heraldic eagle for minor coinage and the subsequent dollars that the mint began producing in 1840.

    The Seated Liberty dollar was struck from 1840 until 1873.  It was the last silver dollar to be struck before passage of the Coinage Act of 1873, which temporarily ended production of that denomination for American commerce.  The numbers produced of the early proof Seated coins were remarkably low (most in the 15 to 25 coins range). Proof sets were not produced for distribution to the public until 1858, and even then proof production rarely got above 1000 and most years was below 600.


  • The Lincoln Cent's First Fifty Years

    Written by Kathleen Duncan, this article was previously published November 14, 2014 in the Monthly Supplement of the Coin Dealer Newsletter, Vol. XXXIX No. 11.  CDN is an industry newsletter reporting on the national dealer-to-dealer, wholesale coin market. To obtain copies of this article or for information about the publication contact CDN at cdn@greysheet.com.  Pinnacle also has a few copies still available.

    President Teddy Roosevelt influenced changes in all United States’ numismatics designs between 1907-1921. He became acquainted in 1908 with Victor David Brenner when Brenner was commissioned to do his portrait for the Panama Canal Service Medal. As the Centennial of Lincoln’s birth was approaching, Brenner had recently completed a plaque featuring a bust of the beloved former President. Thus the idea for the Lincoln cent was born, and the designer chosen. Brenner’s obverse displays Lincoln’s portrait facing right, with the inscription LIBERTY on the left and the date on the right. For the first time on a cent, the motto IN GOD WE TRUST appears along the upper obverse rim. Two sheaves of wheat frame inscriptions E PLURIBUS UNUM, ONE CENT and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. While the obverse design continues to this day, the reverse was altered in 1959 on the sesquicentennial of Lincoln’s birth to feature the Lincoln Memorial.

    Mintages from the onset were substantial, with Philadelphia being the main producer but small-vdb copyDenver and San Francisco contributing in most years. Philadelphia produced more than 100 million cents in 1909 and by 1941 output topped 1 billion. Matte-proof Lincoln cents were produced in Philly from 1909 until 1916, and brilliant proofs were struck from 1936 until 1942, again from 1950 until 1964, and annually since 1968.

    This is often the very first series collectors pursue due to relative affordability, and many return to it when finances are more discretionary later in life. Several alluring issues are present among this design run, which features not only the most valuable error but also the most dramatic double die in all of numismatics. When collecting, a premium is placed on coins displaying original mint red color. Red status is reserved for those deemed to have 85% or more mint red. A Brown cent is defined as having less than 15% red remaining and a Red-Brown shows 15%-85% of its original mint color.


    1909-S VDB
    While most U.S. coins display the monogram of the designer, the V.D.B. at the base of the reverse proved unpopular, particularly to Chief Engraver Charles Barber. As a simple B wouldn’t suffice (as Barber’s name also began with the letter), Brenner’s initials were removed entirely. Not until 1918, after the death of Charles Barber, were they restored at the base of Lincoln’s bust, in much smaller letters, where they remain until this day. A mere 484,000 cents were minted in San Francisco displaying V.D.B., hence the most famous coin in the series was born. The only other Lincoln cent with a production of under a million is the Depression-era 1931-S, with a mintage of 866,000.


    small_1914-dThis issue has the smallest surviving population in all grades, and subsequently is one of the most coveted and valuable dates in the entire series. As such, it is frequently counterfeited, by the addition of a D mintmark on a Philly coin, or shaving the first 4 in the date of a 1944-D coin down. Both fakes can be easily detected: The D mintmark on 1914-D cents was not used after 1931. The cents coined in Denver between 1911 and early 1917 used a very small mintmark. A slightly larger, differently shaped version tookits place later in 1917 and remained in use until 1932. 1944 cents have the designer’s initials V.D.B. on the truncation of Lincoln’s bust, while those prior to 1918 do not.

    1917 Double Die Obverse
    Finally discovered in 1977, after going unnoticed for 60 years, the obverse shows substantial doubling in the word TRUST and the date, particularly on the 7. It is elusive in all grades. Gem examples are worth approximately $20,000, but all uncirculated coins are worth several thousand dollars.


    Although not a rare date in general, this issue is tied for third rarest in full red, gem condition. PCGS has graded only 10 examples in MS65RD and nothing finer, despite a mintage of 46 million that year. Part of the problem originated with the practice of the Mint at the time of using reverse dies in multiple years, even after their details had eroded. Many San Francisco issues, particularly from 1912 until 1927, prove elusive in high grade, uncirculated condition for this reason. The last PCGS MS65RD brought $44,063 in auction last year.

    1922 No D
    The nationwide Depression in 1920-22 reduced demand for cents to the point where only the Denver Mint struck the denomination in 1922. At some point, excessive polishing to remove clashing on heavily worn dies also removed the D mintmark. Examples always have a very weakly detailed obverse in other areas as well. While in most years the resulting coins would have been mistook for Philadelphia strikings, no cents were produced there in 1922. This is actually a die state, and not a true variety or error, but early promotion has made it an intensely sought after issue regardless. Full Red examples are nearly nonexistent with only two in all grades between NGC and PCGS.


    The 1924-S holds second place honors for rarity in full red, gem condition. Examples are notoriously poorly struck from seriously eroded dies. PCGS has certified a mere 8 examples at that level and NGC only a single coin, with nothing higher. This number hasn’t changed in at least 9 years, when the last PCGS MS65RD crossed the auction block in 2005 for $43,125.

    This issue is tied with the 1920-S for third place honors on rarity in full-red gem, although lesser-graded examples are only scarce and not rare. As with many San Francisco issues from this era, the dies were used for far too long, resulting in poor striking characteristics. Although no gem examples have traded publicly in almost five years, the last two PCGS MS65RDs only brought $18,400, a price substantially below the comparably elusive 1920-S.

    For reasons unknown, the San Francisco Mint registered low mintages for most denominations in 1926. Like the 1926-S Buffalo nickels, this issue is the rarest in the series in gem condition and fittingly holds the auction record for a non-error variety ($149,500 in 2006). Only a single PCGS MS65RD along with a single NGC MS65RD appear on the population reports, with nothing graded higher. The typical 1926-S displays poor details from moderately to heavily worn dies on one or both sides.

    1936 Double Die Obverse
    There are three different double die types for this year and mintmark, with the Type 1 being bylincolnquote far the most dramatic and popular. It is difficult to locate in any condition with only about 150 examples graded in total by PCGS and NGC. Surprisingly, it trades at a fraction of the price of the more popular 1917 Double Die, although both are comparably rare and the doubling on the 1936 is more dramatic.

    1943 Bronze and 1944 Steel
    With the United States fighting fronts in both Japan and Europe, the government needed copper and tin to make munitions. So, in 1942 the Mint took all but a trace of tin out of the cent alloy, changing it from bronze to brass. Because the Mint had a supply of existing (bronze) coining strip already prepared, the Lincoln Cents of 1942 are made from both alloys. By 1943, copper was removed completely and replaced by steel coated with zinc. Unfortunately, this new steel cent was often confused with the dime. It was also refused by vending machines and the zinc coating wore off easily, causing the coins to rust. Not surprisingly, their production ended quickly. Brass was again put to use in 1944, and the original bronze alloy composition resumed in 1947. The one-year failed experiment, however, resulted in the most valuable coins in the series: a tiny number of 1943 cents in bronze and a slightly greater number of 1944 cents in steel are extreme rarities and the most valuable error coins of all time.

    Bronze planchets made it into the hoppers at all three Mints and were struck and released into circulation. It is assumed the errors were created when a few stray planchets leftover from 1942 were lodged within presses and worked their way loose in the following year. Fewer than a dozen Philly coins are believed to exist along with 4-6 San Francisco specimens and what is currently a unique Denver Bronze 1943. As these have become popularly counterfeited, one can test authenticity by finding out if the penny sticks to a magnet. If it sticks, it’s not copper.

    A 1943-S graded PCGS MS62BN purportedly sold to a prominent Texas Collector in 2012 for $1 million. The unique Denver example graded PCGS MS64BN was purchased by the same collector in 2010 for $1.7 million. This same coin sold in 2003 for a mere $212,750 in auction, ratcheting up 800% in value in a mere 7 years!

    Slightly less rare, but still a monumental rarity, is the 1944 Steel Cent. 27 examples are confirmed as genuine from Philadelphia. 7 are estimated to exist from Denver and only one or two from San Francisco. Leftover planchets from 1943 may have been wedged in the presses and gotten loose the following year, as is assumed to have happened with the Bronze 1943. The possibility also exists, however, that the blanks from Philly were meant for the 1944 Belgian 2-Francs coin. The U.S. Mint was under contract to produce 2-Francs pieces for Belgium that year from the leftover stock of steel Lincoln cent planchets.

    1955 Doubled Die Obverse
    This remarkable minting error, the most famous double die of the 20th century, was the result of a change in the positioning of the hub with respect to the die after the die had already received at least one impression. The date, motto and LIBERTY all display dramatic doubling, apparent to the naked eye. This ordinarily would have resulted in the obverse die being rejected from use, but mint workers failed to notice the error until several thousand coins had been produced. Due to the great publicity the error received, more people than ever began taking an interest in coin collecting. Any uncirculated example is worth at least a couple thousand dollars and MS65RD examples have traded in excess of $30,000.

    It is thought that the increasingly curved fields of the designs of the era may have been difficult to polish uniformly on the dies, leading the Mint to produce matte finish rather than brilliant proofs between 1907 and 1916. From 1909 until 1916, Matte Proof Lincoln Cents were produced, although few collectors were pleased with their somewhat dull appearance. Just over a thousand proofs were produced in 1915 and 1916, and between 1917 and 1936 collectors went entirely without proof coinage in any denomination.

    When proof Lincoln Cent production resumed in 1936, the more popular brilliant style was resumed. Those produced in early 1936, however, displayed a satin finish that still proved small-vdbunpopular with collectors. Later in 1936, a more traditional, brilliant style was brought back, resulting in two distinct 1936 proof types. Although the surfaces of the 1936-42 proofs indeed display highly mirrored surfaces, finding examples with any amount of cameo contrast is exceptionally rare. As labor and materials became scarce during World War II, proofs were once again discontinued after 1942. When they were brought back in 1950, they finally possessed a strong cameo appearance, with frosted relief elements contrasting with well-mirrored fields.

    The Lincoln cent has been issued longer than any other United States design and in far greater numbers than any coin in the history of the world. Since it’s beginning in 1909, it has endured to this day with the same obverse, honoring our beloved 16th president. It was also the first circulating coin to portray a President’s likeness. Many collectors begin their numismatic journey assembling sets of this interesting, historically rich series. Only the most well-heeled complete a collection that includes each of the rarities and errors mentioned herein. Numismatists of all levels, however, can pursue this fun and fascinating series, as the collecting strategies are seemingly endless.

  • The Rosen Numismatic Advisory - Part Two

    Kathleen and several other notable industry leaders were asked last month by The Rosen Numismatic Advisory to participate in the 38th annual Crystal Ball Survey. Each responded to questions about the state of the market, challenges faced by rare coin collectors and investors, and outlooks about the near future of the rare coin market. The Crystal Ball Survey is published in two parts and below are excerpts from Part 2. To view Part 1 click here.

    Part 2

    Rosen: Which Morgan and Peace $1’s look underpriced to you? Which look fully priced?
    Kathleen: I’ll focus on Peace Dollars as I don’t specialize in Morgans. My favorite underpriced date is the 1924-S in PCGS MS65 at around $6500. PCGS has graded only 78 pieces, with just 6 higher. This population has increased only slightly in the past decade. As for an overvalued date, the 1922-P in PCGS MS67 is too high in the $20,000 range. You can by 40 MS66s for the price of one MS67.

    Rosen: How can someone make sure they’re getting a good deal when A) bidding at an auction, and B) when consigning to an auction?
    Kathleen: A) Make sure you view the coins in person or have a reputable dealer represent you. Photos are a poor substitute. Never assume that just because there is an under bidder, you are getting a fair price if you keep bidding to the bitter end. B) It’s useful to also trust a dealer to negotiate a good deal for you. This is extremely important when figuring reserves, a venue and the auction firm to use. The hazards of not having such an advisor are if the auction house only works to fill their next catalog and encourages you to sell your items without reserves, which can be disastrous.

    Rosen: Which under-$1000 coin is so appealingly cheap to you that you would love to sock away a large position in that coin?
    Kathleen: Besides many classic silver commems, I really like the 1939-1942 Walking Liberty halves in PCGS PR67. These are beautiful coins, with relatively low images that have tremendous upside potential.

    Rosen: Among U.S. copper, nickel and silver Type coins, pick a few that are especially appealing to you with good investment potential, and explain why you picked them.
    Kathleen: I like high-grade Mint State Barber Dimes, Quarters and Halves. These series contain some really scarce and rare coins that are trading at levels well off of their highs, presenting excellent values.

    Rosen: Now, U.S. Gold Type coins. Please state your favorites with good investment potential.
    Kathleen: The $2 1/2, $5, and $10 liberty series contain many tremendously rare dates, yet sell for prices that are exceptionally reasonable considering their scarcity. Many have low mintages and/or low survival rates. They really offer terrific bang for your buck.

    Rosen: What is your outlook for the Modern Coin market? It is a large part of the numismatic landscape now. How do you see it developing in the future? B) Are there any specific issues with good potential you favor? C) Do you view the growth of the Modern market as a long term threat to the market for vintage coins?
    Kathleen: Modern coins are money-makers for the Mint, so as long as there are buyers, the Mint will continue to produce more. B) I don’t trade in the modern market, but some lower mintage issues can certainly offer investment consideration though buyer should be wary of paying premiums for high-grade, albeit common, high-mintage items. C) Buyers of modern coins are simply a different breed of collector than those of the vintage material. However, I have seen some modern buyers convert to vintage issues, so it’s possibly a positive rather than a negative for the vintage market.

    Rosen: Please use this space to freewheel on any topic of your choice relating to numismatics.
    Kathleen: 1) Do your homework before you buy. Attend conventions and auctions to view as many coins as you can. Take a look at coins online and compare the coin you are considering with online images of other coins of the same type, date and grade. The internet is an incredible resource and learning tool. 2) Buy only from reputable dealers. Ask long-time advanced collectors who they trust. Make sure that the dealers you buy from have a buy-back policy on every coin they sell. Don’t be afraid to ask them what they would pay for the coin to buy it back, assuming unchanged market conditions. 3) If you are buying or selling through an auction house, have dealer representation. 4) Buy what you like. If a certain series doesn’t appeal to you, don’t buy it, unless you are buying strictly for investment. The collectors who historically profit the most are those who truly enjoy and are passionate about the hobby. If you like what you’re buying, you will invest more time researching your chosen series and will become a better buyer as a result. The result will be more profit and more fun!

    The Rosen Numismatic Advisory examines issues and trends within the industry. The annual Crystal Ball Survey publishes the opinions and predictions from some of the industry’s most skillful and respected professionals. For copies of the full version of this report and subscription information about future issues and other reports, contact Numismatic Counseling, Inc. at MauriceRosen@aol.com  or call 516-433-5800.

  • The Rosen Numismatic Advisory Taps into Kathleen's Market Insight

    Kathleen was once again asked by The Rosen Numismatic Advisory to participate in the 38th annual Crystal Ball Survey.  Kathleen and several other notable industry leaders responded to questions about the state of the market, challenges faced by rare coin collectors and investors, and outlooks about the near future of the rare coin market. The Crystal Ball Survey is published in two parts, with Part 1 featured below.

    ROSEN: How do you describe the condition of today’s coin market? Is it an opportune time for investors to look for opportunities or not?

    KATHLEEN: Yes absolutely. The economy has forced many collectors to either cut back on their purchases or sell their collections, so it’s definitely a buyer’s market.

    ROSEN: What are the main concerns of your retail clients about A)the hobby and B)the market?

    KATHLEEN: A) Gradeflation is a major concern with the hobby. When the grading changes for certain series, as it recently has for Walking Liberty halves and Washington quarters, the populations explode driving down prices. This is only good for the grading services which get more submissions, as dealers and collectors will resubmit hoping for upgrades. B) Clients of certain segments of their market have seen dramatic price drops: those buying Classic Commems for example. Although price drops usually signal opportunity for buyers, it’s not always easy to buy into these areas.

    ROSEN: What are the best coinage areas for an investor to concentrate? Why pick those areas? What potential do you see for them?

    KATHLEEN: Two areas that offer particularly good value are high-grade Mint State and Proof Seated and Barber coinage. They’ve not seen any price increases in two decades, although very few new coins have been graded over that time period compared to 20th century series. Also, there are other areas at historic lows as well: MS66 better-date 3-cent nickels, Shield and Liberty Nickels.


    ROSEN: I just published a report on 1892-1928 silver commems. Am I beating a dead horse here or are commems in general (silver and gold) great values? Do you have any favorites?

    KATHLEEN: I’ve liked the value of these coins for the last five years, and surprisingly they have gotten even cheaper since then. This is one of the greatest areas of opportunity right now. 70 of the 144 issues have original mintages of under 10,000, yet remarkably many can be purchased in MS65-67 grade for under $500. My favorites: Gettysburg, Huguenot, Lexington, Lynchburg, Maryland, Robinson and 1936D San Diego in MS67. All have populations of under  100 and are at historical lows.

    ROSEN: A) How are your clients responding to the CAC and PCGS-plus coins? B) Do such coins cast doubts on coins without those extra grading attributes?

    KATHLEEN: We have clients on both sides of the fence. Many are advanced collectors who feel very comfortable with their own grading expertise along with that of PCGS and our opinions as dealers. They don't care about CAC one way or the other. But we also have a minority of clients who feel the sticker gives them an additional layer of protection. For them, coins without a sticker are often questionable. Plus coins are, in general, bringing substantial premiums to non-plus coins, although premiums have diminished in the past year as more plus coins are graded. I haven't found that plus grading casts doubts on non-plus coins. It simply is an "in-between" graded with an "in-between" price.

    ROSEN: How do you view the market opportunities for six and seven-figure coins since the announcement of the Pogue Collection auction sales?

    KATHLEEN: Until the August ANA auctions, the market for six and seven figure coins seemed to be going nowhere but up. There were quite a few bargains to be had in that area, however, in those late summer auctions. Quite a lot of high dollar rarities entered the market in 2014, out-pacing demand a bit. The fact that Stack’s Bowers is auctioning the Pogue collection over three years (2015-2017)will hopefully give demand time to catch up with supply.

    The Rosen Numismatic Advisory examines issues and trends within the industry. The annual Crystal Ball Survey publishes the opinions and predictions from some of the industry’s most skillful and respected professionals. For copies of the full version of this report and subscription information about future issues and other reports, contact Numismatic Counseling, Inc. at MauriceRosen@aol.com  or call 516-433-5800.

  • Lincoln Cents - A Classic Numismatic Journey

    lincoln_blog_picThe Lincoln Cent has been produced longer than any other United States design and in far greater numbers than any coin in the history of the world. Since its beginning in 1909, it has endured to this day with the same obverse, honoring our beloved 16th president. It was also the very first circulating coin to portray a President’s likeness. Although only the most well-heeled have the necessary resources to complete a collection, numismatists of all levels can pursue this fun and fascinating series as its collecting options are seemingly endless.

    Many collectors begin their numismatic journey assembling sets of this interesting, historically rich series due to its relative affordability. A good percentage also return to it when finances are more discretionary later in life. The design run features not only the most valuable error of all time, the 1943 Bronze Cent, but the most dramatic double die in all of numismatics. Due to the intense publicity the 1955 Double Die received, more people than ever began taking an interest in the hobby of Kings. When collecting, a premium is placed on coins displaying original mint red color. Red status is reserved for those deemed to have 85% or more mint red. A Brown cent is defined as having less than 15% red remaining and a Red-Brown shows 15%-85% of its original mint color.1914D_L1C

    President Teddy Roosevelt influenced changes in all United States’ numismatics designs between 1907-1921. He became acquainted with Victor David Brenner when Brenner was commissioned to do his portrait for the Panama Canal Service Medal. As the Centennial of Lincoln’s birth was approaching, Brenner had completed a plaque featuring a bust of the beloved former President. Thus the idea for the Lincoln cent was born, and the designer chosen. Brenner’s obverse displays Lincoln’s portrait facing right, with the inscription LIBERTY on the left and the date on the right. For the first time on a cent, the motto IN GOD WE TRUST appears along the upper obverse rim. Two sheaves of wheat frame inscriptions E PLURIBUS UNUM, ONE CENT and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. While the obverse design continues to this day, the reverse was altered in 1959 on the sesquicentennial of Lincoln’s birth to feature the Lincoln Memorial.

    Look for Kathleen’s article "The Lincoln Cent’s First 50 Years" in next month’s Coin Dealer Newsletter.



  • Winged Liberty - An American Archetype

    The Mercury dime is an icon of a not so distant past.  It is a symbol of an awakening, a budding America. It was pocket change during the Great Depression and carried by soldiers of both World Wars. In the early 20th century, Teddy Roosevelt launched a campaign to redesign U.S. coinage. In 1915, the Fine Arts Commission rejected Chief Engraver Charles Barber’s designs for the three silver denominations in lieu of a contest between three renowned sculptors – Adolph Weinman, Hermon MacNeil, and Albin Polasek. Weinman’s designs won both the dime and half, with McNeil taking on the quarter.  Their goal was to produce silver coinage that rivaled the artistry of the gold coins done by Saint Gaudens and Bela Lyon Pratt in the previous decade.

    "Liberty of Thought"

    Weinman’s spectacular work on the dime is often overshadowed by the larger half dollar, but for such a small planchet, the design is quite ornate. The obverse displays a portrait of young Liberty wearing a pileus with wings attached, meant to symbolize “liberty of thought.” The winged matron is not original, and was used as far back as ancient Rome. The reverse use of fasces also dates back to ancient coinage and symbolizes strength (or war) and authority.  This is wrapped in the olive branch of peace. Both obverse and reverse motifs were thought provoking themes for a world on the verge of war.

    Weinman's Iconic reverse.The life span of Weinman’s dime lasted long after the design was discontinued in 1945. The Roosevelt dime was produced after the death of FDR, as the late president started the campaign to end polio with the March of Dimes. Mercury dimes, however, were regularly seen in pocket change until the removal of silver from our nation’s coinage in 1965.

    The Mercury dime brings to heart nostalgia for a past generation that has been deemed the “great one.” The coin designs from the beginning of the last century are truly the most artful in our nation’s numismatic history. Each is a tiny work of art representing freedom and strength, born of an America growing into a great nation.

    Pinnacle has acquired a fabulous collection that while not complete, contains 75 wonderful examples of this beloved series. View the collection and other Mercury dimes HERE.

  • Fallbrook 1853 Mint Set

    Fallbrook 1853 Year SetThe year 1853 represents an interesting time in our nation’s coinage.  With 30 different issues, nearly every denomination produced by the Mint is represented. Only two short lived series, the twenty cent piece and three dollar gold issues, are lacking from the 1853 roster. The year includes a couple one-year silver design types with the “Arrows and Rays” quarter and half dollar.  The gold issues include all denominations from Philadelphia and representations from each of the three branch mints: Charlotte, Dahlonega, and New Orleans.

    This carefully curated Year Set contains 27 of the 30 possible 1853 issues, along with two duplicates and a variety.  The Fallbrook collection focused on quality for the grade as well as eye appeal.  The resulting set has many green tag holders and other very conservatively graded specimens, many in affordable collector grades.

    Historical Background 

    From 1850 through 1875, more gold was discovered than in the previous 350 years combined.  The flood of the precious metal into the world market distorted the ratio between gold and silver prices. As gold prices declined, silver skyrocketed and the market prices of U.S. silver coins exceeded their face values. Melting became rampant and change for retail businesses dried up.  Merchants and bankers were forced to make change with three-cent silver pieces, heavily worn dimes and half dimes, and Spanish fractional silver.

    The Silver Coins of 1853

    The Coinage Act of February 21, 1853, was enacted to ease the hoarding and melting of circulating specie. It reduced the weight (and thus the silver content) of all the silver coins except the dollar and three-cent piece by approximately 7 percent.  9624470_revTo distinguish the new lower-weight coins, they were given distinctive designs.  For the quarter and half dollar arrows were placed at each side of the date, with rays emanating from behind the reverse eagle. The arrows were also added to the dimes and half dimes. The “rays” design format (for the quarters and half dollars) lasted only one year, with a reminder of the reduced weight carried on through 1855 in the form of arrowheads only.   Congress’ plan evidently worked and by early 1854, for the first time in U.S. history, there was an adequate supply of fractional coins for commerce.

    The Gold Coins of 1853

    The smallest coin in U.S. history also owes its existence to the California Gold Rush. The groundwork was laid for the gold dollar in the Carolinas and Georgia, where the nation’s first big gold rush took place in the early 1800s. That rush had a major impact on United States coinage, leading to the establishment of two branch mints in the region—in Charlotte, North Carolina, and in Dahlonega, Georgia—and a notable increase in the number of gold coins being produced by the U.S. government.

    The first gold dollars made were privately minted by German immigrant Alt Christoph Bechtler, who operated a jewelry shop in North Carolina. As gold dust and nuggets were the primary medium of exchange in the area, Bechtler offered to refine raw gold into coins.  By 1840, Bechtler and his family had turned out more than $2.2 million worth of gold coins, of which about half were gold dollars.25003698_rev

    The gold dollar didn’t take its place in the official U.S. coinage lineup, however, until 1849, when yet another gold rush—this one in California—provided the spark. The discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in 1848 gave Congress the impetus to expand existing uses of the metal in U.S. coinage and find some new ones.   On March 3rd, 1849, Congress passed legislation authorizing not only gold dollars but also $20 gold pieces. Thus the nation’s smallest and largest regular-issue gold coins were born.

    By 1853, the U.S. Mints were producing all gold denominations except the $3 coin which didn’t begin production until 1854. The gold coins were in high demand and produced by Philadelphia as well as three branch mints. The value of silver had risen to be worth $1.06 in gold. And the early 1850’s saw the undervalued silver coins being melted and then sold for payment in gold coins. The gold coins were traded for silver coins, which were then melted and sold for gold. This practice, as mentioned earlier, dried up circulating silver coinages eventually leading to the Coinage Act of 1853.

    This offering, a year set from 1853, proves to be an interesting glimpse into one of nineteenth century numismatics' most prolific and varied years.

    To view all available selections from the Fallbrook collection, click here.


  • Buffalo Nickel Basics

    Buffalo Nickels A quick primer on the Buffalo nickel series.

    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 continually seek out high quality examples of this series, so if you are interested in collecting these beloved coins, check out our current selection.


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