Monday, July 3, 2017

A Disappointing Coin Investment

I had seen the ads for the "Treasure Chest of Historic Coins" for several months. A wooden chest containing "at least 50 old and intriguing coins" piqued my interest but at $39.99 I decided to wait for a better price. My patience paid off recently when I was able to purchase it at a 25% discount. Soon the chest arrived (pictured at left) with 51 old U.S. coins which consisted of: two 1936 Mercury dimes; a 1920 Buffalo nickel; a 1943P Jefferson nickel; a 1943 steel penny; a 1903 Indian Head penny; a 1901 Liberty Head V nickel; and 44 Wheat Ears pennies.

As a former salesman of precious metals, maybe I'm too critical but here is my analysis of what I received. First let me say that what I received was consistent with the description of the product on the sales page. The vast majority of the coins were Wheat pennies and the majority of these were from the 1950s (Wheat pennies were minted from 1909-1958). Nothing very special or intriguing
about these. The Buffalo nickel was so well worn that the date was barely
legible (a total of 3,093,000 nickels were minted in 1920). The Liberty Head V nickel was so worn the V on the reverse was barely legible (a total of 26,478,228 nickels were minted in 1901). The two Mercury dimes, both minted in Philadelphia, were in fair condition but it would have been nice to have two separate dates (a total of 87.500,000 dimes were minted at Philadelphia in 1936). The Jefferson nickel, a WW II silver alloy nickel had decent detail but was the dirtiest of all the coins in the chest (a total of 271,165,000 nickels were minted in 1943 by the Philadelphia mint). The Indian Head penny, minted from 1859-1909, was in fairly good condition (a total of 85,092,703 pennies were minted in 1903). The steel penny (actually zinc coated steel) was in excellent condition (a total of 684,628,670 pennies were minted by the Philadelphia mint in 1943).

So the face value of the coins received was/is $.81 cents. Even though they are historic, the actual value isn't much better. The silver melt value of the two merc dimes is worth about $1.20 each and the 1943 nickel is worth approximately $.93 per The steel penny's value is maybe $.25, the Indian penny about $2.00 and Buffalo nickel and V nickel about $1.50 apiece.

There are about a half dozen sites offering this product and if you were to search on "Historic Coins Wooden Treasure Chest" you would  see them. After viewing the various prices it looks like I got  a real deal. All of the sites use pretty much the same description - some using rare, others using intriguing or historic to describe the coins. But they all use the same picture of the 4-3/4L x 3-1/2W x 3H chest overflowing with coins. It just ain't true! The 51 coins cover the bottom of the chest and not much more. Just for the hell of it, I took a bucket of pennies and filled the chest to closely match the picture. It took between 350 and 400 pennies to fill the chest.

The chest itself is kind of neat but I am less than satisfied with the coins I received. Old coins do not necessarily equate to rare coins. And you can see the non-wheat coins all have high mintages plus most are not in great condition. If I were to take these coins into a coin shop and tell them I want to sell these rare coins, they would laugh me right out of the store. Maybe I just got a bad batch. Some of the reviewers stated they were "thrilled with their purchase". But others evidently had the same experience I did. So that's my story on the Historic Coins Wooden Treasure Chest (and I'm sticking to it).

One final note: both of my books, The Last 90 Percent Silver United States Coins - A Buying and Selling Guide and A Guide to Buying and Selling Peace & Morgan Silver Dollars  are now available in hardcopy (as well as in eBook format). You can find them here and here.

Thanks for reading.


Monday, January 23, 2017

Identifying Silver Nickels The Easy Way

U.S. silver nickels had a very short life. They would have had no life at all if one of their metals, nickel, hadn't been critical to the war effort during WWII. So in late 1942, the composition of the Jefferson nickel was changed from .750 copper/.250 nickel to .560 copper/.350 silver/.090 manganese.  The gross weight remained the same at five (5) grams so the .350 silver content equates to .05626 troy ounces of silver.

Three U.S, Mints produced the silver nickel: Philadelphia (mint mark P); Denver (D mint mark); and San Francisco (mint mark S). Lucky for us, the government decided to make it easy to identify these coins from those that preceded them as well as those that followed. Even the Philadelphia mint used their P identifier for the first time whereas before a blank mint space meant a Philadelphia coin.

At right is a picture of a silver Jefferson nickel - reverse view. Notice the P above the dome of Monticello. This is where the mint marks of P, D, or S will appear to identify it as a silver content nickel. If the nickel has a date of 1943, 1944 or 1945 and is missing a mint mark, it is counterfeit.  

Compared to the vast ocean of nickels in circulation today, silver nickels are just a small pond. But that pond still has several million coins associated with it.  Consider these silver nickel totals by year for all three mints: 1942 > 90,773,000; 1943 > 390,519,000; 1944 > 173,099,000; 1945 > 215,505,100. It should be noted that prior to the composition change to silver, the Philadelphia and Denver mints produced 63,727,000 non-silver nickels with the 1942 date. These will have no mint mark in the location described above. And don't look for 1942 D silver nickels as the Denver mint didn't produce any until 1943.

Will you get rich by saving these coins and turning them in later? Not likely unless you find one or more in pristine condition. However, the current worth for the average silver nickel is about 19 times their face value as listed by Coinflation which you can see here. And those nickels don't wear out easily so there are most likely a bunch of them still in circulation. If you are motivated to start looking for these nickels, don't bother squinting at the date. Just quickly scan every nickel you receive for the special mint mark location, looking for a D, P, or S.

One last item, finally my ebook Buying and Selling Peace & Morgan Silver Dollars is now available in paperback. You can find it here.

Thanks for reading.  JA

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Another Laughlin Coin Show - Another Learning Experience

During my annual trip to Laughlin Nevada, I was able to take in another local coin show. This one was held at the Aquarius with about 30 dealers present and admission was free. There were the usual silver coins and a smaller number of gold coins that are normally found at these types of coin shows. That included lots and lots of Morgan dollars - both those certified by the major grading companies as well as a large number of uncertified dollars (so don't believe the hype that Morgan dollars are becoming scarce). But I was able to view some amazing old coins I'd never seen before that went way, way back - coins minted just a few years after the first U.S. mint was established in Philadelphia in 1792. Many were in great condition and the prices for these historic coins ranged from a few thousand to several thousand dollars so I was a looker only. But it was great fun to see that kind of coin history.

At the first dealer display I stopped at, a customer was completing the purchase of approximately 200 Walking Liberty half dollars. The dealer's price was $7.50 per coin or 15 times face. The customer may have gotten a volume discount but in smaller amounts that is not a bad price. These were circulated coins so each would have about .3575 troy ounces of silver (versus .3617 if uncirculated). Other dealers have told me that some customers of 90% silver coins are only interested in silver half dollars with the Walking Libertys much preferred. To me that is totally understandable. Not only is this one of the most beautiful U.S. coins ever minted, it was first struck prior to the U.S. entry in World War I,  was used in daily commerce throughout the Great Depression and all of World War II before yielding to the Franklin half dollar in 1947.

One of my few purchases at the show was a one ounce silver Mexican Libertad. The dealer had a few on display but this one stood out from the others because it was struck with such great detail. Almost like a high-relief coin compared with the other Libertads he had available. One side of the coin features a winged Victoria of Mexican Independence Victory Column in front of a landscape with two volcanoes which I can't pronounce (Popocatepetl and Ixlaccihuatl). The other side features the coat of arms of Mexico surrounded by historical Mexican coats of arms.

If you are not familiar with these coins, Mexican Libertads are government-issued gold and silver coins. The .999 silver Libertad was introduced in 1982 in one ounce versions only. In 1991, fractional Libertads of 1/20 ounce, 1/10 ounce, 1/4 ounce and 1/2 ounce were introduced and in 1996 2 ounce and 5 ounce Libertads were added to the series. Also, beginning in 1983, silver Proof Libertads became available in the one ounce versions with Proof fractionals added in 1993. You can find out more about these silver bullion coins at Wikipedia.

These are really great coins to own and if you find some at a price you are willing to pay, don't hesitate to invest in them. They are universally recognized and accepted. I have not heard of counterfeit Libertads being discovered but that doesn't mean they aren't out there. It pays to deal only with trusted sources for any precious metals purchases.

Thanks for reading. JA

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Goldstur - An Automated Gold & Silver Jewelry Buying Kiosk

The Goldstur kiosk is advertised as an automated way to cash in on unwanted gold or silver jewelry quickly. A few of these kiosks were recently installed at Supervalu’s Cub Foods supermarkets in the Minneapolis/St. Paul MN area (not too far from me) - supposedly the first in the nation. I decided to find out more, starting with a visit to their web site Goldstur and clicking on the kiosk icon. 

The kiosk requires an appraisal fee of $2.00 (cash or credit card) to begin the process. The customer is then requested to enter his/her first and last name and email address. Once these have been successfully entered the user is requested to swipe his/her driver's license at which point the first item can be placed in a container for analysis. After a few minutes the analysis is complete and a price is offered for the piece. If the offer is declined the piece is returned to the user. If the user accepts the offer, s/he is given the options of a receipt for cash or a gift card.

After viewing the video on their site I decided to give the Goldstur a test. So I drove to one of the installations in the twin cities' northern suburbs. But there was a problem - it was out of order. Thinking it had not yet been activated, I asked the lady at the nearby customer service area if the kiosk had previously been working. She said it had but couldn't tell me how long it was in service or how long it had been out of service. So my test will have to wait for another time.

It will be interesting to see how well the Goldsturs are accepted by shoppers who bring along their unwanted jewelry. If a person has one or two pieces and lives in the general area, this seems like a handy alternative for cashing in on jewelry no longer worn. I am assuming the $2 appraisel fee applies to each piece although that was not demonstrated. If a person has several items, this may work against it - unless the seller is flush with cash after accepting the first one or two pieces they have presented. I don't know how it would work on silver or gold coins such as an American Silver or Gold Eagle.

Among the competitors for Goldstur kiosks would be jewelry stores, pawn shops, local coin shops that also deal in jewelry, traveling buyers of gold and silver and maybe even home "gold parties" (I haven't heard much about them lately but they will be back when gold takes off again). 

It appears the company has big plans to expand the service and even offer a mail-in service in the future. So you might discover one or more Goldsturs coming to a location near you. Here is another video on the workings of the Goldstur kiosk Goldstur Video

Thanks for reading. JA

Monday, January 11, 2016

1964 And The Last U.S. Silver Coins

As many of you reading this know, 1964 was the last year the U.S. minted 90 percent silver coins for circulation. What you may not know is the campaign waged by the U.S. to convince people to stop hoarding these coins by mass producing them before "giving in" in 1965. The campaign involved the dimes, quarters and half dollars used in every day commerce. Silver dollars are not included as Peace dollars (1921-1935) are the last for-circulation silver dollars produced. Let's look at these coins starting with the Roosevelt Dime.

The silver Roosevelt Dime was produced from 1946 through 1964 replacing the popular Winged Liberty Head (a.k.a. Mercury) Dime. The anti-hoarding campaign for this coin started in 1962 when the Philadelphia and Denver Mints produced a combined 407,398,380 dimes versus 302,876,550 the year before. This was bumped up to 545,126,530 in 1963 and a whopping 1,286,877,180 in 1964. It didn't help but gave people more silver dimes to salt away.

The silver Washington Quarter was produced from 1932 through 1964 replacing the Standing Liberty Quarter. The anti-hoarding campaign for this coin also started in 1962 when the Philadelphia and Denver Mints produced a combined 163,710,756 quarters versus 120,692,928 the year before. This was increased to 209,604,184 in 1963 and a whopping 1,264,526,113 in 1964. It didn't help but gave people more silver quarters to save for a rainy day.

The anti-hoarding campaign for half dollars involved two different coins-the Franklin Half Dollar (1948-1963) and the 1964 Kennedy Half Dollar. In 1962 the Philadelphia and Denver Mints produced a combined 45,187,281 half dollars versus 28,566,442 the year before. In 1963 this was increased to 89,233,292 coins. The Kennedy Half Dollar replaced the Franklin in 1964 and the Philadelphia and Denver Mints produced 429,509,450 of this popular coin. The Kennedy coins were produced in a 40 percent version from 1965 through 1970 before converting to a clad version like the other coins mentioned.

You can expect these higher mintage coins in the 1962 to 1964 range to be worth their silver melt value and very little more. With spot silver at $14 that would be approximately $1.00 for a circulated dime, $2.50 for a circulated quarter and $5.00 for a circulated half dollar. The coins that are worth more are identified in my eBook "The Last 90 Percent Silver United States Coins - A Buying and Selling Guide". You can find it here. Read the first few chapters free on your Kindle or non-Kindle device.

Thanks for reading. Keep the faith.  JA

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Canadian "Junk" Silver

Based on my past experience in selling precious metals, it is clear that most Americans know very little about U.S. junk silver coins. You know the ones I mean, the circulated pre-1965 dimes, quarters, half dollars and dollars containing 90 percent silver. And it's a safe bet they know even less about the junk silver of our good neighbors to the north. But there may be some silver investing opportunities for you if you know some basics about Canadian junk silver.

The U.S. eliminated silver in their business strikes (coins produced for circulation) after 1964 but Canada kept silver in their business (a.k.a circulation) strikes until 1967 and into 1968 for some. The degree of silver fineness in U.S. business strikes didn't exceeded 90 percent (coin silver) while Canada maintained a silver fineness of 92.5 (sterling silver) until 1920. By keeping your eyes open for Canadian coins while at garage sales, flea markets or local coin shows, you may be able to find deals from sellers who either aren't aware of what they have or they simply want to sell because these coins are not big sellers like their other stock.

Because Canada is part of the British Commonwealth, Canadian silver coins have the image of the ruling British monarch on the obverse. So the Canadian junk silver coins you are most likely to see are the 80 percent silver coins bearing the image of Queen Elizabeth II (1953 to 1967), King George VI (1937-1952) or King George V (1920-1936). Here are their circulated silver content details...

Silver Dime(1920-1967): Silver Content=.0585 Troy ounce (.0600 uncirculated)
Silver Quarter(1920-1967): Silver Content=.1463 Troy ounce (.1500 uncirculated)
Silver Half(1920-1967): Silver Content=.2925 Troy ounce (.3000 uncirculated)
Silver Dollar (1935-1967): Silver content=.600 Troy ounce.

Due to a significant increase in the price of silver, in 1967 the Royal Canadian Mint changed the silver content of the ten-cent piece and twenty-five cent piece from 80 to 50 percent silver mid-year. Unfortunately, there is no practical way of determining which coins contain 50 percent silver and which contain 80 percent silver (what were they thinking?). For your information, a 50% silver dime contains .0375 troy ounces of silver and a 50% quarter .0937 troy ounces. No silver half-dollars or dollars were minted for circulation after 1967. In mid-1968, silver was removed from all business/circulation strike Canadian coins.

If you are lucky enough to come across Canadian silver coins dated earlier than 1920, these contain the higher silver content of 92.5 percent. If circulated, they are still considered junk silver but there is nothing "junk" about them. Here's a nice little coin I bought from a local coin dealer for one U.S. dollar. It is a 1917 King George V (he reigned from 1911-1936) sterling silver dime.  It contains approximately .0690 troy ounces of silver uncirculated (this one a little less as it has been lightly circulated). With a spot silver price of $15, this coin (uncirculated) would have an intrinsic value of $1.04. Total mintage for this coin was 5,011,988 which is one of the higher mintages for sterling silver dimes. I was able to pick up a few others at a price less than their current book value. Here is some basic information on these coins...

Silver Canadian Nickel(1858-1919): Silver Content=.0347 Troy ounces*
Silver Canadian Dime(1858-1919): Silver Content=.0690 Troy ounces*
Silver Canadian Twenty-Cent Coin(1858): Silver Content=.1382 Troy ounces*
Silver Canadian Quarter(1870-1919): Silver Content=.1730 Troy ounces*
Silver Canadian Half-Dollar(1870-1919): Silver Content=.3456 Troy ounces*

*The silver content for the above coins are for uncirculated coins. Circulated coins have a slightly lower silver content due to their wear in daily commerce.

I want to mention another silver coin I purchased recently that is truely a one-off silver investment - a Mardi Gras silver doubloon. This one is a .999 silver coin that contains more silver than an uncirculated Peace or Morgan silver dollar. You can see pictures and details of this unique coin at Doubloon on my silver investing
web site.

In closing this post, (and as stated at the beginning), the information on Canadian silver coins is basic but may be enough to get you started. Especially if you have passed on opportunities to buy silver Canadian coins in the past because you lacked the knowledge. There is much more to Canadian silver coins than the brief descriptions given above. To become a savvy investor of Canadian silver coins, I recommend you invest in one or more books on the subject. If nothing else, you can preview the first few chapters of my Canadian Coin book for free. You will find it here.

Thanks for reading. Keep the faith.  

John Ausiman

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Buying Junk Silver At Multiples Of Face Value. How Does That Work?

So you have decided to start buying circulated U.S. 90 percent silver coins also known as "junk" silver. You stop in at a local coin shop you've passed by many times before and tell the dealer you have $1000 and want to purchase some old U.S. silver coins. So the dealer takes out a box containing dimes, quarters and half-dollars, all dated 1964 or before, and begins counting out your coins. As the dealer is doing this, s/he explains that the current spot price of silver is $18.00 and their current price of selling junk silver is 14 times the face value. And it turns out your $1000 fiat currency will get you about $71.40 in junk silver.

At this point you might be thinking "this dealer is scamming me, I thought $1000 would get me more silver coins than that".  Actually this "deal" isn't bad at all. Even if the dealer was charging 15 times face value, it would be fair. So how can you be prepared to spot a fair deal from a bad one prior to visiting the dealer? Here is what you need to know...

It is generally recognized that a $1000 bag of 10,000 circulated silver dimes, 4,000 circulated silver quarters or 2,000 circulated silver half-dollars contains 715 ounces of silver. With a spot silver price of $18.00, the silver value of that bag is $18 times 715 or $12,870. Divide the $12,870 by the bag's $1000 face value and the result is $12.87. So for each $12.87 of fiat money you would receive $1.00 of silver coins - but only if the dealer was running a non-profit company. Since the dealer has a right to make a decent profit, 14 times face would be generous for such a small transaction (far less than a full bag) and 15 times would be more like it. If you were selling silver coins to a dealer with the 12.87 times face value, the dealer might offer you 11 times face as the spread would help them stay in business.

If you are offered uncirculated silver coins at multiples times face, such as rolls of Brilliant Uncirculated Franklin or 1964 Kennedy half dollars, the amount of silver in an uncirculated $1000 bag is approximately 725 ounces so use this number instead of 715. Or you might come across some 40 percent silver clad Kennedy half dollars minted for circulation (business strikes) from 1965-1969. Although not as desireable as 90 percent silver coins, if the price is right get the silver. A $1000 bag of silver clad Kennedys contains approximately 300 ounces of silver (each coin contains .1479 ounces of silver). I have never seen Morgan or Peace silver dollars offered at multiples times face but that doesn't mean offers like that don't exist. A $1000 bag of circulated Morgan or Peace dollars is considered to contain 765 ounces of silver with uncirculated silver dollars at approximately 780 ounces (each uncirculated Morgan or Peace dollar contains .77344 ounces of silver).

You can find lots of information on U.S. and Canadian silver coins in my ebooks The Last 90 Percent Silver U.S. Coins and The Last 80 Percent Silver Canadian Coins.

Thanks for reading.  JA