Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Turning Dollars Into Nickels

Unfortunately, I have this knack of turning dollars into nickels at our little local casino. Nothing big, mind you, just a little entertainment in an area that doesn't have much else to offer. Limiting my entertainment dollar at the casino lets me spend money on the meaningful stuff such as food fuel, silver, etc.

 More often than not, the slot machines turn nasty so I cash out, visit the redemption machine for whatever dollars and coins (mostly nickels and pennies) are left, stick them in my back pocket and take them out when I get home.

On a recent trip, my little pile of nickels presented me with a nice surprise. A 1917 S Indian Head (Buffalo) Nickel in decent shape. Now if you know a little about U.S. nickels, you know there were very few years that nickels were minted with any amount of silver in them and 1917 wasn't one of them (see my article on US Silver Coins). So this nickel is probably worth about five cents, right? Not so fast. Here are the stats on this nickel...

The San Francisco mint produced 4,193,000 Indian Head nickels in 1917, less
than half of the Denver mint's production of 9,910,000 and less than 10 percent of the 51,424,019 produced by the Philadelphia mint. After consulting the latest Coin Dealer Monthly Supplement Newsletter (Greysheet.com), I found out this coin has a bid/ask price of $15.50/$17.00 if graded as just "Good". But I think this coin would grade higher than that. A "Very Good" (VG) grade coin would be worth $30.00/$33.00 and a "Fine" grade would be worth $60.00/$66.00.

The only other Indian Head nickels I have are in this mint set pictured at left. The set contains a 1930 S (mintage 5,435,000), a 1936 D (mintage 24,814,000) and a 1935 Philadelphia (mintage 58,264,000, no mint mark) and would all probably be graded "Good" as they show a good amount of wear. In that grade, the 1930 S is worth $1.00/$1.10 bid/ask, the 1936 D $.065/$0.75 and the 1935 Philly nickel $0.75/$0.85. Only in the higher circulated and Mint State grades would these coins be worth much more.

So the lessons I was reminded of from this little experience are: 1) you never know where you might come across an old coin worth more than its face value so keep your eyes open to that possibility; and 2) when you find an old coin, you can't just assume the coin has little or no value over its face value so refer to reputable resources that will let you know a coin's value.


After enjoying a record year in which 44,006,000 were sold in 2014, the American Silver Eagle is off to a strong start with 5,127,500 being sold so far in 2015. Typically January is a strong sales month for ASEs as a crowd that grows larger every year wants to get their hands on the 2015 coins. Have you got yours yet?

Thanks for reading and keep the faith.