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