Archive for March, 2012

The Status of a Legendary Rarity

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

One of the most sought after coins ever minted, is the 1913 Head Liberty Nickel. It is part of a series that was originally struck in 1883 with its production was supposed to have ceased in 1912. The coin was to be replaced by the Buffalo Head design, which had gone into production in February of 1913. Somehow, at least five Liberty Head coins were also produced. Prior to this, the US Mint had issued this nickel piece in the millions.

The first known collector of these rare coins was Samuel Brown. He managed to acquire all five of the known coins into his possession, thanks to his offer to buy proofs of this coin for the price of $500. This would have been a handsome sum of money, back in 1920. Brown knew well that the Liberty Nickel was only issued in limited quantities, because he had worked at the Mint, during the time it was struck. Incidentally, only three of the coins were actually struck; the other two were simply proofs.

To get an idea of the rarity and the value of the 1913 Liberty Nickel, one of the three coins that are still in private collections was sold for a staggering 5 million dollars US, in 2007. That was the second highest amount ever paid for a coin, up to that point.  The highest amount every paid for a coin was for a $20 denomination Double Eagle gold coin which had been minted in 1933. To date, there have only been 5 pieces that have ever been found, two of which are now housed in museums.

Best Places To Find Rare Nickels

Friday, March 30th, 2012

Coin collectors know that shield nickels are great finds, and any collector who knows his stuff would probably spend his entire coin collecting life pursuing one of these coins if he has not found one yet. Shield nickels were produced from 1866 to 1883 and were the first of the denomination to depart from the 90% silver composition that prior coins had. Rather the composition consisted of a copper and nickel combination, which  occurred after silver came in short supply at the end of the Civil War. The Shield nickel also holds the distinction as one of the first coin series to carry the motto “In God We Trust.”

For certain issues of the series, collectors can take years to find one in high grade and with exceptional attributes. Finding a nickel minted in the rare years would mean paying a hefty price for it, especially if it is rated with a higher grade. One of the best places to find Shield Nickels is eBay, but you can also find mint coins on Etsy, Most Popular Collectibles at Auction, and other sites that offer unconventional items for sale.

Collectors who are not too meticulous about their specimens have better luck finding Shield nickels in the lower grades. These specimens typically go for 10$-25$ on eBay.

One of This Years Great Ones

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

The United States Mint began sales of the 2012 Proof Gold Buffalo coins on March 15, 2012. The announcement of the availability was made several days earlier on March 9, 2012. Collectors were ready at the gates to purchase the latest proof 24 karat gold offering featuring a classic and beloved design.

The designs on the 24-karat one-ounce gold coin’s obverse (heads side) and reverse (tails side) are based on James Earle Fraser’s original 1913 Type I Buffalo nickel.  The obverse features the profile of a Native American and the inscriptions LIBERTY, 2012, the initial “F” for Fraser and the “W” mint mark for the United States Mint at West Point.  The reverse features the revered American Buffalo – also known as the bison – and the inscriptions UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, E PLURIBUS UNUM, IN GOD WE TRUST, $50, 1OZ. and .9999 FINE GOLD.

The coins have been offered since 2006, when the Mint struck both bullion and collectors proofs at the West Point Mint. Production has continued for each subsequent year, with a brief foray into different collector offerings in 2008.

For 2012, the US Mint is back to basics with just the one ounce proof coin available. Collectors can look forward to many more years of seeing this classic design, however the coins are getting more expensive. When released for the first time in 2006, the proofs were $800 each. The current prices is now up to $1,960. Blame that on the continually rising market price of gold.

James B. Longacre’s Small Cent Design

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

The cent was not always so diminutive. When the denomination was introduced, the coins were bulky large cents, created in such large size so that the copper content would be worth approximately the face value. This would change after the public grew tired of the large coins and the price of copper began to rise.

The first small cents were designed by James B. Longacre, who would combine two previously used motifs for the obverse and reverse.

The eagle appears on the obverse design, in mid flight. This is similar to the depiction that Christian Gobrecht had prepared for the silver dollars patterns of 1836 to 1839. The bald eagle was a popular element on coin designs, notably appearing on the reverse design for most of the gold and silver denominations of the era.

On the reverse is a wreath of cotton, corn, what, and tobacco, which encloses the denomination expressed as “One Cent”. The use of agricultural elements was popular within coinage, illustrating the importance of these crops to the United States.

To introduce the denomination, the US Mint would strike a small number of patterns dated 1856. These were distributed to important people, but also sold to collectors in small numbers. When the concept proved popular, the coins were struck in millions for the following two years in 1857 and 1858. The concept of the small cent was adopted and a new design was featured in the following year.