Saturday, May 31, 2014

Errors and die varieties - new 2014 DDO in your change?

Collecting die varieties and errors is a wide ranging field. Although it includes spectacular coins like the 1955/55 DDO Lincoln Cent, it also encompasses small distinctions like the size of berries on the reverse of a half cent, die clashes and more.
Image Copyright Heritage Auctions, used by permission

Some varieties are so minor that only the most dedicated collectors are interested. You might need a microscope and a lot of experience to even realize that a particular coin was a variety like that. It's also easy for inexperienced collectors to be fooled by PMD (post mint damage) and worthless MD (machine doubling).

There's a fairly easy to spot variety of 2014 cents that you might very well find in your change today. It's not as spectacular as the famous 1955 double die, but it is recognizable. The date and some other lettering are "fat".  You probably could see it with your naked eye at least well enough to sense that something is wrong, but a low powered magnifier would help.

An example of that recently sold on eBay for $60. but as it's too early to say how many of these exist or what the market will ultimately bear, we don't know if that's a high price or a low price.

Resources and Books:

The Combined Organizations of Numismatic Error Collectors of America
Variety Vista
Wexfer's Die Varieties
Wexler's Die Varieties
Mad Die Clashes
The F.ind.ers report: A comprehensive guide to selected rare Flying Eagle and Indian cent die varieties
Cherrypickers' Guide to Rare Die Varieties of United States Coins, Volume I
Cherrypickers' Guide to Rare die Varieties of United States Coins, Volume II
The Authoritative Reference On Lincoln Cents
The Authoritative Reference on Lincoln Cents, Second Edition
The Lincoln Cent Resource

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Capped bust half cents

Although I like the draped bust half cents more, capped bust half cents (also called "classic head" and "turban head") are interesting and attractive.

The mintages are generally low, with only 1809 exceeding one million. Only 154,000 of the 1832 shown here were minted and it's estimated that only a  few thousand survived.  Yet, because few people collect these, they trade for relatively small money - I paid $120.00 for this one.

Illegal restrikes were made at the Mint in the 1850's of 1831 and 1836. The 1811 restrike was made outside of the Mint. Yet all of those are considered collectible and are listed in guides like the Rad Book.

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Amazon's Collectible Coin Store

Yesterday, Amazon unveiled its Collectible Coins section.

This is very different from eBay.  First, not just anyone can sell here. Right now, it seems to be only about 100 dealers or less who have been approved. The sellers include mostly easily recognizable names.

Offerings tend toward the high end as can easily be seen by the drill down figures:

Of 10,720 offerings at the time I visited, almost 60% were over $200.00 and when I searched for $1,000 or over, 3,479 coins were listed.  A similar search on eBay yielded 134,539 "Buy it now" offers, with less than 4% over $1,000.00.   

Note that unlike eBay, sellers are allowed to state a grade for unauthenticated coins.

I was amused to note that one of the things you can search by is Amazon Prime (a fee based program for buyers that offers free shipping on some merchandise).  They didn't have much.

I was more amused by descriptions like this:

"No mint mark"? Yes, 1795 U.S. dollars have no mintmark. "Collectible - Like new" for an MS10?  Obviously the sellers get forced into a matrix that hasn't yet been tuned for coins.

But the more important question here is how this affects eBay. Some seem to think that Amazon's entry into coins is a harbinger of doom for eBay, but I can't see that. First, although Amazon's selling machine is powerful, glitches like the "1795 No Mint Mark Silver Dollar, Collectible - Like New" are amateurish and from what I know of Amazon, they won't rush to fix that and instead will expect dealers to put up with it.

Having no auctions is even more important. Amazon tried auctions in 1999 and failed miserably.  I doubt they'd try it again, but if they do, my bet is that they would fail again. The competition is too entrenched and although sellers complain about fees, eBay is very good at this.  

Speaking of selling fees, Amazon has a different structure, but from what I can see, it all works out about the same: sellers are not going to flock to Amazon to save money.

That 134,000 offers vs. less than 11,000 is also telling - there's not much there. That could change, of course, but I'm not sure that it will. I just don't see a mass exodus of eBay sellers moving to Amazon.

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Google Books for Coinage History

I stumbled across Congressional Records related to the Mint while searching Google books for something entirely unrelated and immediately realized that there is a wealth of information there that was not previously so easily available to the average collector.

For example, here is the Annual Report of the Director of the Mint, for the "Fiscal Year Ending  June 30th, 1869".  Among other things,  Director James Pollock comments on resuming specie payments, on the dismal progress of building a new San Francisco Mint and also on the not yet operational Carson City Mint.  As you can see here, he didn't expect any coins to be minted there.

However, coins obviously were minted, starting in 1870 with Seated Liberty dollars.  In spite of Pollock's opinions, specie payment (redeeming paper money for gold or silver) was not resumed until 1879.

There is much more to be found.  This report can be downloaded here:

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Baseball Hall of Fame coins - flash in the pan?

I'm writing this in late May of 2014.  I just checked PCGS pricing on BHOF coins and found the following:

Halves (Clad):

MS69  $75     PR69DC  $75
MS70  $250   PR70DC  $250

One Dollar (Silver)

MS69  $175     PR69DC  $175
MS70  $275     PR70DC  $350

$5 (Gold)

MS69  $1,200    PR69DC  $1,250
MS70  $1,400     PR70DC  $1,450

As the delayed silver orders have now been shipping and as the gold are expected to ship next month, all the wise heads say that these prices will go down. They say that because that's what generally happens with things like this - an early flare up, a quick cool down.

 However, "past performance is not a predictor of future results" here or anywhere else and this situation is actually quite different from other commemoratives.

First, this three dimensional curved design is the first of its kind in United States Coinage.   As such, it's a desirable coin for type collectors as well as those who collect commemoratives.

If the Mint continues to make unusually shaped coins, that could create a new type of collector.  Let's call them the "neo-numia" collectors. As the first of its kind, the BHOF would be an absolute must for those collections.

Already people are collecting "shark jumpers" from around the world - the BHOF is obviously part of those, expanding them to a world wide market.

Then we have the sports fans and sports memorabilia collectors. Although other commemoratives have certainly appealed to their own interest groups, none has had the large numbers represented by those groups.

Given all that, it's hard to say what will happen with prices. Certainly I'd expect a dip, but I'm not sure how much. Nor am I sure what the longer term outlook is.

One very interesting possibility is noted at New coin technology dominates 2014 which says:
Once this technology is perfected it may at some later date join the British technology to produce “super coins” for circulation that hopefully will frustrate counterfeiters for a long time into the future. The technology should also make it interesting when a coin is flipped at the beginning of a sporting event.
If that happens, the BHOF's will be very, very important as the first of their kind in the United States.

Remember this: most of the wise heads did not anticipate the demand that these coins enjoyed. They generally predicted mild interest and some expected a total wash out. They were completely wrong and their current predictions may be just as off base.

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

What makes a PR69DCAM not a PR70 DCAM?

The difference between  a PR69DCAM coin and a PR70 DCAM coin is not very much.  Sometimes it is really just a matter of opinion and sometimes sending a 69 back for reconsideration will cause it to come back as a 70.

In other cases, the defect is obvious. Here is one of the PR69's I recently got back from PCGS.

Do you see the dark spot above the "D"? In this photo, it looks like it could be a piece of thread or dust, but it really is on the coin. So is the other spot above the "T".

Other 69's aren't so easy to see.  In these coins, the defect appears as a reflective spot, but you need to tip the coins to see the spots and they are very hard to photograph.

Just below "L", above "in" 

Below "L", above "i" of "in"

Same area, but fainter - shows as slightly brighter here

But then there is this one.

I've tipped this every which way under a light. I've looked at it with a 5x glass, a 10x and even 20x.

I can't see anything.

I enlisted the support of my eagle-eyed, highly attentive to detail wife. If I have the slightest spot on my clothes, she'll see it. She can walk into the living room and point right at the one tiny spot I missed when dusting.

I showed her the 3 PR70's and the 69's where I had been able to pick out a defect. She agreed with me about those and didn't need a magnifier.  Then I showed her this coin.

She looked at it, hesitated, and looked again. She asked for the magnifier. She tipped it and turned it and sighed.

"Wait! I see it above the stitches!", she exclaimed. I handed her the two PR70's.  She examined those and decided that no, what she saw must be intended to be on the coin.

She spent a few more minutes.  "There's a tiny, tiny vertical line above the "N" of "ONE DOLLAR", she announced.  I took the glass and the coin back, but could not see it.

"It's there", she said. "You have to tip it just right, but it's there."

I looked again. I could not see it. I tried the 10x loupe again - I saw nothing.

Finally, under 20X magnification and with some adjustments to the lighting, I was able to faintly make out this mark.

That must be it, because neither of us can find anything else!

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Baseball Hall of Fame coins are back from pcgs

I was surprised to find a box waiting for me today when I went to pick up our mail. I wasn't expecting anything, but when I got it home and opened it, I found this:

The coins did better than I expected: one 70 clad (which I didn't expect at all) and two from the silver $1 batch.

That's great and the new box is helpful too because I honestly didn't know how I was going to store these.

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Why I don't do video

There's a very simple answer: I don't like video for subjects like this.  Tell me you have a video of a monkey riding a horse, I might watch it - well, no I won't, but if your cat has leaned how to fetch you a beer, I will. But if you want to tell me something about numismatics, I probably won't watch your video at all.  No offense meant - if you wrote about it, I'd definitely read it, but the chances of my watching your video are very slim.

Why? Because video takes too long. Because I have to put on headphones if I don't want to disturb other people. Because I can't scan it and can't cut and paste if I want to remember something.

In the video above, I showed two 1878 7/8 Morgans and asked if you could tell if they were different varieties - or even know that they were 7/8's. I bet that you couldn't.

But with pictures, it's easier:

There, isn't that better? I could now mention that one is a VAM-38 and if I were actually talking about those coins instead of why I don't make coin videos, I could go on about the diagnostics for these two coins and perhaps post more pictures. If you wanted to come back tomorrow to look up some detail you forgot, you could skip right to it, but if I buried that in a video you'd take much longer to find it.

Yeah, I know: videos are cool. No, not for these kinds of subjects, they are not.

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Emergency iPhone Photography

An iPhone can take decent numismatic photos, but it can benefit from a bit of help. If you are serious about taking photos with an iPhone, you probably have a tripod and some sort of light box to get good results.

For example, this rig looks impressive:

But what do you do when you don't have a setup like that available? You are at a show or somewhere else and you want a good photo of a coin?

The biggest problem with an iPhone is motion. You can solve that with a few books and a rubber band:

The books raise the phone up enough to let light get to the coin and the rubber band helps stabilize the phone so that all you need to do is zoom to fit and press the button.

You can even get more magnification with another rubber band and a loupe:

Taken through a loupe with LEDs

A higher powered loupe could certainly do better if you can get light in or aren't bothered by LED lighting. Lighting does become more of a problem with the loupe because you have to be so much closer.  I used the LED lights on my loupe for the picture above.

The LED's do affect color, though, so is there any other way around that?  There may be: this Cortex Camera app is supposed to help with both low light and motion blur.

How does it do that? By taking multiple exposures and processing them into one.  This explains in more detail.

Does it work?  Well, I'm not really sure.  I've tried it in side by side comparisons and I can't see much difference - can you?

 iPhone Camera Flash on

 iPhone Camera Flash off

With CortexCam

For my needs, I'd rather be higher up with no loupe and use the iPhone zoom to get the magnification. It's not quite as sharp, of course.

iPhone zoom

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Roll Searchers - what to do with the leftovers?

If you search coin rolls, you will obviously have the problem of returning your left over, unwanted coins.  It's possible that you may have a good relationship with your bank and that they don't mind your trading your searched rolls for unsearched, but many people don't have that as an option.  Your bank may not appreciate your coin dumps and if they do allow it, you may find yourself getting the same coins back a week from now.

My bank has a coin counting machine at a branch we are near when food shopping.  There's no fee for customers and I obtain new rolls at my regular branch.  However, I don't do large volumes of rolls and I did notice that the manager seemed a bit put off when I dumped a measly $60.00 worth last week.

Building the next dump

It's problems like this that cause people to go to kiosks like CoinStar.  CoinStar kiosks are easy to find - many supermarkets have them and they certainly are easier to use. However, they charge a hefty 10.8% fee and it can be more at some locations.

Truly, that's not such a terrible price to pay for the convenience. You could also look at it as your acquisition cost over and above face for whatever you pulled from the rolls. If you found anything of value at all, that fee might look fairly insignificant.

You can exchange your coins for giftcards with no fee.  If you were planning to buy something at Amazon or at one of the other stores offering cards through CoinStar, that's great, but you may have other plans for the money. If my bank starts giving me grief, I will go the gift card route because we do buy enough at Amazon to consume my small dumps.

Some CoinStar machines now offer a PayPal option - you dump the coins and the money goes to your PayPal account. I expected that to be free, but it isn't: you get nicked 9.8%.  That's better than the cash option, though.

To use the PayPal option (assuming there's a CoinStar nearby that can do that) you have to enroll first  and PayPal will request more positive identification like a driver's license and a utility bill before they will sign you up.

When they first started this, you could withdraw cash from your PayPal account at equipped CoinStar. That's no longer possible as I write this (May 2014). PayPal says it is "suspended", probably because they got ripped off a few times and are trying to figure out how to increase security.

After I dumped that last $60, I picked up a few penny rolls the next day. As I said, I don't search much, but I do enjoy it even though I have found nothing of value so far.

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Advice for numismatic authors

There are a great many numismatic books I would love to have in digital format. Unfortunately, most numismatic authors are reluctant or even completely opposed to publishing digitally. 

I've talked to four different numismatic authors about digital editions of their books and found that the reluctance is usually simply fear of theft. As a publisher of several computer related books in digital format, I think I can counter that fear:  you make so much more money publishing digitally that the theft is unimportant. Additionally, today it's easy enough to individually stamp sales so that the source of any theft can be identified.  You can fix errors easily and add new data.  But most authors still seem opposed.

For those who can see past their fears, I have some advice.


Yes, I know that writing a book is really hard work. However, with digital you won't have any publication costs so you can sell for less because you will sell so many more.  You can also easily provide a free "teaser" version that will really help increase sales.


Digital has to be formatted differently than print. Long, run on paragraphs need to be broken up into smaller chunks. You need to be concerned about page flow.  For example, here is an example of a badly formatted digital book:

That 1855 title should have started on the next screen where the information it relates to actually is. Leaving hangers like this is not just ugly, it can also be confusing and there's no reason for it. Digital books have been around long enough that there are now people who specialize in offering reformatting services to get it right.


There is no excuse for low quality photos is a digital book. This often happens because lazy authors just scan their printed work.  The result is fuzzy photos.


You can offer your digital books to Amazon in Kindle format.  They handle everything and send you royalty payments regularly and automatically.  It's also not difficult to sell on your own website - places like E-Junkie make that incredibly easy and charge a low monthly fee rather than a percentage of your sales. You don't need expensive and complicated "shopping cart" software.

With digital, your books never need go out of print and can be updated as often as you like.  Sales can potentially continue forever and if you use services like E-Junkie, you even have a way to contact all the people who bought when you have something new to offer them.

You are missing out if you ignore digital.

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

Digital numismatic books

I buy digital books whenever I have the choice.  The obvious advantages are that I can carry dozens or even hundreds of books with me in digital form and can easily search them to find exactly what I'm looking for.  I certainly couldn't carry more than a few physical books with me and many that I might have poor or even non-existent indexes.

Unfortunately, it's not easy to find digital versions of numismatic books.   There are quite a few at Amazon and some are even free if you subscribe to Amazon Prime, but there is definitely a reluctance on the part of authors to publish these digitally.

Here's one numismatic author's response after being told by several people that he was being foolishly stubborn ignoring digital books.
I have written 46 books now, none have ever been on ebooks, none will ever be, but yet you and others want to hijack the thread to speak about ebooks.
(Emphasis mine)

In spite of that, you can find other authors who have seen the advantages. You can also find many out of copyright works that have been scanned into Google Books.

Finding digital numismatic books at Amazon:  Search for "kindle coins numismatic"
Google Play:  Search for "numismatic coin".  Or search for just the free books.

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Inexpensive LED loupe

I've owned too many cheap coin loupes. They don't work well; for $4 or $5 you get distortion and a very small field of view.  It's easy enough to find $40-$50 versions than don't have those problems, but it really ticks me off when I lose one of those.

I found a compromise at Amazon.  This 10x, 21mm triplet loupe gets almost 5 stars from reviewers but is under $20.00. Click here for Amazon Link

This loupe gives you good quality and I am deliberately not adding "for the price". It's good quality, period. Read the Amazon reviews; you usually don't see that degree of satisfaction until you reach twice the price.

The LED's switch on with an easy to operate slide switch. That's likely to last much longer than a button. 

With LED's ON

I had never owned an LED loupe before this. Now that I have, I wouldn't consider anything else. Of course you don't have to switch on the lights if you have good illumination from elsewhere, but when you don't have good lighting, this is a life saver (well, a money saver or a money finder, depending on the circumstance).  It takes a watch style battery and it's easy to change when that becomes necessary,

The lights do wash out colors, but they eliminate shadows and let you see when you would otherwise have been cursing.

I recommend this highly. Shipment was slow, but worth the wait. 

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Pocket change part II

We last saw this 1804 replica round on April 23rd (  It still had mirror fields then and although it was nicked and scratched, it retained much of its original luster.

Today it's starting to look pretty ragged.  There are still reflective surfaces, but there is also much more insult and abuse.  It's not quite a month since I put it in my pocket.

I wonder how many years to wear away that "Dexter Hendrickson" on the ribbon?  That refers to two of the owners of a particular 1804 dollar: James Vila Dexter and Leon Hendrickson.  Strangely, though , this replica is missing a "D" that should be in the second cloud from the right (see Book Review: Mark Ferguson's "The Dollar of 1804").

July 2014 - Luster is starting to go..

Note:  All my coins are in a safe deposit box.  I keep nothing in my home.