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ACCent: The Monthly Newsletter of the Anchorage Coin Club

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Volume 17, Number 9

September 2004

September Membership Meeting
Wed., Sept 1st, 2004 Central Lutheran Church

6:30 PM YNs, 7:15 Meeting


 

FROM YOUR EDITORS

    A fine time was enjoyed by one and all at our club's August 14th summer picnic at Centennial Park. Unlike last year, it was a beautiful sunny day with no mosquitoes to bother us.

Larry Nakata and some of the club members showed up around 10:30 am and had all of the picnic tables set up. Members started to show up at around 11:30 am with good conversation and company. The YNs were tossing the football around as lunch was served. Lots of hotdogs, hamburgers, hotlinks, salads, Larry's famous teriyaki beef, chips, and desserts were eaten that afternoon.

After lunch, the scavenger hunt began with YNs searching for pieces of white masking tape that would win them nice coins for their collections.

Following the scavenger hunt, we then held the Numismatic Jeopardy Game contest with more coins given out as prizes for contestants who correctly answered the various category of questions. The winner who answered the most questions received a grand prize......a nice U.S. gold coin. That winner was Mike Gentry.

Towards the end of the afternoon, we raffled off the club's coin prize, an 1861 Liberty Seated Half Dollar in AU condition. That raffle coin was won by Larry's wife, Maribel.

It was a nice summer afternoon enjoyed by everyone.

See you at the next coin club meeting on the evening of September 1st at the Central Lutheran Church (downstairs meeting area).

Hope your Summer has gone as well as our club picnic.....Your Editors.

 

MEMBERSHIP NEWS

Schedule of Events for the Month of July:

  1. Monthly YN Meeting/ Regular Membership Meeting: September 1st (Wednesday) evening/ Location: Central Lutheran Church (downstairs meeting area). The YN meeting to start at 6:00 PM. The membership meeting will commence at 7:15 PM. Food provided. Our club president Stan Mead will giving a presentation. Club members, family, and general public welcomed.

  2. Anchorage Coin Club Board Meeting: September 15th (Wednesday) at 7:00 PM at the Twin Dragon Mongolian BAR-B-QUE Restaurant located at 612 E. 15lh Avenue. Club members welcomed.

Minutes of the August 18th Board Meeting

The meeting was called to order at 7:30 PM by Secretary Larry Nakata. The Board met at the Twin Dragon Mongolian BAR-B-QUE Restaurant located at 612 E. 15th Avenue.

Following a review of correspondence and bills, old business was reviewed.

Marilyn Stubblefield provided a report on the progress of the club's calendar project. At this time, everything is in order to proceed with layout of the calendar. A visit will be made to the company that will be putting the calendar together. That meeting will be to finalize details. Calendars are expected to be ready by our November 3rd club meeting. In order to have this calendar published, the club will accordingly order a minimum of 100 calendars.

Discussed was costs for the calendars. The Board decided that cost per calendar will be $15 each. If a person buy more than 10 calendars, the cost per calendar will be $12.50 each. An announcement will be made at our September 1st club meeting that we are now taking orders for the 2005 club calendar.

As there was no further business, the meeting adjourned at 8:15PM.

THE YN CORNER

ATTENTION ALL YNs: Hope you enjoyed your summer. Now that summer is coming to an end, we want to remind all YNs that coin club meetings for you will restart with the September 1st YN Meeting at Central Lutheran Church (downstairs area).

The meeting time will be 6 PM and we ask that you bring a favorite coin of interest. Food and drink will be provided.

See you there...Don and Marilyn.

 

BUILD A SET OF SEATED LIBERTY HALF DOLLARS
by Mike Nourse (Life Member #1)

    When the average collector thinks about building a set of coins, they generally think in terms of building a set of Indian or Lincoln cents, Buffalo nickels, Mercury dimes, Walking Liberty or Franklin halves, Morgan dollars, or one of several suspects. Just ask around at the next club meeting what people are working on, and you are likely to hear that many people are working on these and other popular sets. Next, inquire about how many Seated Liberty halves folks have in their collection, and the typical answer will be either zero or just a few pieces which reside in a type set.

Be honest, have you ever really considered building a set of Seated Liberty half dollars? Probably not - it is a large set with a number of very expensive coins needed for completion. That is why I do not recommend that the average collector attempt building a complete set, as it is a task that exceeds most of our budgets. What I do recommend is that people think about building a date set, also known as a one-a-year set. Building a date set allows you to avoid such horrors as the 1878-S, which will run $10,000 and up for any undamaged specimen.

 

1859-O Seated Liberty Half Dollar VG-8

1859-O Seated Liberty Half Dollar VG-8

Seated Liberty halves were introduced part of the way into the year 1839, which is also the last year of production for the reeded edge Capped Bust halves. The seated halves were produced on a very regular basis, with emissions from at least one mint each year through the end of the series in 1891. Four minting facilities provided these halves: Philadelphia, San Francisco, New Orleans, and Carson City. You can't avoid having Philadelphia coins in the one a year set, but try to make sure that the three branch mints are represented by at least one coin each. That's not hard to do, since ail the mints - even CC -produced affordable coins in at least some

What condition should this set be built in? That depends, of course, on your budget. In general, Seated Liberty coins are pleasing in appearance, and affordable, in Fine condition. A well matched set is a superb sight to behold, so one should try to stay within a one grade range when building the set, such as sticking with grades of Very Good and Fine, or Fine and Very Fine. It would not detract from the set to have one high grade coin included in the set, say a sharp AU-55 or so, to show non collectors what an unworn Seated Liberty half looks like.

It is usually the case that the most difficult coins in a set are to be found among the early dates. That's not the story here! There are a dozen dates at the end of this series that will set you back some real money once you are lucky enough to find a specimen. These coins, minted from 1879 through 1890, were produced only at the Philadelphia mint, so there is no way to avoid them. They will likely run $250 to $350 each when you finally are able to find them, and the 1886 and 1887 dates will be even a bit higher. Even though the one a year set is easier than the complete set, it is still by no means a simple set that you can just throw together. What fun would that be? The upside is that you will be purchasing a dozen legitimately scarce coins with mintages ranging from a low of 4,400 pieces to a high of only 12,000 pieces. A convincing argument could be made that these coins are actually bargains considering how few are out there.

Now, here is the key to making a really great date set of seated halves, a set that will stand out as being better than other date sets even if it is in lower condition. From 1879 through the end of the series in 1891, half dollars were only produced at the Philadelphia mint. Almost all other years, from the beginning in 1839 through 1878, production was accomplished at two or three mints. It is your job to figure out which mint made the most desirable coin each year. What this means is that you may find a particular year with coins made at two separate mints that are priced about the same even though one of the coins has only half the mintage of the other. Go for that lower mintage issue! In other years you may find one issue has a mintage only one tenth the size of the other, but is only twice the price. It will take a lot longer to find that lower mintage coin and it will cost twice as much, but I assure you that it is worth getting that much scarcer coin in the long run. Selecting the right coins greatly increases the value and interest of your set, not to mention the frustration factor as you discover just how scarce some of these halves really are. It will surprise you when you discover that you can't locate some of these coins even though they are considered common and are priced at only $100 in Fine condition.

Let's look at a couple of examples. Right at the beginning of the series in 1839, you will see that only Philadelphia struck Seated Liberty half dollars that year, and that they created two distinct varieties: with drapery and without drapery. There were 100,000 coins produced without drapery and 1,872,400 with drapery. Despite the huge difference in mintage, the no drapery coin is only a bit over double the price of the more common with drapery model. You get the added advantage of getting a one-year type coin with the no drapery issue. Your choice should be obvious here.

Another example might be the centennial year of 1876. Half dollars were produced at three mints that year, Philadelphia (8.4 million), San Francisco (4.5 million), and Carson City (1.9 million). The Carson City model is only priced about 25% higher than the other two, but when you factor in the lower mintage and the usual premium accorded to all Carson City coinage, it seems to be the obvious coin to select for your 1876 example. Some years, there will not be an obvious standout, but for most years there should be one mint that proves to be more desirable than the others.

Here is a 53 piece, 19th century set of large coins that can actually be completed without the need for an unlimited bankroll. Granted, it won't exactly be cheap, but it is affordable for most collectors. When you are done, you will have a set that very few other people have, and not many have even considered!.....Mike Nourse.

 

AN ABBREVIATED NUMISMATIC VOCABULARY
by Loren Lucason (Member #97)

 

ALMOST UNCIRCULATED (AU) - The condition of a coin owned people who didn't spend very much.

BAGMARK - The harm done to a coin in a cloth bank bag with others.

CAMEO PROOF - A nice coin from dies with the high points polished off.

CLIPPING - Getting sales tax from the edge of a coin.

DIPPING - Removing the corrosion of time with corrosive soap.

ERROR - A coin struck by mint workers after the office party.

FOURRE - A fake coin that costs too much to be called a fake.

GOOD (G) - The condition of a coin not as good as fine but better than fair.

HAIRLINE - A scratch so fine you need a bright light and a 10X lens to detect it.

LUSTER - The shine on a coin struck with well used dies.

DMPL - A coin so beautiful you can see dimples in your cheeks when you smile at it.

PROOFS - Coins that show you how pretty that coin type could have been.

SLABBING - Turning pocket change into plastic bricks.

TONE - The beauty in a coin that has started to corrode away.

UNCIRCULATED (UNC) - The magic in a coin that allows it to travel from another millennium and the other side of the world without getting around.

X-JEWELRY - A coin hated by numismatists because it once adorned a woman.

 

IT'S AMAZING THEY SURVIVED!
by Mike Nourse (Life Member #1)

    Many of us younger folks take for granted the relatively plush modes of transportation that have existed in the last half of a century. We ride in automobiles that have independent suspension for each wheel, riding on nicely paved streets, or we fly in a jet airplane at 35,000 feet in altitude, far above the turbulent atmosphere that passengers had to endure prior to the jet age.

It was not always like this! Personal automobiles did not become common until the 1920's, and suspension systems back then were crude at best. Paved roads were few and far between for many years thereafter. Trains were a reasonably smooth way to travel from the early 1800's on, but fares were expensive and the destinations available limited. In the 1800's, the average person's day to day mode of transport was either by walking or by riding horseback, or by some form of horse drawn conveyance, all three of which are virtually unheard of today outside of Pennsylvania.

Where am I going with all this? Oh yeah, how did early Proof coins of the 1817 to 1916 era manage to survive all that to remain in Gem condition today? As we all know, Proof coins of any era have deeply reflective fields, which show every tiny hairline or other minute imperfection. A few light hairlines, which look so bad on a Proof coin, can easily hide from view on the lustrous surfaces of a Mint State coin. And on the delicate surfaces of a Proof coin, it sure doesn't take much to produce hairlines! A very light rub with a soft cloth or even just a finger will be enough to create hairlines.

1894 Indian Head Cent Proof-65 Red

1894 Indian Head Cent Proof-65 Red

So now, lets return to the 1858 to 1915 era, when Proof sets were being produced for sale at the Philadelphia mint for sale to collectors as sets or as single coins, A collector who lived in Philadelphia or happened to be there for whatever reason could visit the mint and purchase individual Proof coins or a whole set from the current year and maybe also from the year before if any remained on hand. According to researcher Walter Breen, the Proof coins were simply stored in a drawer with little effort made to treat the coins gently. The fact that any gems remain today leads me to think that at least some care had to have been taken to prevent unnecessary marring of the coins.

Anyhow, the current year Proof set would be purchased by our visitor to the mint, and where would this group of unpackaged coins go? Probably into a pocket, or maybe a small pouch of some kind, to be transported home. Unless the purchaser took some effort to separate the coins by wrapping each one in a bit of cloth, they would jingle and jangle about inside the pocket or pouch. And what a jingle jangle they would receive, considering that the purchaser probably had a walk of at least a mile or two, or worse yet a few miles bouncing along by horseback or stagecoach. In any event, suffice it to say that the coins had a rough ride home. Even if they did have the benefit of a piece of cloth between them, it must be remembered that cloth back then was not quite as soft as it is today, hence the rough trip home could still impart significant hairlines.

Suppose our collector lived in Burlington, in northern Vermont, several hundred miles away from Philadelphia? No problem, he could still order a current Proof set through the mail by remitting the appropriate funds plus postage, much as it is done today. The set of Proofs would be mailed to the customer via the Post Office. I don't know how the coins were packed, but 1 do know they were not in nice sturdy 2X2's. Most likely they were individually wrapped in paper for protection, then packed in an envelope or small box. Now the coins have a multiple day trip that will likely involve any combination of walking, horseback riding, riding in a stagecoach, and maybe even as cargo on a train. Again this small package will be bouncing around as it is transported over rough roads by these various means. All the while, the coins inside the package will be rubbing against whatever material they are packed in, accumulating more hairlines and friction on the high points.

With all of this potential jostling around, isn't it amazing that any Proof coins at all from 1915 and earlier have survived in Gem Proof-65 condition? Another aspect to consider is that even if the coins survived the trip to their final destination relatively unscathed, collectors of that era were not quite as concerned about borderline microscopic flaws on coins as we are today. Back then, a Proof was a Proof was a Proof, as long as it was not notably damaged. A quality collection might be stored in a velvet lined coin cabinet for easy viewing and handling, which had the potential of creating hairlines if the coins shifted when a drawer was opened or closed.

Yet another grade reducing issue is cleaning. Toning, or tarnish as it was referred to back then, was considered to be very undesirable. Dips did not exist, so cleaning methods were harsh and abrasive, and they left far too many hairlines for a coin to grade Proof 65 today.

What about Mint State coins? Shouldn't the same situation apply for them? To some extent, yes, but there are differences. First off, as noted earlier, Mint State coins have lustrous surfaces rather than mirrored surfaces, and therefore a few minor hairlines will be virtually invisible on the Mint State coin while every tiny imperfection shows up loud and clear on the Proof. Then there are the circumstances that the coins would have encountered after production by the mint. Proof coins would go straight to collectors while the Mint State coins get shipped to the banks for distribution into commercial channels. Some of the Mint State coins may be obtained by an individual who is building a savings account under a loose floor board in his or her house, or maybe they are being held by the bank as part of their reserves. Large hoards of coins make the news, such as the Economite hoard of capped bust half dollars or the Redfield hoard of Morgan and Peace dollars, but for every large hoard there are countless small stashes of a few dollars up to maybe a few hundred dollars. Many of the coins in these small private stashes are probably circulated, but there may well be a good number of new coins that were obtained from a bank by an employer to pay this thrifty individual's payroll. These Mint State coins would likely receive minimal handling since they are not on display, and they would never be cleaned because their appearance is irrelevant to their face value.

So how many early proof coins have survived in Gem Proof-65 or better condition? Nobody knows for sure of course, but looking at certified coin population reports it seems that between one and five percent of the original mintages have achieved this rare feat. Survival rates are higher in Gem condition for the smaller coins that they are for the larger, heavier coins. This means that from 95 to 99 out of every 100 early Proof coins issued have met with some form of abuse over the last century or more, either from mishandling or from cleaning. However, given all of the possible destructive scenarios that could have taken place over that time frame, it is amazing to me that any early Proof coins have survived to this day in Gem condition!...Mike Nourse.

 


The Anchorage Coin Club

Club Officers

Board of Directors

Editors

Club Archivist / Photographer

DUES

To save costs, members not responding to renewal notices within 3 months will be considered inactive.

The Anchorage Coin Club is a non-profit organization formed to provide information, education, and a meeting place for individuals having an interest in numismatics.

Correspondence Address: Anchorage Coin Club, P.O. Box 230169, Anchorage, Alaska 99523