Return to Alaska Coin Exchange homepage

Return to ACCent homepage


ACCent: The Monthly Newsletter of the Anchorage Coin Club

ACCent Header


Volume 19, Number 12

December 2006

September Membership Meeting
Wed., Dec. 13th, 2006 Central Lutheran Church

6:00 PM Start


 

FROM YOUR EDITORS

    Our coin club’s Christmas Party (and official December club meeting) will occur on Wednesday, December 13th at Central Lutheran Church. Start time will be 6 PM.

At our November 1st membership coin club meeting, club secretary Larry Nakata gave the bad news that the date for our coin club’s Christmas Party and Numismatic Auction will have to change again…..due to a scheduling conflict by the Central Lutheran Church.  Accordingly, the membership in attendance voted to have the club’s event moved to the evening of Wednesday, December 13th. See details in this month’s newsletter on event.

We have a number of nice items for the club’s Christmas Numismatic Auction. As of this newsletter, some 80 lots have been submitted. These auction lots are also posted in this month’s newsletter for your review.

If any member wishes to submit coins and numismatic items to add to the auction on December 13th, bring them to the Christmas Party. We’ll include those lots at that time for the auction.

Our November 1st club meeting saw Stan Mead giving an excellent presentation on the subject of “Buffalo Nickels”. Sets of Buffalo nickels and some key dates (such as the 1937-D 3-legged Buffalo and the 1918/17D Buffalo nickels) were shown as part of that presentation.

The door prize, a medallion honoring James Fennimore Cooper (1789-1851) for the NYU Hall of Fame for Great Americans, was won by Nikos Pastos. This was a beautiful medallion made the Medallic Art Co. of New York.

The membership prize, an Alaska Mint Year 2001 Yukon Quest Silver Medallion with Gold Relief, was won by Robert Hall.

The winner of our club’s raffle coin….an 1882 U.S. Liberty Coronet $5 Gold, SEGS certified graded AU58, will go at our December 13th Christmas event. Final tickets $5/each (or 5 tickets for $20) will be available at that event. That is a very nice coin that would be an excellent addition to anyone’s collection.

See all of you at our Anchorage Coin Club’s Christmas Party and remember……December 13th will also be our official club meeting date…..Your Editors.

 

ANCHORAGE COIN CLUB CHRISTMAS PARTY AND NUMISMATIC AUCTION DECEMBER 13

    The Anchorage Coin Club’s Christmas Party and Numismatic Auction will start at 6 PM at the Central Lutheran Church (downstairs meeting area) on Wednesday, December 13th.

As in years past, this will be potluck event in which members are asked to provide an hors d’oeuvres, salad dish, or dessert dish. Bill and Becky Hamilton will be providing the turkey and gravy. Larry and Maribel Nakata will be providing the ham. Stan and Ruth Mead will be providing the mash potatoes. The club will provide the chips, dips, sodas, dinner rolls, plates, bowls, and eating utensils for the event. 

Roy Brown will be contacting all members to get a headcount on attendance and see what potluck items will be brought to the event….for our planning purposes. You can contact Roy at his coin shop (daytime # 563-6708) if you already have something in mind to bring…or have any questions.

Numismatic door prizes will also be given out that evening with a gold coin as the top door prize. Roy has graciously donated this gold coin as one of our door prizes.

Since this year will see quite a number of auction lots at our Christmas Numismatic Auction, we want to dedicate at least one hour for the auction.

So….we will likely eat dinner starting at about 6:30 PM…..which should give everyone enough time to come and get comfortable.  

Some lucky person will win our club’s raffle prize, an 1882 U.S. Liberty Coronet $5 Gold, SEGS certified graded AU58, that evening. Raffle tickets will be sold one last time at the club’s Christmas Party. Tickets are $5/each  or 5 tickets/$20.

Should be a great event. See you there…….

 

MEMBERSHIP NEWS

 

Schedule of Events for the Month of December

  1. Monthly Membership Meeting and Christmas Party: December 13th (Wednesday) starting at 6:00 PM at the Central Lutheran Church (Downstairs Meeting Area). The Central Lutheran Church is located at 1420 Cordova St. on the corner of Cordova and 15th Avenue. Our key event that evening will be our club’s annual Christmas Numismatic Auction. Members, YNs, and general public welcomed. 
  2. Anchorage Coin Club Board Meeting:  December 20th (Wednesday) at 7:00 PM at the “New Cauldron Restaurant”   located at the University Center.  Club members welcomed.   

 

Minutes of the November 21st Board Meeting

The Anchorage Coin Club’s Board meeting was called to order at 7:10 PM by club president Carl.

First order of business was correspondence. Larry Nakata received a bill for our coin club’s liability insurance policy for next year (2007). The Board approved an expenditure of $320 for the yearly insurance.

The club also approved funds towards a donation of a book to the Loussac Library, “A Guide to Biblical Coins, 4th Edition” by David Hendon.  Cost of the book was $76.

The remainder of the Board meeting focused on details for the club’s December 13th Christmas Party and auction. In terms of foods for the event, a number of the Board members volunteered to bring key items for the party (turkey, ham, mash potatoes, etc.). What is still needed are salads, desserts, vegetables, yams, and stuffing….as potluck items for the party. Roy Brown will be following up with members in our club to see what will be brought for the event. Any other shortages to be picked up by the coin club.

As there was no other business to discuss, the meeting adjourned at 8:05 PM.

 

The Latest Coin Show
by Loren Lucason (Member# 97)
 
    The coin show in the Cottonwood Creek mall sponsored by Robert Hall was quiet and peaceful yet very much appreciated by the people who braved the cold and came to find out about coins. The mall is normally quiet and the show was not extensively advertised but more and more people are finding out that coins are not only full of history they are a good investment. Stan Mead and I manned the club table and handed out free information as well as a few little foreign coins. We found that adults in the valley generally did not want to take anything they did not earn. Kids on the other hand, like kids everywhere, wanted everything they could get. A wide range of people came to the table. Some just wanted to know something about the coins grandma left when she died and some were totally amazed by coins that were old when grandma was born. There were also people who wanted to know the best way to get invested in coins and people who wanted to know the best way to avoid scams.
 
The coin show was a rare opportunity to go through Hal Wilson’s coins and paper money as well as his stock of cards. It was also a great opportunity to leisurely go through Robert Hall’s extensive stock of coins. Carl even had a table there on Sunday.
 
It was nice to have an opportunity to get caught up on everything numismatic. Stan had some information about how the Alaska State Quarter design selection was going. Some of it he could not tell us. Robert mentioned the big coin collection that was stolen in the city. Hal had some suggestions on how to protect your coins. I was showing off my collection of dimes and explaining why it was dominated by Roman denarii (the ancestors of dimes) and Greek drachms (the origin of the word dimes).
 
We may not have sold a lot of coins but for a little show we did a lot of good for the public just being there with a lot of numismatic knowledge…..Loren.

 

A Crystal Ball From 1937
by Mike Nourse (Life Member# 1)

    Of course nobody can see the future, but some fellow who wrote an article published in the October 1937 issue of Numismatic Scrapbook sure made a great guess about the future of grading in the world of coin collecting. The chap who wrote said article was one Alfred Reschke from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Mr. Reschke starts out with a sentence that applies just about as much today as it did nearly 70 years ago: "From a numismatist's viewpoint what this country needs is not, as Vice President John Marshall once said, a good five cent cigar, but rather a more satisfactory method of rating the condition of coins." At the time, there really was not much at all in the way of standardized grading. There did not even seem to be a clear definition of how to determine if a coin was Uncirculated or not.

 

The October 1937 Edition of Numismatic Scrapbook

The October 1937 Edition of Numismatic Scrapbook

 

The author's proposal is to have seven different grades. Not only that, but the intrepid Mr. Reschke allows for a quality breakdown within each of the seven grades by assigning five numbers to each grade. Sound familiar? While none of our present grades have five levels of quality other than Mint State which has eleven, he was on the right track. Another similarity to the grading system in use today, the proposed system has seemingly meaningless numbers from 66 to 100, though he calls them a percentile scale.

The proposed grading system is as follows, from lowest grade to highest:

Poor  66 - 70
Fair  71 - 75
Good 76 - 80
Fine  81 - 85
Superior  86 - 90
Excellent  91 - 95
Uncirculated  96 - 100

The author notes that the grade of Superior is meant to replace the grade of Very Fine which was in use at the time, while Excellent is to replace Extra Fine. The About Uncirculated (AU) grade saw limited use in the 1930's, and the writer states confusion about exactly what About Uncirculated means. Proofs, it was noted, would be graded separately since Proof is a different method of manufacture rather than a statement of condition.

Now, this is already a pretty good example of a crystal ball. While the author got the names and numbers wrong, his basic structure was essentially correct of having several named grades with numbers used to further define a coin's condition within a given grade. I would be pretty impressed with this, but the following run-on sentence really seals the deal:

"To make a classification such as this more meaningful and more objective to the average collector, it might be desirable for some central agency, such as the American Numismatic Association to publish, after due research and deliberation, an illustrated rating scale in which all classes of coins from Uncirculated to the very poor would be listed both verbally and terms of percentages, described in some detail, and illustrated with cuts of typical coins showing what each class should approximately be like." Is this guy good or what? Can you say ANA Grading Guide? Wow!

He did not have it exactly right. He envisioned a separate pamphlet for each series. Each pamphlet would describe and illustrate each of the 35 grade levels from 66 through 100, and would sell for only a few cents. Still, the prediction sure was close to the eventual target. And remember, it would be 40 years after this article was published that the ANA grading guide became a reality, and 50 years before the ANA grading guide was actually illustrated with real coins as opposed to the line drawings used in the early editions. 

In the last paragraph, the author actually claims little credit for developing this idea since the same kind of system is used for grading certain flowers. I, however, am still very impressed with the remarkably accurate look into the future of coin collecting provided by Mr. Reschke in the October 1937 Numismatic Scrapbook.

Now, I wonder if Mr. Reschke would allow me to borrow his amazing crystal ball?.....Mike Nourse.

 

Buffalo Nickels
by Stan Mead (Member# 64)

    The correct name for this coin series in the Five-Cent Indian Head. To most collectors, it is, and always will be the “Buffalo Nickel”.

 

DESIGNER:  James Earle Fraser.

SPECIFICATIONS:  Diameter: 21.2 millimeters. Weight: 5 grams.  Composition:  .750 copper, .250 nickel. Edge: Plain.

DATES ISSUED: 1913- 1938. No Indian Head nickels were minted in 1922, 1932, and 1933. Some 5,967 matte proofs were minted from 1913 through 1916, and 10,189 brilliant proofs in 1936 and 1937.

MINTMARKS:  Indian Head nickels were minted at the Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco Mints and either have a “D”, “S”, or no mintmark on the reverse of the coin below the words “FIVE CENTS”,

 

The Buffalo Nickel is one of America’s most distinctive coins ever minted, and considered by many as a work of art with its dominating Great Plains images- the American Indian on its obverse and the Buffalo on the reverse. Because of its great beauty the Buffalo Nickel has become a particular favorite with coin collectors.

Fraser was a gifted artist who gained fame while still a teenager. At 17 he completed one of the country’s most famous sculptures, “The End of the Trail” which depicts an exhausted Indian mounted on a bowed and weary horse, holding his spear earthward. Fraser, who grew up in the Dakota Territory in the 1880’s was a witness to the slaughter of the American Buffalo and the destruction of the way of life of the Native Americans of the Great Plains.

Fraser’s design was medal-like and beautiful, and for that reason was favored by Secretary MacVeagh. Its allure seemed to completely elude Charles Barber (Chief Engraver/ US Mint), who complained that the design elements were too large and did not allow for the proper placement of inscriptions. Barber did not get very far with this, as the design remained unchanged over his objections.

For the obverse, Fraser sketched a rugged, dignified Indian head based on a composite of three models (this is still in dispute more than 75 years later): Iron Tail, Two Moons, and Chief John Big Tree. For the reverse side, Fraser looked to the Central Parks Zoological Garden in New York and its American Bison, Black Diamond. Technically, it is a bison on the reverse, not a buffalo. Because our history has so ingrained in us the name “Buffalo”, we still use it, and “Bison” and “Buffalo” are used interchangeably.

On March 4th, 1913, coins from the first bag to do into circulation were presented to outgoing President Taft and 33 Indian chiefs at the groundbreaking ceremonies for the National Memorial to the North American Indian at Ft. Wadsworth, New York.

There were two major type designs made in 1913. Type I nickels, minted only during the first few months of 1913, had the denomination “FIVE CENTS” which was on a raised mound at the bottom of the reverse. Soon after the Indian head nickel went into circulation, it became apparent that both the obverse and reverse designs were problematic. The “FIVE CENTS” inscription (along with the date on the obverse) were placed at the relief that exposed them to a great deal of wear, and thus they wore away very quickly. As early as April, Barber finally got his chance to modify Fraser’s design. He cut away the mound, creating an exergue into which the denomination was set. This solved the reverse wear problem, but then kept going. He smoothed out much of the detail and granularity in both the Indian’s portrait and the bison’s hide. The resulting Type II coin, however, lacked much of the artistic impact of the original. This solved the reverse wear problem but the problem of the date wearing down too rapidly was never addressed.

Barber again made minor type changes in 1916 by lowering the relief of the head and strengthening several details. Letters were thicker (Check out “LIBERTY”), relief was reduced, and Indian’s nose is longer. Some specialists consider this the third subtype, but most collectors only consider the Type I and Type II coins as actual varieties. Once has to wonder why, during all his modifications, Barber never addressed the problem of the date wearing down too rapidly. This oversight has resulted in many millions upon millions of dateless Buffalo nickels, mostly effecting the early to mid-dates: 1913-1925. Often, dateless Buffalo nickels can have their dates restored by applying a ferric-chloride solution to the date area or in the “early 60s” we had the Miracle date restoration compound “Nic-A-Date Restorer”. A restored Date should never grade higher than a G-4, but with Market Grade as it is now…and with all the “A, B, & C” grading companies trying to get into the market, one can never be assured without careful study of the date area.

The motto, “IN GOD WE TRUST” is discretely missing from the Buffalo Nickel. An Act of Congress on April 22nd, 1864 allowed the “IN GOD WE TRUST” motto on U.S. coins. Later after the motto was omitted from the Liberty Nickel and some gold coins in 1907, another Act of Congress on May 18th, 1908 clarified the requirement. It was mandatory on all coins upon which it had previously appeared, but it was not mandatory on the one-cent and five-cent coins. However, it could be placed on them by the Mint Secretary or the Mint Director with the Secretary’s approval. So, the motto was left off of the Buffalo Nickel and then reappeared in 1938 on the Jefferson Nickel. Since 1938, all U.S. coins bear this motto.

During the 1920’s, partly because of the vast amounts of coins produced during World War I and partly due to an effort to conserve costly dies, there were fewer nickels struck. No Buffalo Nickels were minted in 1922 as the Mint was more interested in minting silver dollars. There were also none minted in 1932 and 1933 because of the depression. Some of the older dies also produced poorly struck coins. In 1938 a reverse die became damaged (Die clash) and was reground too aggressively and an entire front leg of the buffalo disappeared on some coins…creating the 1937-D 3-legged Buffalo nickel.

The 3-legged Buffalo is a favorite of collectors today. A 1937-D 3-legged Buffalo in MS-65 condition can fetch as much as $35,000. An MS-66 as much as $80,000. Even a scruffy one will still command hundreds of dollars.

 

1937-D Three Legged Buffalo Nickel

1937-D Three Legged Buffalo Nickel

 

In the case of a 3- legged Buffalo nickel or the 1918/7-D over date, authentication by experts is advised…as many counterfeits exist. Aside from doubled-die and other rarities, the Buffalo on the mound coins from the 1913 first issue are the most prized.

Up until the discovery of the 1936-D ½ legged Buffalo, the top four (4) die varieties were the 1916/1916 doubled die obverse, the 1918/7-D doubled die obverse over date, the 1935 doubled die reverse, and the 1937-D 3-Legged Buffalo. No Buffalo nickel collection is really considered complete without the “Big-4”. Some collectors feel the 1914/3 doubled die over date should be in this top group. However, this variety is the result of a doubled working hub that transferred the over date to different working dies at all three mints (P, D, & S). Because of this there are sometimes variations of over date detail that many times require vague extrapolation by the collector even when viewed under magnification.

Many mint marked coins, especially from 1918 through 1934, are virtually unavailable in well struck condition. When grading these coins, and many other well struck Buffalos, you must take the surface into account, as many full luster pieces will not show rounded relief detail on the high points of the horn or the fringe on the tail. Generally, the date and LIBERTY will be faint on weakly struck pieces. The points on the coin that wear most readily are the high point of the Indian’s cheekbone and hair near the part. On the reverse side, the bison’s hip, the fringe of it’s tail, and the horn are the first areas to show wear.

Finally, the most significant factor in the rarity ranking of higher grade Buffalo nickels is strike. The coins most effected by strike (or lack of strike) were minted at branch mints (particularly the Denver Mint) from 1918 to 1934. Many factors can contribute to poor strike, but it is suspected that lack of control for hardness of the coin planchets was the main cause. Collectors will find many Buffalo Nickels with full luster (mint state) but showing rounded relief detail on the high points of the Bison’s horn, the high forward back, or the fringe of the tail. Also, the date, LIBERTY, and hair lines above the braid on the obverse will be faint and weakly struck. Strong strikes for some dates are virtually unknown and Uncirculated pieces with full sharp details will command higher price- 1918-D, 1919-D, 1919-S, 1920-D, 1921-S, 1923-S, 1925-D, 1926-D, and 1934-D are some the tougher dates to find coins with a strong strike.

The past decade has witnessed renewed collector interest in the Buffalo series. An ever-growing number of numismatists are assembling complete sets of Buffalo nickels by date and mintmark, but demand is also strong from type collectors, all of who seek this design for their 20th Century or more comprehensive type sets. Although well struck, inexpensive type examples such as 1938-D are available, many collectors prefer to pursue one of the scarcer dates……Stan Mead.

 


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