Over 200 Years of Combined Numismatic Experience at Your Disposal.
|February 2016 Issue|
A Newsletter By:
My Coin Journey Part VIII
By Warren Mills
It was a real blessing to be contacted by my future employer – The Rarities Group, from Marlboro, Massachusetts. The owner, Martin Paul, heard that I was leaving Dallas to move back to Massachusetts to be closer to my family. He was kind enough to extend a generous moving allowance and since I had no prospects, I decided to accept the position that he offered me. The transition from retail to wholesale was quite easy. I was shocked at how much the experience in dealing with retail clientele on a personal basis was also somewhat important on a wholesale one, too!
Now, I can’t say it was all fun and games. There were lean times and boom times, but once I established a relationship with many dealers, it started to go pretty smoothly. Just be honest with people. Don’t say a coin is original if it’s not. If you say you have 2,000 gem Morgan Dollars and the dealer takes them, you better deliver 2,000 pieces that are all there. So, in many ways, it is similar to a retail customer except on a larger scale.
Here’s the secret to being successful -- find the coins! It’s the same in all coin sales. If you are a wholesale dealer, you better handle quantities of many items. As a retail dealer, it is similar except that you are limited by your own ethics and grading standards. At RCNH, I only want to sell the best for the grade. That puts a limit on our inventory and does not allow us to sell as many coins as we could.
I wish I felt warm and fuzzy about all certified coins, but I know better. The best thing that happened to me as a wholesaler was selling tens of millions of dollars’ worth of coins over a short time prior to certification. I saw so many coins that it helped to hone my eye. When PCGS started in 1986, I had a good feel for what was going to grade a certain way. It is only by having exposure to a large number of coins that you can gather this knowledge. That’s why I tell people to find a mentor that will assist you with learning how to grade. Then, look at as many coins as you can. Try to get to the larger shows and pore through boxes of auction lots. Then, graduate to the bourse floor and find dealers that will answer questions “honestly” and, before you know it, you’re building a great collection.
I was fortunate to work for a very knowledgeable and under-rated numismatist, Martin Paul. He had a strong knowledge in coins from poor to superb uncirculated, and he was a vacuum for buying large deals. These deals had everything from soup to nuts, and from there, it was a matter of organizing them and selling them to the right buyers.
Once again, the winds of change were blowing, and I was on the cusp of witnessing the advent of certified coins. Oh sure, ANACS authenticated and graded coins, but they did not have the dealer support network that PCGS put in place to assure acceptance of their product nationally and, eventually, worldwide. I will expound on my experiences of the birth of PCGS and a new technology for trading in coins in our next issue of “The Rare Coin Enthusiast”.
“So What’s Hot?” or - in this Market - “What do you Like?”
By Warren Mills
That’s a question that I often get asked. I just came back from the Florida United Numismatists (F.U.N.) Show in Tampa, Florida, and I was keying in on a few series that I currently like. First, Walking Liberty Halves….talk about coins that seem cheap, they are well off of their old price highs and seem to be good buys from circulated to gem uncirculated in 1916 to 1933-S. Watch out for certified circs. that are cleaned and uncs. that have negative toning. I know a large market has sprung up for most of these issues in AU-58, but I’d rather focus on MS-63’s or better. In many instances, a nice MS-63 isn’t that much more than a 58. And they are hard to find with nice appeal.
The 1934 to 1940 issues are good buys in MS-63 to MS-66, and the common P-mints from 64 to 66. I think the 38-D is a bit too high and I’d only buy a 1935-D with a nice strike. That also goes for the 1940-S. The 1939-S is readily available in MS-65 as are a few of the other dates, but on the issues that are more common, I’d focus on MS-66 or 66+.
The 1941-47 short set is still hard to figure. I’d only buy the odd date that had great eye or price appeal. I bought a 1941-S in MS-65+ CAC at F.U.N. because the strike was superb. Check out the 1947 P&D, a 66 is very cheap but a 67 is 10 times more! I’d focus in on a superb 66 or a 66+. Look at how cheap the S-mints are now in 65 or 66 grade. A 1946-S in 66+ seems like a strong buy at around $300. I only buy MS-67’s in the short set if there is a 67+ shot. I wouldn’t load up on speculation here, but if you were considering assembling a set by date, the timing seems good.
As soon as I stepped on the bourse at F.U.N., I went to the ultimate market makers table and asked to see all their Walkers. I was hoping to buy 50 to 100 pieces. Their stock was nearly gone. I asked what happened because they usually have multiple double row boxes of Walkers to go through. They said they sold most of their inventory to raise cash. So, I hunt and pecked the rest of the show and came up with a dozen or so. The short set, in particular, is readily available in over-dipped MS-65 to MS-68. So focus on original roll fresh or attractively toned coins. Dipped white coins have ruined many series, especially commemoratives. The over-supply of washed-out, stripped, high grade pieces, has relegated many series to afterthought status. CAC stickers many dipped pieces, so be picky.
I still like Dollars and, especially, Morgans. Original scarcer date circs. of the better dates are tougher to find. The allowances the grading services make by certifying so many cleaned or altered surface examples is hurting all circ. type issues. I again would focus on dates that everyone needs or are big spread coins. CAC is preferred, but I do not agree with CAC-ing commercially acceptable coins and would concentrate on original MS-63 or 64 coins with big spreads and pretty MS-66’s for common dates.
Where have all the CAC 64 Saints gone? I know gold is cheap, but come on! I go to a major show and buy one piece. I like the large amount of gold in a Saint, along with the nice eye appeal. Something to keep in mind -- commercial MS-65’s are bid so cheaply now that it may start to pay to buy 65’s as high-end 64’s. Maybe CAC could sticker them with a different color to signify that the coin is not a P.Q. 65 but – in their view - a P.Q. 64. If commercial 65’s get cheaper, a CAC 64 would be worth more!
By Warren Mills
Many collectors and dealers have no idea who we are. I wish I did more to promote us, but it is so self-serving that I have always had distaste for it. There’s an old saying, “If you have to tell me how good you are, I’m going the other way” or something like that! Just this week in the January 25th issue of Coin World on Page 24, our 1943 Lincoln Cent struck on a silver dime is highlighted.
This week, we also discovered the second known variety of an 1856-O Seated Half, Obverse 7 and Reverse D, a very early die state as well. Not to mention the many Registry sets we’ve help to assemble and to which we contributed. People are still talking about the Walter Freeman collection of 3 Cent Silvers we assembled and sold for our client at the 2013 F.U.N. Auction. The 1857 in MS-65 alone sold for $38,187.50.
I hope to be remembered as a person that wanted to act as a good steward for future generations of collectors. We are all collectors at RCNH, and we enjoy and love our hobby. It isn’t too much work for us to help anyone with an interest in coins. Do we know it all? Of course not. Are we the best company out there? We try! I can say that we will always devote our time and effort to help our clients in the best way we can.
Partner and owner of Rare Coins of New Hampshire, Inc. since June, 1990 and a full time coin dealer since 1979. Warren is a full member of the Professional Numismatists Guild and a life member of the American Numismatic Association. He was selected by the Rosen Numismatic Advisory as one of the ten leading numismatists in the country for twelve consecutive years. He was selected by PCGS and written up in their newsletter as handling and submitting some of the nicest coins they have ever seen.
The Treasure of the San Jose
By Joseph Presti
San Jose is a name you will want to remember, not because it is a beautiful city in California, but because it is destined to be remembered as the greatest treasure ship in history. The San Jose was a 500-foot-long, three-decked ship with 500 individuals on board that was sunk by the British in 1708 off the coast of Columbia and was thought to have been carrying at the time up to three-years’ worth of the annual income of the country of Spain.
Its cargo contained jewels, including emeralds, precious metals and 11 million gold coins! The ship was part of a 15 ship armada sailing for Spain when it was ambushed in 1708 by a quicker British fleet of four ships that sank it. Fortunately, for numismatists today, the ship sank in about 1000 feet of water and no one has been able to locate or recover the treasure until modern salvage methods were used.
But wait -- the back story of the legal battle is almost as interesting as the treasure itself. A U.S. owned salvage group notified the Columbian government that they had pinpointed the San Jose back in 1981. Long established modern international salvage law stated that finders split 50/50 with the country in whose waters the ship was found. Rather than enter a long legal battle, the two parties agreed that the salvage group would get 35% with the remaining 65% going to Columbia.
A couple of years later, the Columbian government changed the rules by passing a law granting the salvage company a paltry 5% of the treasure. The salvage company sued in Columbia and that country’s Supreme Court ruled for a 50/50 split, which the Columbian government decided not to recognize. The salvage company then sued in the U.S. and the case was ceremoniously dismissed.
Back to the treasure - even if one-tenth of the 11 million coins are recovered, this would wreak havoc in the Spanish coin market. Since the coins were minted from gold, the conservation process could potentially restore the coins to their original condition much like the S.S. Central America and Brother Jonathon coins were restored to their original mint brilliance.
Estimates value the treasure at a minimum of $1 billion to a maximum of $10-$17 billion, and that is in dollars and not pesos. If these estimates prove to be true, it would make the San Jose the most valuable shipwreck ever. For a small country such as Columbia, this could be a significant source of income should they wish to liquidate some of the treasure and house the remainder in a museum built to display the treasure, which is currently planned.
Although as of early 2016, no coins have yet to be brought to the surface, leaving possibly billions of dollars in gold on the sea floor while the court battle wages on.
1. What was the family business for legendary collector John Work Garrett?
2. Why were arrows added to dimes, quarters and half dollars from 1853-1855?
3. What are the two different proof 1921 Morgan Dollars called?
I'm Not Going To Work Today
The Wedding Gift
By Dave Carleton
Like so many other collectors, my interest in coins was cultivated by my dad and grandfather. They also collected other things. My dad collected match book covers and Zippo lighters and some very ornate cigarette cases. I was told that when my Dad was a senior in high school, World War II started and all the boys in his class were given a choice -- Army, Navy, or the Marines. My Dad chose the Marines, and I believe that was his introduction to smoking Chesterfield cigarettes and collecting smoking paraphernalia.
My grandparents were both born in 1900 and were married in 1921. My grandfather had many enterprises, one of which was his ice business. He was the ice man here in Milford for many years. The ice business was one that generated a lot of coins and my grandmother told me that one of her jobs aside from keeping the books was to roll up coins and turn them into the bank. She knew I had an interest in coins and she would tell me about some of the coins that came through her hands, but they couldn’t afford to save or collect them. Some of the coins she described made my mind race. She said that once in a while a coin would come by that she just had to set aside, but that box had turned up missing. I can only imagine what was in that box.
My grandfather had a room in the house where he kept all his fishing and hunting clothes, as well as all his guns, rods and reels. There was also a very ornate safe in there and I always felt comfortable rummaging around in it. I did most of these inspections when I was twelve or thirteen and had other things on my mind after that, and had no reason to go in there for years.
Quite a few years went by and I was visiting my grandparents in the mid-80s. We were talking about my decision to trade coins professionally and my grandfather expressed his opinion that coin collecting was a great hobby, but to make a living at it was a bit far-fetched. I could feel his concern, but it was something I just had to explore. While we were having our conversation, I remembered a small wicker basket in their safe; it reminded me of the May baskets that the girls used to leave on my doorstep on May Day. I remembered that the little basket had some coins in it and wondered if the basket was still in the safe.
My grandmother said that she was sure that the basket was still there and that it was a wedding gift and that I should go and get it and she would tell me about it. Sure enough, the basket was still there and probably where I had set it years earlier. I brought the little basket in to the kitchen and sat with my grandparents as I opened it up. The basket was lined with red and blue crepe paper folded down over the coins. When I pulled the paper aside, there was a group of beautiful Silver Dollars. My grandmother told me that one of the common practices of the day was to give the bride and groom a bright new shiny Silver Dollar as a present and these were the Dollars that they were given.
Well, you’ve probably guessed… and you’re right. Half of the Dollars were 1921 Morgan’s and the other half were Peace Dollars. I knew the difference in value between the two coins was huge, but I didn’t want to get too excited and certainly didn’t want to get my grandparents all excited. I told them that there was value in the coins and that I could turn them into cash if they wanted me to do so. They thought that was a good idea and I left with the coins.
I had recently met Warren Mills, a real numismatist (who would eventually be my business partner), and I knew that even though I didn’t have the ability to market the coins properly, he certainly would. Back then, you could sell coins for cash and nobody made a big deal about it, and that’s what Warren did. It took a few shows to market the coins, but it got done.
To this day, I can’t help but think of how pleased the people who attended my grandparents wedding would be to know that – 65 years later – their gift translated into thousands of dollars. I racked up a few points with my grandparents and have always felt that it was fitting that they enjoy some rewards for supporting my interests.
David Carleton, a New Hampshire native was introduced to coin collecting by his father and Grandfather in the 50’s. Gold bullion speculation dominated the 70’s culminating in 1980 when focus on Numismatics returned. He became a life member of the ANA , met Warren Mills (his coin Guru) and they cofounded RCNH in 1990.
My Thoughts on the ’Over 81’ Date Punch Blunders
of the 1844 and 1851 Large Cents
By Lou Roten
We recently had a nice well-circulated example of the 1851/81 large cent enter our inventory (and exit quickly). Warren purchased it because the overdate was so clear, which is not always the case. The coin was submitted to PCGS and returned VF25. I found little information on the web for this variety; I did see a few inquiries for opinions as to whether the coin just purchased by the inquirer could be an example of the overdate, evidence that this feature is not always obvious.
The Red Book describes the 1851/81 and the earlier 1844/81 overdates as blunders. It is curious why the last two digits of the dates of these two varieties are both over punched 81’s. The 1844/81 in MS 64 (tied for finest known then) sold for a whopping $29,900 in a 2011 auction:
Dates were hand-punched digit by digit in those early days, often using incompatible font punches resulting in a huge number of varieties with large and small, slanted, upright or ‘fancy’ numerals, spacing varieties and so on. It is probable that many working dies would have been prepared with the first two digits - 18 - punched first, with the following two digits left blank for the years to come.
I could speculate that there were some working dies mistakenly punched during or before 1844 with the 81 punched as if the one punching the date were thinking of a mirror image, punching the 18 in reverse order and upside down, wrongly thinking the die would produce the correct numerical order and orientation on the planchet.
The reverse order 18 may be an example of a new mint employee having his first experience preparing dies, wrongly thinking the dates would have to be punched backwards. Following on with this speculation, once his immediate supervisor saw the mistake, those wrongly punched dies would be set aside but not destroyed. The inverted punch is not consistent with the idea of a mirror image, but the reverse order could be interpreted if one does not think carefully. Facing a mirror, the right arm appears to be the left and vice-versa; however, fortunately, the mirror does not re-orient our arms from their original position on our bodies. Who can tell what the (newly hired?) puncher may have been thinking?
In the image of the 1851/81 below, the inverted 1 is very clear with the foot of the wrongly punched 1 very evident beneath the over punch. The second 8 to me is not so obviously inverted, but one can guess that it probably was. It does look slanted left to right as well. There must have come a time when fresh working dies were needed to replace fatigued dies; as an expedience, the faulty dies were re-punched to use them up, no doubt saving time, money and resources in the process.
There are a few rim ticks, but otherwise, this is a cool example of the ‘blundered’ date punch. See the expanded view of the date below.
The other 81 overdate, 1844/81 just arrived in the last week. This example is much more worn than the 1851 example and the previously punched 81 is not so evident. There is a remnant of the 8 to the upper right of the first 4; a trace of the foot of the 1 is also evident at the upper left of the second 4. Images of this example are also below. It is a nice coincidence that both examples of the ‘over 81’ date punch blunders of this period were here at the same time.
It has been fun for me to speculate as to how these two overdates may have been produced. I welcome any comments that may reveal the truth of what happened, or perhaps expand on my speculation.
My Numismatic RecordsBy Paul Battaglia
I was born in the middle of the 19th century. Obviously, I was analog by nature as computers were in their very infancy. My introduction to computers was a one-week crash course in the mid-1980s; the alternative was to lose my job as the guy before me had suddenly been canned. The man for whom I worked absolutely needed the computer for posting BUY/SELL spreads on all U.S. coins on an often immediate time table. The new position also came with a raise. I learned what I needed to know in a week. I also took my newly acquired knowledge to upload my personal numismatic and exonumic (my word creation here) inventory from my paper card files. However, I have since erased my digital files. My decision was based on the superb job that hackers have initiated against a computer system to which many of us are now enslaved.
My article sounds a bit anti-computer, but I assure all readers that I am not opposed to the digital age. I am fond of stating that computers are simultaneously both boon and bane, much like most network reporting. May I also state that having both a paper card system and a digital file covers you 100%? I also have digital scans of my material in addition to actual paper photographs. Extra work? Yes, but my choice. I endured a break-in during July 1980 while living in one of the Boston suburbs. A good part of my material had been taken out of my bank’s vaults prior to the Fourth of July so I could add a few pieces as well as review my stuff over that long holiday weekend. Well, I wish they had just stolen my stuff outright instead of how they left my coins….graffiti on the surfaces, and I am not kidding. My point here is that I had extensive files plus paper photographs to submit to both my carrier as well as the I.R.S. The former made good on the irreparable damages less the deductible. The latter took care of the percentage permitted by law back then when deductions were more generous. Over time, I located the coins that had been ruined. You just have to move on and put it behind you. My extensive files did help me feel somewhat better as the monetary aspect of the loss was covered nearly 90%.
I DO heartily recommend that you at least consider maintaining or creating a paper file and paper photograph file of your material. Insurance carriers love and respect exhaustive records. Don’t give your carrier any wiggle room where they can deny or reduce your valid claim.
An old saying I am fond of voicing is, “Cash makes no enemies, so let’s be friends!” Cash makes the best deals and a lack of a receipt can often sweeten the deal further until you have to prove what you paid and without a receipt. I always record my deals and pay by check when possible, which is, again, my choice. I add the setting where I made the purchase, the ensuing conversation around the transaction, and other salient points. In this way, you can more easily re-create that moment with your mind’s eye, which is to your benefit. I lean on both my conscious and subconscious mind to assist me in recalling events, people, places and things, given the nature of my work. “Mnemonic devices” (memoria technica) have been an ally to me in my numismatic career as well as daily living. I am certain that you have formed your personal mnemonics, too.
A supply of carbon paper for duplicate copies is necessary and, yes, that stuff is still available. If not, carbonless paper is fine. You will also discover that each time you record a purchase that a different colored writing instrument will be used. This is not coincidence whatsoever and strengthens your analog records since it is random order.
I hope that my system is of some value to readers. I invite your comments, please.
Paul Battaglia is the Senior Numismatist and a Life Member of the ANA. He travels with owner, Warren Mills, to the major coin shows across the country. Paul has 50+ years numismatic experience and has been with RCNH since 1990. He also cherishes reading, cooking, language, music, classic cars, lily/orchid culture, chess, economic statistics, differing viewpoints and FISHING.
Letters From Our MailbagQuestions and Answers:
Last month, Paul wrote an article about “The Magic of Microwave Cooking”. One of our clients hid a coin in a microwave to have a spot where no crook would think to look. His family rarely uses the microwave, but you guessed it, one day they used it and cooked their poor $10 Indian. I had more than one person at the F.U.N. Show ask me if the story were true.
The answer is YES! I saw it with my own eyes when the customers brought it in to ask us if we would assist him with an insurance claim, if necessary! There even was a small thread on the internet about it!
And guess what? It’s not the first time it has happened. One of our clients cooked an entire box of NGC coins in their stove! Three things come immediately to mind. Why hide them in a place that could do damage to them? Secondly, don’t leave the room when a dangerous appliance is on. Third, let the pros at NCS try to save the coins. Don’t try to get the melted plastic off yourself.
Answers To Coin Trivia Questions
1. They owned the B&O railroad
2. To reduce the weight of the coin, thus reducing the intrinsic value of the silver the coin was made of.
3. Zerbe, after Farran Zerbe, former president of the ANA and Chapman, after coin dealer Henry Chapman.