The Gold and Silver Mine – Week of Oct. 26, 2012

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Values of older coins and currency, part 1

A weekly column dedicated to “digging out” current information about precious metals, coins and other numismatics.

This week’s column borrows an approach from David Letterman with a list of the top ten questions we get about the value of coins, etc. Due to space limitations, we’ll do five questions now and the remainder next week.

1. What are wheat cents worth? Wheat cents are those cents minted from 1909 until 1958 and are so called because of the two wheat ears pictured on the coin’s reverse. I like to tell people they are worth 100 percent profit, which is a fancy way of saying 2 cents each. (Doesn’t 100 percent profit sound better?)

2. What are silver certificates worth? Silver certificates come in $1, $5, and $10 denominations, have a blue seal and the words “Silver Certificate” across the top of the note. They are called silver certificates because until 1968, they were able to be redeemed for their value in silver. The value of these notes is 10 percent over the face value.

3. What are red seal $2 and $5 notes worth? These are known as United States Notes, with that title across the top of the note. Although they were backed by precious metals, unlike the silver certificates they could not be redeemed. They, too, are worth 10 percent over their face value. (As an aside, all our currency today are Federal Reserve Notes with green seals, and they are not backed by anything except our faith in the government).

4. What are Indian cents worth? Indian cents were minted from 1859 until 1909. They were minted in a combination of copper and nickel from 1859 to 1864, and thereafter in bronze until 1909. The copper-nickel ones are worth $1, while the bronze ones are worth 25 cents.

5. What are Buffalo nickels worth? Buffalo nickels are so called because they have a design of a buffalo on the reverse and an Indian head on the obverse. They were minted from 1913 until 1938. Because of a design flaw, the date wore off the coin rather quickly, and as such, many of the coins have no date showing. This was corrected in 1926. Therefore, most coins with dates still visible are 1926 or later. Dateless Buffalo nickels are worth 6 cents each, while ones with dates are between 10-15 cents each.

A word about these values: these prices are for the commonest examples in average condition, which are those most likely to be found. Rare dates and coins in very high grades will command a higher price.

Douglas Keefe is the president of Beachcomber Coins, Inc. He and his wife Linda operate Beachcomber Coins and Collectibles in the Shore Mall as well as satellite offices in both Brigantine and Absecon. Between them they have over 70 years experience in the coin and precious metals business. They are members of The American Numismatic Association, the Industrial Council of Tangible Assets, The Numismatic Guarantee Corporation and The Professional Coin Grading Service.

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