CoinWeek Podcast #151: Collecting Modern U.S. Coins From Change
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Charles Morgan and Chris Bulfinch start off this episode of the CoinWeek Podcast with a discussion of the quick sellout of the 2021-W American Silver Eagle Proof Coin and talk about how the issue marks the end of an era for the world’s most popular bullion coin.
After that, Charles and Chris break down everything you need to know about putting together a collection of modern U.S. coins from change. They give battle-tested strategies for getting circulating coins in bulk from your bank at face value and building a collection at no premium to you.
They talk about dump banks, coin folders, coin tubes, which denominations are most likely to yield silver coinage, and, finally, Charles shares a crazy story about how one of his friends had a source to buy $1,000 mixed-date Eisenhower Dollar bags at face value and would sometimes find American Silver Eagles, Morgan and Peace dollars!
If you’re a budget collector, this episode is for you!
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The following is a transcript of Charles’ and Chris’s conversation
Charles Morgan: Hi everybody. This is Charles Morgan with Chris Bulfinch. This week on the CoinWeek Podcast, Chris and I will go over our tips and strategies and how you might be able to assemble a really cool modern US coin collection by not buying a single coin but instead pulling each and every one of them out of face value. We will also let you know how you can organize your collection and improve upon it as you find new coins. You’ll learn our strategies and tips next on the CoinWeek Podcast.
Hey Chris, how are you doing?
Chris Bulfinch: Hey, Charles, I’m doing pretty well. How about yourself?
Charles: I’m doing pretty good. I had a really cool trip to the mailbox today. Guess what came in my mailbox, young squire?
Chris: What was in there?
Charles: Well, I got the December 2020 edition of the Journal of Early American Numismatics, this is Volume III, Number 2 from the American Numismatic Society. I cannot wait to spend the weekend looking at it. They have a very lengthy piece of Thomas Goadsby’s letter book. These are basically taking Goadsby’s writings and putting them in type, and putting them together, so you can see how he interacted with people in the production of some colonial coinage. Also, there is a great piece on S.C. Kingman and Fugio Restrikes. Finally, an article about lead and pewter cast counterfeits that were discovered in the 1970s under I-95. I always knew something was buried under I-95, but to read about these very interesting counterfeits can be something very cool. Do you know how you can get a copy of this yourself?
Chris: I think if I was going to try to get a copy, I’d probably become a member of the American Numismatic Society.
Charles: Yeah, you’d want to do that. You can also buy the edition on their website. The American Numismatic Society is certainly an organization that is worth your time. No matter how sophisticated or unsophisticated your coin collecting interests are, you’ll definitely learn something and the benefits of their scholastic and scholarly research have enriched my enjoyment of coins. I’m completely stoked at having this arrived in my mailbox.
Chris: Well, I’m glad to hear that the unsophisticated can benefit from a membership, that means that I’ll get something out of it.
Charles: Perfect. There’s something big going on. If you’re watching this podcast– or listening to this podcast, you may want to take note, we’re in a transitional year of the American Silver Eagle. What’s going on with that coin?
Chris: Yeah, as anyone who’s followed the story of America’s silver bullion coin knows, a new design is being introduced this year, 2021. After a number of years of thinking about it and after having a couple of designs proposed, the new Silver Eagles are going to be available in mid-2021 featuring a design of an eagle coming in for a landing designed by Emily Damstra, and sculpted by Michael Gaudioso, shortly before his retirement in late 2020. It’ll be replacing John Mercanti’s Heraldic Eagle which has been on the reverse of the American Silver Eagle since 1986, when the series was introduced, and there will be Proof striking at West Point… of the final Proof striking of Mercanti’s Silver Eagle at West Point. Then once Damstra’s design is introduced later in the year, there’ll be Proof striking for her piece from West Point and San Francisco. Then they’ll shift the bullion strike designs over as well. That’s what’s going on with the American Silver Eagle. There’s a big change. Anyone who’s collected that series or enjoys them should absolutely consider picking up either some of Mercanti’s final– or some of the final coins featuring Mercanti’s design and/or some featuring Damstra’s new design.
Charles: Mercanti’s design is definitely going to go down as a classic. I’ve had the opportunity to talk to John a number of times. I consider him a dear friend. He’s one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. John was very proud of the reverse work he did on that. It typifies, I think, one of his strengths, which is fine line art. If you go through the Modern Commemorative series, you’ll know that John did a number of the architectural coin designs. It’s just amazing. If you take the sophistication of Frank Gasparro’s Memorial cent design, of course, that’s on a very small canvas, and just take that form and make it more intricate, more detailed, more exacting, you get a taste for what John did with his line art and his engraving.
Also, I know I’ve talked to John about the engravers at the minute, who he admired. He deeply loved almost every artist who worked there with him, above him, or under him, but he spoke very highly of Gaudioso’s work. I think it’s a great final contribution of his career, that he gets to take the reverse on the most popular numismatic and bullion coin that the US Mint produces. If you dipped out of the American Silver Eagle design, 1986 to 2021, that now will go down as a complete period. Then, 2021 onward to a date unspecified will be a new era. This is definitely going to be one of those years you want to check out. You might want to get that last of one design and the first of the other, collectors like bookends, and here’s your chance.
Chris: Any collectors or investors concerned about security, can rest a little bit easier buying the new American Silver Eagles because they’re integrating anti-counterfeiting technology. There’s been a large spike in counterfeiting of American Silver Eagles over the last number of years. In fact, in 2018, a survey conducted by the Industry Council on Tangible Assets, ICTA, back in 2018 actually found that American Silver Eagles were the most commonly counterfeited, or at least were the silver bullion coin that a number of dealers were most likely to have encountered. The study concluded that it was one of the most, if not the most, frequently counterfeited coin. So, calls for the mint to implement security features had been coming from a number of quarters for quite some time. These new American Silver Eagles with Emily Damstra’s design will have anti-counterfeiting technology. That’s an element of these coins that’s worth examining.
Charles: Yeah, super important. Speaking of counterfeiting, let me share with you, Chris, this email I got today from coinweek.com, from a reader, and see if you can chime in on this. I was blown away by it. The reader wrote, “I just bought a Morgan Silver Dollar. I was a skeptic about the price, so I only bought one to see if it was legit. After about six weeks, it showed up and it looked fine. I bought 27 more for a price of $199. I noticed on my PayPal that the offering company was from China. I’m thinking there are coin collectors in China and maybe someone is liquidating an estate. Six weeks later, the coins showed up, still was a little uneasy about them, so I put one on a scale. It only weighed 22.8 grams. So, I’m sure I got screwed. This company is advertising on my Facebook account. The coins look great, by the way. They’re scuffed up and dirty, but they’re not very worn. Not sure what to do with them at this point.” Sounds to me, like this collector, got taken and should have known better.
Chris: I hate to say it and– I hate to hear these accounts of people who go out and spend any amount of money to buy coins that are counterfeit, but this is, unfortunately, a painful lesson that I think should remind our audience that if buying coins, try to go through reputable dealers or dealers with whom you have a relationship. Going for anonymous sellers from China, that is a surefire way to end up buying counterfeit or forged coins. Although interestingly, Charles, I was thinking about this, I only recently learned the difference between the term “counterfeit” and “forged” because, for years, I had used those terms interchangeably, I just thought, “Oh, it’s a fake coin.” Forged, counterfeit, I thought they were synonymous. They are broadly similar, but I find the distinction between them interesting, that a counterfeit coin is a fake coin that’s struck intending to pass as a regular coin in circulation. Whereas a forged coin is a fake coin designed to be passed off as a collectible piece. That distinction is really interesting to me.
There have been so many conversations in numismatic spaces about counterfeiting, especially as the kind of scourge of counterfeiting has gotten so much worse, or the problem of counterfeiting has gotten so much worse in recent years, that hearing about this all the time, I actually ended up looking into the terms and they are different, which I found interesting. My question to you is this, would you consider– these Morgan dollars, I would argue are forgeries as opposed to counterfeits because they weren’t struck with the intention of circulating them, because Morgan dollars don’t circulate anymore. Wouldn’t it be fair to say that the coins that this unfortunate listener or reader of CoinWeek wrote in about are forgeries as opposed to counterfeits, or do you think that the term ‘counterfeit’ also describes them?
Charles: Well, I think in this situation, the intent of it is clearly to deceive a coin collector. An actual Morgan dollar should weigh 26.73 grams, or thereabouts. I don’t know what these coins are made of from a metallic content situation. I still think as they’re legal tender, even though one would be foolish to take an actual legitimate Morgan dollar and use it, you certainly could and it’s still worth $1. I would just say there are no Santa Clauses in numismatics. There’s nobody who’s going to have a valuable coin that they could sell for market price or retail price and they’re going to give you an inside scoop and inside deal and sell for much less than it would be worth. If you go on to any reputable coin website or even eBay, and you see Morgan dollars trading from dealers with reputable feedback ratings, you’re going to see that they don’t cost that much money, they cost maybe twice as much, and nobody is going to sell you 27 more for $199.
Chris: Yeah, that’s crazy.
Charles: You know going into this deal that you’re trying to take advantage of a situation, and you think you’re smarter than the person selling it to you, and that is where you make the mistake. This person got taken for $199 plus whatever they paid for the first one. My recommendation to them is to take all of the records of their transaction, and the coins, contact your local office of the United States Secret Service, hand it over, let them start an investigation into the seller to see if there’s anything that they want to or can do about it. You’re not going to get your money back. If they’re going to scam you for the money and send you these fake coins, what makes you think that they’re going to accept that back? What are you going to do, give them a negative feedback rating? It’s a $200 tuition in the school of hard knocks and don’t make that mistake again.
Chris: Your point about tuition cost is well taken and it’s unfortunate, like you said, that this person had to end up losing what $200 and some odd, on a deal that ended up not being aboveboard? Unfortunately, that is a risk you run, and ideally, again, buy from reputable dealers try to get to know the dealers that you’re buying from. There are lots of honest dealers out there who will sell you coins at a fair price, assuming you’re willing to pay it and it’s best to go through those people. In the future, just please go to an established coin dealer.
Charles: If you’re a new collector, and you may be and if you are, welcome, there’s actually a way to collect US coins without paying a premium for any of them. Unlike our emailer with their situation with the fake Morgan dollars, you can almost be assured that you can put these sets together and every single coin will be authentic legal tender US coins. Today, Chris and I are going to embark on the first of a two-part series, where we teach you and give you some tips about how to put together coin albums of coins. In this part, we’re going to talk about pulling coins from circulation and what you’re looking for. In the next part, which we’ll publish next week, we’ll talk about how you will be able to collect classic US coins. Those coins you will have to purchase, again preferably through reputable dealers, but we’re going to give you best practices, how to store them, and what to look for when you’re putting your set together so that you’ll have a set that is not only beautiful to look at but will be put together at a reasonable cost to you, and in the best conditions, so that the coins, the set will have a coherent look to them. I look forward to that second part of that where we’re going to talk about some great US coin designs throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.
Today, we’re going to focus on modern coins. This is a way for you to either do this yourself just for your own personal fun that treasure hunt aspect of it, or to introduce younger collectors into the coin collecting hobby. You can buy any of the materials that we’re going to talk about in this podcast from CoinWeek’s supplies on our website. We have them from different brands, I’m not going to tell you one brand is preferable to the other. It all depends on what the aesthetics are that you’re looking for. Essentially, we have in circulation, one-cent coins, nickel coins, dimes, quarters, and half dollars. There are also Golden Dollar coins, some Susan B. Anthonys that are around, but you’ll find it a little bit unsatisfactory, I believe, trying to build an album of Golden Dollars from circulation because all of the dates after 2011 were only produced for collectors and sold at a premium by the mint. However, you can reasonably put together a collection of cents, let’s say after 1940 nickels with the exception of maybe some of the war years, World War Two, dimes after 1965 and quarters after 1965, and maybe even half dollars.
Chris: You probably have a really hard time with a 1950-D Jefferson nickel though, that’s a fairly rare coin.
Charles: You might.
Chris: At least rarer than its compatriots.
Charles: Yeah, there might be one or two there. You can put together, for the most part, complete sets of these coins by taking them out of your change. We’re going to talk a little bit how you do that and how you can use this as an exercise to teach yourself how to grade circulated coins to learn how coins circulate over time, and to also learn what uncirculated coins look like. Let’s start with Lincoln cents.
The Lincoln cent was issued first in 1909, and it was the first US circulating coin to honor United States President, and it started a trend that really didn’t kick off in full swing until the 1930s with the introduction of the Washington quarter and then in ’38, you had the Jefferson nickel. At that point, we start to see Liberty being removed from coins and allegorical figures going by the wayside to be replaced by historical figures. It’s 2020 now, so the last wheat penny, that’s the original design from Victor David Brenner had two wheat stocks, and very simple reverse, which actually I preferred to all of the reverses. That design ended in 1958. It’s going to take you some amount of searching to find any number of wheat cents. About 20 years ago, I went through a few thousand dollars of pennies from my bank in Arizona, and I was able to put together rolls and rolls of wheat cents to the tune of about $1,000 worth of them, when I sold them at a coin dealer at three cents apiece. It’s been about 20 years, so I think that it’s probably going to be that much harder to find a quantity of wheat cents, but they are still out there. At the very least, you should be able to find most dates of Lincoln cents from after World War Two to the present without spending a single penny over their face value. If you are able to acquire these in rolls and in quantities. Have you ever tried to do this, pull coins from change?
Chris: Yeah. I think the earliest Lincoln cent I ever found in change was 1919. The two earliest were 1919 in 1929. The dates stick out just because they both end in nine. This was years ago, this was in like the early 2010s. Then I’ve also found I found 1925 buffalo nickel and change, a dateless standing Liberty quarter, a couple of 1964 Washington silver quarters. I’ve had some luck, I haven’t done it in a very systematic way. I’ve grabbed a few coin rolls and dug through them, done some coin roll hunting, but really not very much, though. It does seem like a lot of fun and it’s something that I’ve always kind of meant to get into. Especially with the pandemic, I don’t think I’ve been in a physical bank in probably over a year at this point, because most of most of the things that I need to buy, I can buy online or with a credit card, so I don’t really have much of a need to pay for– I don’t have to pay for much in cash. Again, like I said, I haven’t fished in my change in a systematic way, whenever back when I was transacting in person with cash relatively, frequently. I would always check my change and I had more than a few cashiers look at me go, “Oh, I’m sorry that I give you incorrect change.” I’m like, “No, no, no, I’m a collector. I’m just weird like that. I look at all the change that I get.” Then all my friends were like, “Come on, you’re holding up the line. We just want to get coffee. You don’t need to–”
Charles: Right, take your lollipop and go.
Chris: [chuckles] Yeah, exactly. To answer your question, I’ve never really done it in a systematic way, but I do enjoy doing it. If I find something cool in my change, I’m such a hoarder that I’ll pull out–If I find a Jefferson nickel from before 1960, I’ll pull it out. I think I remember seeing, I think it was Dennis Tucker who posted on Facebook recently. He works for Whitman Publishing just for our audience members who might not know. He had a post on Facebook, where he found a 1971-D Lincoln cent, and he basically said, “Finding a Lincoln cent that old is a little bit like finding a wheat cent,” or some earlier design. He compared it to that because wheat cents and other sorts of interesting collectible coins are becoming less and less common in circulation. Although really, aren’t all coins collectible to one degree or another?
Charles: Sure, certainly. Well, one of the things to consider, when we’re looking at that 1971 cent, for instance, after 1982, we see a composition change. Pre ’82, up to ’82 cents were made out of an alloy that was primarily copper. After that, these were basically zinc-plated steel cents, and what would happen, what hasn’t been happening, I think since that of that transition, is some speculators have been sorting pre-’82 copper Lincoln cents and putting them aside in the eventuality that copper prices rise to the point that they can melt them down and turn a profit. As far as collecting them is concerned, though, there’s a way to do this. Chris is right, and it’s funny that he brought up 1919 because when I was going through all these rolls of coins and putting my tubes together of the dates, because what I would do is, I would have a plastic tube for every date and mintmark that I found, that was a wheat cent from my coin roll hunting, and I would put them in there and the 1919 actually filled up, like I probably had two tubes of that, because that was a very high mintage year and that would be a year you would find, you would still find. Most of the coins you would find would be an AG3 or G4, which is like, in grading terms about good or good. If you know anything about coin grading, you know that good actually means terrible. [chuckles] Most of the design has been worn off of the coin.
Chris: Both the 1919 and 1929 cents that I found were both just beaten to hell. They were in very rough condition, but it was still cool to find them in change and to think that they might have been circulating for close to a century.
Charles: Yeah, but this is how you do it. The first thing is, you identify yourself in some way discreetly, to your local bank branch as a collector who likes to collect old coins. Then what you do is you find a second bank, which in the parlance of coin roll hunters, we call the Dump Bank. What the dump bank is, is the bank where you take your sorted and search rolls and you return them, so that you can deposit the money back into your bank. The goal is that you retain your investment, if you pull out $100 worth of penny, cents, you sort through them, you keep $2 worth of them. You return the $98 and you get that back on your account or you cash them out so you don’t have this giant, like, bag coins. In this way, you’re only paying for what you’re using. You’re not paying $4 a coin, $5 a coin you’re paying one cent per one-cent coins and even exchange.
You go to your regular bank, you ask them, “What rolls do you have?” Then you buy those rolls from them, you take them, you spend the weekend sorting them out, and then you take what you want and then you return the rest. I recommend for this that you have an album, it can either be a sophisticated Dansco album or Lighthouse album or intercept album with a plastic slider. Or, it can be as simple as just as HE Harris or Whitman coin folder which is open, has an open face the little hard cardboard cutouts for the coins and you just press them in there. What I would say is you go through it, you start to fill all your holes based on all the dates with whatever is acceptable that you find. Then you dump your coins, you get your money back and then you go and try to get a new allotment of coins.
As you’re going through them, you start sorting them by date and any coins that look nice by any date, regardless of whether you have them in your book, you put them aside, and then you start going through what I call is the Comparison Phase. This is where you take, “Oh, this is a 1968 with some red on it. Let me see what 1968 I have in my book.” Although the 1968 in my book is completely brown. Well, I like the one with the red better, so I’m going to pull the ’68 out of my book and I’ll put the new one in there. Now the old ’68 either I can decide to keep it because I’m fond of it or it can go back into my dump pile. As you do this, over time, over a couple of months you’ll find that you’re gradually improving the quality of your set, you haven’t spent one cent over the cost of the coins and your time which is a leisure activity here and you start to fill in all the holes in your albums.
When you are buying your albums, one point to make out the publisher, sometimes make albums that have Proof issues, as well as the circulation strikes, you will not for the purposes of building a collection out of face value, want to purchase the albums with the Proof holes because you will not likely find more than a couple of Proofs in circulation throughout your entire life. That usually happens when a youngster gets hold of a coin collection and takes the coins and spins them, or some mistaken situation or maybe a coin shop gets a coin, it’s a little bit and paired and they just throw it in the till or whatever. You’re not usually going to find Proof, so avoid the ones that say that they have Proof strikes as well. Anyway, this is the way I suggest you go about it at. The idea that I had about getting tubes to put the wheat cents in is also a fairly good idea because you can actually sell the wheat cents out of profit, not a big profit, but with some quantity maybe you get three or four cents per coin, and it is possible, and believe it or not to find AU, and sometimes still red, brown wheat cents in circulation. Although, again, this is usually because an old roll was sitting around and got spent sometimes by mistake.
On the Lincoln cent side, you usually have a few choices as far as the coin folders, there’s going to be a 1909 forward album, probably 1909 to 1940 thereabouts, then you’re going to have a 1941 to 1974. I think the ’41 to ’74 album should be completely doable in circulation with the possible exception of the ’43 zinc cents, that would be ’43-PDS. Those are fairly inexpensive to buy at a coin shop, coin show or from eBay. You may want to be on the lookout for coins that have been reprocessed to make them look artificially shiny. Zinc has a tendency to stain and eventually in circulation will turn black. Those coins are maybe the only ones from that ’41 to ’74 that might be hard to find and change. Anything from ’75 to present, would take you I probably no more than a few weeks of really looking forward to fill. There’s also a memorial cent album from ’59 to ’98, and there’s a ’99 to 2008 album. The Lincoln cent coin folder albums are subdivided because it’s a huge series been going on for over 100 years. I think having a cool set from ’41 to ’74 and ’75 to 2013 is something that you definitely would enjoy putting together if you decide to do so. Now let’s move on to nickels.
The Jefferson nickel debuts in 1938. Chris mentioned the 1950-D, which is going to be a tough one for you. This is was a heavily hoarded issue. Almost probably more than half of the mintage was hoarded as the coin came out, and was then marketed and sold at a premium. When coin investors and speculators were collecting and holding on to rolls of coins, the price of a 1950-D roll of coins, this was $2 worth of nickels, 40 coins, was selling for a couple $100, believe it or not. The price of the 1950-D nickel today isn’t that extreme, but they are worth more than face value. That will be a coin you’ll be very unlikely to find in change. However, I did find one. I found one in about AU. The coins that are really going to be tough to find outside of that are going to be the 1942 to 1945 nickels. Chris, you know why.
Chris: Yeah, during World War II– actually, incidentally, Charles, I did once find a 1970 Proof quarter in change. It does happen, it’s very rare, but it does happen.
As Charles mentioned, nickels struct during World War II, from 1942 to 1945, they’re a little bit different, in that they contain silver. They have a little bit of precious metal in them. During the war, nickel was designated as an important war resource. In order to a decrease the US mint’s usage of that metal, which was critical to a number of war industries, a new alloy was adopted, 56% copper, 35% silver, and 9% manganese, so there was no nickel in the nickels. They’re really not nickels at all. These coins circulated during the war, but they had a distinguishing feature that was adopted in part to help speed their removal from circulation after the war. The mint mark was enlarged and moved above a Monticello’s dome. On the pre-war issues, the mint mark was much smaller and nestled to the right of the building on the coins reverse. But during the war, they enlarge it and moved above Monticello’s dome. With that distinguishing mark, it became a lot easier to identify the coins and pull them out, so you don’t see nearly as many of them in circulation. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever come across a war nickel in circulation, though you can buy complete circulated, or complete sets of the coins in average circulated condition for not a huge amount of money. So, if you want the complete set and are willing to compromise on quality, you do have some options, but pulling them out of circulation is going to be exceedingly difficult. The silver in them, isn’t worth very much, they have a melt value of– the silver in them melts for about $1.52. It’s not as though if you find when you’ve hit the jackpot in terms of silver, obviously. They are a curiosity and they are easy to identify. People tend to pull them out of circulation fairly often.
Charles: Right. The way the budget albums are usually sorted, they’ll run the Jefferson nickels from ’38 to the early ’60s, and then there will be an album from like ’62 to ’95, and then ’96 to the present. I’m actually not really a huge fan of the redesign nickels and the ’90s forward. I think they’re a different type, although they still feature Jefferson, so they’re lumped together and these albums. To me, you would want to get the 38 to 61 album because those ’50s and early ’60s nickels are fun to find. Knowing that you may have to pay a little bit extra for those war nickels and the ’50-D, but definitely the ’60 to the ’95, everything in that set, you should be able to find a face value. All right, let’s move on to the dimes, Chris.
Dimes are going to be easily found in circulation starting in 1965. The Roosevelt dime doesn’t start in 1965, in fact, starts in 1946. But the reason why you’re not going to find anything with any regularity before 65 is because dimes struck before then were made of 90% silver.
Chris: The composition of the dimes dated 1964 and before are 90% silver as you mentioned, the standard circulating silver coin fineness, which incidentally was just phased out in the last couple of years. The mint had been striking 900 fine coins for inclusion in the silver Proof set, but then I believe in 2019, and I think we talked about this on a recent episode, I think. The law was changed to allow the mint to increase the silver fineness for coins in the silver Proofs at 2.999 fine like the bullion coins. The 90% silver fineness is no more, but the 90% silver dimes from 1946, 1964 contained about $1.96 worth of silver. Again, just like with the war nickels, you’re not hitting the jackpot if you find one, it is fun to find one. I think I found 1949 and 1964, I think are the two silver dates that I picked out of circulation, at least those are the ones that I can think of off the top of my head.
Like I said, it’s $1.96 worth of silver. Again, you can find them, especially if you’re roll hunting and going through large volumes of dimes, you will likely stumble upon a silver coin or two. Apparently, some people have had luck checking Coinstar reject trays, apparently sometimes silver coins will fall through the system and end up in the reject tray. Generally speaking, you’re probably not going to find a ton as you look through rolls. But again, every time you find one, like Charles said, is a little bit of a treasure hunt. There’s a bit of a thrill to finding that tiny little bit of circulating silver. Yeah, dimes again, post-’65, you’re probably going to find quite a few, pre-’65, not so much.
Charles: In fact, actually, it’s funny that Chris says that because I’m holding in my hand right now, maybe very good, 1954 Roosevelt dime that I found and change about two weeks ago.
Chris: Oh, cool.
Charles: This is in the pandemic. They do happen very, very, very infrequently. In fact, actually, I think I found more silver quarters in change than dimes, but they’re out there. Of course, if we were having this video produced in the early 1970s, this junk silver, circulated silver, would have been much more common. The federal government actually made a concerted effort to yank all these coins from change after they issued the clad coinage, even though they promised that they wouldn’t. There are actually photographs of the mint with giant sorting machines going through their coinage, as it was returned through the federal system pulling out the silver, which is why the silver disappeared so quickly.
For the dimes, you will notice that there are two dates that are really interesting, 1982 and 1983. They’re not necessarily rare by any stretch, they made hundreds of millions, 500 million of each ’82 and ’82 P/D mint, and 640 million ’83-P, 730 million ’83-Ds, but there were no mint sets released those years. These coins were not preserved in any appreciable quantitative to the tune of the million or so mint sets that the mint would have produced for coin collectors. Putting these aside and better grades, I would say extra fine and better, you can actually sell this for a premium over face value. In fact, actually, I’m going through my Harris album right now, these are coins I put together in 2000. I was able to pull out a mint-state ’82-P from change and a mint state ’82-D from change. However, the best ’83-P I found was probably about an AU, and the ’83-D was probably an XF. These are all from going through my bank, asking my bank for coins, looking through the rolls, grabbing the ones that are nice, constantly upgrading it. In fact, actually going through this album that I put together, I’m astonished I’m looking at a 1973 Roosevelt dime that looks as nice now as the day it was struck and I know I pulled that from change. It is doable, but again, you want to get that album starting in 1965.
Let’s move on to quarters, Chris. The same thing with quarters, right? Pre-’65 is going to be pretty tough because they’re silver, what is the silver quarter going for these days?
Chris: The silver in the silver quarter, at least its melt value according to Coinflation is $4.89. Just shy of five bucks worth of silver.
Charles: Yeah, that’s nice, and that’s one of the reasons why you’re not going to find too many. With quarters, you have basically three periods, three major periods during the last half a century or more. You have the ’65 to ’98 quarters. These have the Flanagan Heraldic Eagle reverse and is more or less an original obverse design. Starting in 1999, you have the state quarter program that runs for 1999 to 2008. In 2009, the mint created additional territorial and Washington DC quarter reverses, to the tune of five designs per year, by the way, so this is a very lengthy set. It’s 55, 56 designs, I think 56.
Chris: Yes, because DC and five territories. That’d be 56 in total.
Charles: Yeah, so 56 designs there. Then after that, you have the America the Beautiful quarter design, which just wrapped up this year with the Tuskegee release. With the quarters, I think more than any of the other designs even though it’s more money, you have quite a bit of things you could collect. It’s amazing that the state quarters are now we’re looking at over 20 years old. I literally remember the day the first coins were released, and they were selling rolls on QVC for about $100 a roll for $10 in quarters, because they were first day of issue, Delaware quarters from the Philadelphia Mint.
Chris: For $100 in 1999. Wow.
Charles: I remember going to my bank at the time and asking for the new designs as they came out, and getting brand-new rolls of the quarters from the bank. I didn’t even have to buy them for premium. I just got them at face value. Of course, at the time, the mint was selling rolls and they were also selling small bags, collectible bags, like canvas bags with quarters in them. Those are available, you can probably find those in the collector market, but all of these coins are available at face value. Again, you’d want to go to your bank, you’d want to get a quantity. You might want to get 10, 20, 30 rolls of quarters, whatever they have on hand. Your best bet is if they’re not freshly rolled rolls, especially if you’re trying to get the older dates, again, you want to go through them, do your sorting, find any silver if you’re lucky and then start to fill your holes. Again, you want to take your coins to the dump bank, so you don’t get them back again. Also, so you don’t annoy the people at the bank you’re trying to get the coins from.
Chris: I imagine, the people at the dump bank probably sooner or later, they’re going to recognize, they go, “Why does this person keep bringing in so much change?”
Charles: Right. I think one or two nuisance collectors won’t drive them too nuts.
Chris: No, I imagine that the number of people who do that is probably diffused over a fair amount of space, so they’re probably fine.
Charles: Then we get to the jackpot series, if you will. This is the half dollar series. I remember laughing, I saw a book published maybe 10 or 15 years ago at my local bookstore about how you can get rich coin roll hunting, which is probably not true unless you find a 1982-D small date copper coin, or a 1969 double die or something. They were basically–
Chris: That’s kind of a genre unto itself, isn’t it? The book and article of, “Hey, is your penny worth $10,000?” That is basically a genre at this point, isn’t it?
Charles: That’s a well-trod chestnut of the coin journalism industry that we get these people who think they have these coins. But the thing is that this isn’t so likely to happen that you’re going to find a lot of material that’s going to really be super profitable. However, half dollars haven’t really been a mainstay in circulation for 30 years or even more. I think the last time I got a half dollar in change incidentally that I spent without thinking was a 1982-83.
Chris: See, I’ve only ever gotten one half dollar in change. It was either one or two half dollars, but I remember I was surprised that I got a half dollar in change at all. It’s to say that I got– I received half dollars in change for one transaction. I was at a farmers’ market in Burlington, Vermont. The proprietor of a stand that I bought– I think I bought a wallet. I think it was a leather, I seem to remember that it was like a handcrafted leather goods station. I paid for whatever it is that I bought and I got half dollars in change. I think they were dated either the ’90s or the early aughts. I did a double-take and was like, “Oh my God. Wow, half dollars.” I think that’s the only time I’ve ever transacted or I’ve ever conducted a transaction and received half dollars. It never happened within my lifetime, so maybe back in the ’80s it was different.
Charles: Yeah, for me, it was in October of 1983, and Sean Connery had reprised his role as James Bond, despite saying he wouldn’t, in Never Say Never Again.
Charles: I was at the movie theater with my dad, buying one of those chocolate nonpareils with a little like white dots on them, I forget.
Chris: Ah, I love those.
Charles: Yeah, so anyway, that was the last time I got or paid for anything in a half dollar, incidentally, without doing it on purpose. I did actually make the point a few years ago, I was a member of the coin collector community forum. I asked the folks there to help me spend $100,000 in golden dollars and half dollars to try to get the coins to circulate, which I believe they did, and then some. I would at that point purposefully spend half dollars but that’s really more on a lark, not on actually “seeing them in change” situation. When you go to the bank, if they do have half dollars, sometimes they’ll get them from people who have saved them for many years, and they will have provided them to the bank. On occasion, you’re going to find Franklin half dollars, on occasion you’ll find pre-1970 Kennedy half dollars, of course, the ’64 Kennedys are 90% silver, the Franklins are 90% silver, the Kennedys from ’65 to ’70. You probably won’t really find the ’70s because they were made for mint sets only, but occasionally they get broken up and the coins might get spent. Those coins will tend to be more or less in the extra-fine range, the Kennedys will be. The Franklins can be worn all the way down to good, but what is the going rate for a silver half dollar?
Chris: The 64 Kennedy half, the 90% is $9.78 worth of silver. The 40% of the brief, silver-clad composition is $4. For the base metal coins, it is–
Charles: Base metal coins probably were 15 cents.
Chris: The base metal coin, [chuckles] even less. According to Coinflation, the base metal ’71 to 2020 Kennedy half dollar has 10 cents’ worth of metal in it. Its melt value is 10 cents. In a sense, you’d be losing quite a bit of money if you went and melted them. You’d be better off spending them at face value for the most part. Although if you wanted to keep them as curiosities, like I did, after my Burlington, Vermont transaction back in 2013, you should probably just hold on to them because they’re worth more as curiosities than their metal value.
Charles: If you take them to your bullion dealer or your coin shop, they are probably going to give you less than spot price because the weight of the coin is going to be less because it has worn off some of the metal in its circulation. You won’t likely find large dollars, Eisenhower dollars in any quantity from most of your banks, but it is possible to complete a series of Eisenhower dollars with the exception of the ’73 because that was struck for mint sets only. But from ’71 to ’72, you can find these coins from ’74. There is no ’75 Ike dollar, those are Bicentennial issues, but you can find most of the dates of the series if you go to a bank and ask them if they have large dollars. They won’t always have large dollars, on occasion they will, but you can get those coins for face value. Again, you can get Susan B. Anthony dollars for face value and golden dollars from 2000 through about 2011 but the majority will be the first year or two of Sacajawea issues and the first year or two of the presidential dollar issues. The rest of them are made only for collectors. I find that the golden dollars really start to tarnish quickly and are not appealing to me to buy in circulated condition, but it is possible. If you’re again trying to help a youngster put a collection together, those are available to you.
I do have a fascinating tale for you. A collector I know who’s actually pretty sophisticated Eisenhower dollar collector, he sold his collection for over $100,000 because he put together a top-tier registry set collection. But he had a side hustle where he would sell pre 82 copper and he would sell uncirculated Eisenhower dollars. He must have had a connection, like some connection I cannot imagine, because he would buy $1,000 bags of Eisenhower dollars on a regular basis. He would buy these things and just sort through them. If they were mixed date bags, which most of them were, he would find Silver Eagles in there. He would find Morgan dollars and Peace dollars in there. Not with any great frequency or regularity, but people would just spend Silver Eagles as big dollars. People would take old, beat-up Morgan and peace dollars and just turn them into banks and banks wouldn’t know what to do with them, and they would bundle them with these coins and sell them off in gross. I always found that amazing. He would make $200-$300 and silver coins practically on every other bag he would get from this company. Then sometimes he was able to get bags that were all like one-date Eisenhower dollars. He had a bag of ’72-Ds, which was not available in mint sets. They didn’t start putting Ike dollars in mint sets until ’73. But he had a bag of Unc ’72-Ds, he sent about 300 in to get graded and sold them at a profit. It was just a very lucrative situation for him. It blew my mind that in 2010, 2015, something that period of time that people were still able to do that.
Chris: Oh, wow, that is really interesting. Also, whenever I think of large volumes of Eisenhower dollars, I always think of the beginning of the movie, Casino, in that scene where the guy walks into– Have you seen it?
Charles: Oh, yeah, classic.
Chris: Yeah. You know the scene where at the beginning where the guy walks in with a briefcase and you have the– I think it’s Robert De Niro who does the initial narration, where he talks about how all the casinos are designed to swindle the people who go in and they have the counting room with all the dollar coins going around, I always got a kick out of seeing that. I’ve actually spent an Eisenhower dollar because back in 2019, for the Great American Coin Hunt, the coin club out in Ohio that I was a member of for a while, had a program, had a little– to participate in the Great American Coin Hunt, they gave out little bags of collectible coins and circulated silver certificates and the like, really, low dollar stuff that no dealer would probably want to bother with. They gave little bags of it out to all the club members. Then, we were tasked with going out and spending them into the economy, not keeping them in our own collections. I don’t know whose collection those things would have made a good addition to, but still. I went to a coffee shop in Ohio and I spent a couple of Eisenhower dollars. Predictably, the people behind the counter looked at me kind of funny, like, “Oh, that’s kind of cool.” I’m like, “Yeah, it’s an Eisenhower dollar.”
Charles: Yeah, I wonder what the look on their face would have been if you would have paid with one of the Baseball Hall of Fame half dollars.
Chris: Yeah, the Concave Coins, I bet that would have raised some eyebrows.
Charles: Anyway, folks, I hope this has been informative and educational for you. Especially if you’re starting out or want to get a youngster starting out, it is possible to build pretty substantial, pretty sophisticated set of modern coins without paying a premium. The process of building the coins, I think, is informative because it helps you look at what coins look like in quantity and in quality. It allows you to develop for yourself a sense of connection with the coins. It also helps you appreciate the value of coins, when you start to see that certain dates are very difficult to find and you need them for your album, when you go out and look for them, it helps you become a sophisticated buyer and consumer of coins.
Every coin collection is worthwhile, whether or not you have beaucoup dollars to spend on coins, or if you’re pulling coins out of circulation. It’s a process. It’s a hobby, and you’re every bit as connected to me and my interest in coins as a writer and a publisher for collecting coins and change as somebody who’s put together the world’s finest collection of Draped Bust dollars. This is a community hobby, everybody is welcome to participate in it. Thank you for spending the last hour listening to us talk about collecting coins from change. Next week, we’re actually going to take this a little step farther and we’re going to talk about how to build a really cool album of coins, classic US coins, which are coins you will have to go out and buy for a premium, but we will do so to give you the best practices and what to look for and give you an idea of what the cost might be to put together one of my favorite albums, the Dansco 7070. Until then, I’m Charles Morgan.
Chris: I’m Chris Bulfinch.
Charles: We’re CoinWeek and we’ll be back next week. Happy collecting, everybody.
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