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Numismatic Housekeeping: Spring Edition

By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek ……

The Travers Article That Wasn’t

In November of last year, Scott Travers and House of Collectibles published the 20th edition of The Insider’s Guide to U.S. Coin Values.  We picked up a copy and thought we’d write a review, much like we did with John Mercanti and Miles Standish’s Silver Eagle book.

Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot to say about The Insider’s Guide. It’s a mass market product that doesn’t quite outdo the Red Book in terms of pricing and information, and its truncated presentation of One Minute Coin Expert doesn’t offer much that’s new or exciting. Simply put, it’s a book for the casual collector. We weren’t the intended market, and there was no real way of getting that across without sounding overly hostile to Travers, whose Coin Collector’s Survivors Manual we like very much.

So Charles decided to reach out to Travers and ended up spending an hour or so with him over the phone. Travers was easy to talk to. He was nice, personable, and seemed most interested in bringing new collectors into the hobby. He spoke about how Dell had published a price guide authored by Norman Stack (U.S. Coins of Value) since the ‘60s, and how they asked him to take over once Stack could no longer continue. Dell published Travers’ first edition in 1992, the same year that Stack died of cancer.[1]

numismatic_housekeepingFrom there we talked about how the publishing industry has changed over the years, no doubt hurt by the free flow of information from websites such as ours, and how the 20th edition of his Insider’s Guide was the merger (and reformatting) of two properties. Travers elaborating on how the sausage was made did make for a great conversation, but we didn’t think it warranted the typical five or six page treatment.

Travers did share an insight into the nature of price guides, which he saw as a snapshot in time of what a willing buyer would likely pay to a willing seller. It made us wonder if it would be possible at some point in the future to separate out premium coins from normal ones to create a price guide for the coins you should want to own – and not the ones a dealer would very much like to sell you.

How I turned a $5 Liberty Half Eagle Back into a 1798 Large Cent with Fine Details

(Article Published October 5, 2012)

Major burn.

Back in October, we wrote a piece explaining how I turned a $1.50 Ike into a $5 Liberty half eagle through a series of coin trades. It wasn’t quite going from a red paperclip to a house[2], but for a few weeks of effort, it was pretty cool.

One of the trades involved the purchase of an ACCUGRADE VF-25 1798 cent. The coin had micro granular surfaces according to Shawn Yancey, the seller, but at that price I liked it and felt that I could flip it at a profit. And that I did. My local cash for gold shop gave me a 1903 gold half eagle in PCGS MS-63 for it plus $50.

The gold coin was a major upgrade in value, based on condition and precious metal content. I should have been satisfied.

At the Baltimore show last November, I sold the 1903 half eagle, which had a planchet flaw on the reverse (probably explains why such a mark-free coin graded at only MS-63), for a little more than $600. Some of that helped fund my trip. Besides gas, food, and parking, I managed to indulge my bibliomania and buy a few old numismatic books.

A couple of months after the show, I noticed that the 1798 cent still hadn’t moved. The guy at the shop wanted out of the coin. I offered to take it back for $300. I figured I’d take a shot at having PCGS look at the coin and sent it off. I should have known better. The piece came back Fine Details – Environmental Damage. Oh well.

The coin sold on eBay for $260. A loser the second time around. With the money, I overpaid for a conditionally-rare Eisenhower dollar. I’m told it’ll be worth its weight in gold, if the Ike market ever picks up.

More About Herb Hicks and the Gold Cert Story

(Article Published March 6, 2013)

Nothing escapes the keen eye of Herb Hicks. The man not only knows his Washington quarters (Q. David Bowers gushes over him in A Guide Book of Washington and State Quarters (2006), but he also discovered the 1972 Type 2 Ike Reverse and published his findings in The Numismatist in 1974. After the Gold Cert article posted, he told us about a few rumors that had circulated over the years regarding the change in the legal status of Gold Certificates. One was Hans M. F. Schulman’s claim that Amon Carter Jr. had lobbied President Johnson, a friend and fellow Texan, to do something about it. Herb recalls that another Texan, Representative Henry Gonzalez, was also agitating for change.

It was typical Hicks, downplaying his own very significant contribution and giving the credit to others. We don’t know how much of an impact these other players had.  If they had much to do with the legalization of Gold Certificates, the Treasury used Hicks’ blueprint to get it done.

The Bordner Files

Hopefully some publisher will see the benefit in producing a volume based on the exhaustive life’s work of the recently-passed RPM, RPD, and OPD expert John Bordner. The collection, currently under the care of Tom Kalantzis, is said to be of staggering size and completeness, with high quality photographs and, in many cases, examples of the coins themselves. Kalantzis says that he is currently the custodian of the entire Bordner filing system – but for how long?

If any numismatic publisher is willing to take on the project, please get in touch with us and we will pass along the word.








Flip of a Coin™

More than a dozen different animals have graced Federal coinage, mostly due to our long-running commemorative program. We’ve had eagles (of course), grizzly bears, owls, whales, even oxen and mermaids! But can you name the one coin that featured a lion? You’ll have to have a good set of eyes and know your heraldic symbols really well to spot it, but a lion is depicted on Christopher Columbus’s coat of arms, which is depicted on the reverse of the Columbus five dollar gold commemorative, released in 1992.

This tidbit should make the investor/ collector feel better: What we now call numismatic value, that is the value a coin has beyond face value and beyond the value of its intrinsic worth was previously known as fictitious value.

2013 marks the release of the Five Star General commemoratives, which will have General Douglas MacArthur featured on the highest denomination, the five dollar gold. MacArthur almost became the nation’s first six star general in 1945! Plans for the promotion were drawn up but never completed. Another general left out of the commemorative celebration was general of the armies John Pershing, who in 1919 chose to wear four gold stars (instead of the traditional stars in silver) to signify his position. When the five star general rank was created during World War II, it was understood that officers in this rank were still junior to Pershing.

©2013 Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/1992/11/09/obituaries/norman-stack-64-dealer-and-expert-in-valuable-coins.html

[2] http://oneredpaperclip.blogspot.com/

Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker
Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker
Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker have been contributing authors on CoinWeek since 2012. They also wrote the monthly "Market Whimsy" column and various feature articles for The Numismatist and the book 100 Greatest Modern World Coins (2020) for Whitman Publishing.

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