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Thread: old coins

  1. #1
    the original blond bombshell MaryMumsy's Avatar
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    old coins

    This seems like a good place for this.

    We just found a stash of old coins. It's amazing what you find when you clean closets. A dozen or so are pennies from when they were still made of copper, they have been in a leather wallet for decades, and are really green. How can I clean them so I can read the years? The few I can read are 1910-1930.

    Also any suggestions on where I can look to see if any are worth more than face value?

    MM
    When I'm good, I'm very good; but when I'm bad, I'm better.

    That is Mae West, not me.

  2. #2
    That hairy-handed gent
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    The problem with cleaning old coins is that you may destroy whatever collector value they may have had. If they are covered with copper carbonate (the green stuff, and the same stuff that makes the Statue of Liberty green), you might be able to gently remove it with a weak acid. Try soaking them in vinegar. But whatever you do, don't polish them.

    Now, early Lincoln pennies do have some collector value, but condition is HUGELY important. Most of these early coins were produced at the Philadelphia mint, and will have no mint mark under the date. Coins produced in the Denver and San Francisco mints (D and S mint marks, respectively), especially the latter, are less common. Early Depression era coins (1930-1934) are uncommon because so few were produced.

    I'm sure there are on-line resources to discover the actual collector value of pennies, because they are such popular collectables. And, if all else fails, the value of the copper itself is now greater than the face value of the coins. That's why the U.S. went to making pennies out of zinc, with a copper veneer, in 1982. Any pre-1982 penny (except for the steel ones made in 1943) is made essentially of pure copper. You can actually feel the difference in weight, the copper coins being noticeably heavier than the zinc ones.

    As an amusement, I now keep any pre-1982 penny. I have a large jar full.

    caw
    Last edited by blacbird; 01-06-2013 at 02:52 AM.
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  3. #3
    More cream, please. SuperModerator alleycat's Avatar
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    I was a long-time member of both the American Numismatic Association and the American Numismatic Society (coin collectors, in other words).

    First, blacbird is right. DO NOT CLEAN ANY COIN IF YOU SUSPECT IT HAS VALUE. Do nothing to it.

    Second, don't be disappointed if they don't have much value. Value depends on a number of factors. An old coin in very bad condition can have some value, but it will have to be a very rare one. I have some Roman coins; people are often surprised that they aren't worth thousands of dollars each (some Roman coins are, many can be had very reasonably). I have some Greek bronze coins from 100 and 200 BC.

    Copper pennies are some of the worth to try to keep in Good condition. It's the nature of copper. The value of US pennies can vary according to their color; from brown to red.

    I will come back and post more when I have more time.

    For values, the easiest thing to do is buy a copy of the Red Book. It's published every year and lists average US coin values. It's just a general guide to coin values; not the absolute guide to what someone will pay for a coin. Honestly though, it's probably not worth the trouble.
    Last edited by alleycat; 01-06-2013 at 03:22 AM.



  4. #4
    practical experience, FTW Ken's Avatar
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    ... back when I was a lad I happened upon a way to clean pennies.

    Kinda forget the specifics. It had to do with electrolysis. If you put two pennies in water and add salt (maybe?) and then run battery current to the pennies (negative to one; positive to the other) one penny picks up the dirt from the other or something of the sort. So you can clean one penny by sacrificing another. The penny gets very, very clean as I recall. If you fool around with the connections you'll probably find the proper way. G'luck.

  5. #5
    More cream, please. SuperModerator alleycat's Avatar
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    Ken, that's fine if you just want shiny pennies. Very bad if someone actually has a rare coin. It would be the equivalent of taking a Chippendale chair and stripping the finish and painting it a nice blue.

    I'm being a little funny here, but it really is.



  6. #6
    More cream, please. SuperModerator alleycat's Avatar
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    Mary, see if your local library has a copy of the Red Book or some other book on coin values. See if you can read the dates and mint marks (the mint marks can be important).

    But really, if you offered the coins to me I would offer you $1 for them slight unseen just for the interest value.

    "But there could be a valuable rare coin in the bunch!"

    "I suppose."

    "So, what would you give me for them?"

    "A dollar."



  7. #7
    practical experience, FTW Ken's Avatar
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    ... ah. That wouldn't be good. So definitely don't do as I suggested, MM, unless you've got some that aren't rare or worth much. Hope you've got some that are. Seems likely with all you've got. I have a small collection, myself, including about 2 dozen wheaties. Many, I just got as change from stores over the years. Even got one zinc one.

  8. #8
    More cream, please. SuperModerator alleycat's Avatar
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    Does anyone else remember the coin scene from Throw Mama From the Train?



  9. #9
    More cream, please. SuperModerator alleycat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken View Post
    ... ah. That wouldn't be good. So definitely don't do as I suggested, MM, unless you've got some that aren't rare or worth much. Hope you've got some that are. Seems likely with all you've got. I have a small collection, myself, including about 2 dozen wheaties. Many, I just got as change from stores over the years. Even got one zinc one.
    When I was a kid people could still find a few valuable coins in pocket change. Plus, many of the coins were actually silver. People would look for silver Kennedy half-dollars.

    A few years ago the ANA (maybe with the US Mint's blessing) put a few rare coins in to circulation just to generate interest in coins.



  10. #10
    the original blond bombshell MaryMumsy's Avatar
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    Thanks for the insights, guys.

    For now I will leave them alone. Also in the stash were some 1918-1919 half dollars. Those are in very poor condition. Surface is almost rubbed flat.

    I'll see if I can read more of the dates on all of them.

    There is a coin shop in Scottsdale that has been around for decades. The fact they are still in business leads me to believe they are honest. Later in the year (when some issues in my personal life settle down) maybe I'll take them there and see what they say.

    I have a couple of original issue Kennedy half dollars. We were living overseas when they were first put out and my grandmother sent my brother and I each one in a Christmas card.

    Thanks for the suggestion of the Red Book. When I have a list of what I've got, I'll see if the library has it.

    MM
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    That is Mae West, not me.

  11. #11
    More cream, please. SuperModerator alleycat's Avatar
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    There's a guy name Virg Marshall (and company) in Nebraska who has the nickname "the penny merchant."

    You might contact them with any questions. I would have faith that they would be honest with you.

    If you deal with anyone about coins, check if they are a lifetime member of the ANA and possibly the Numismatic Guild. That doesn't mean someone who is wouldn't be dishonest, but it would be unusual if they are. Dealers who are dishonest can be booted out.



  12. #12
    practical experience, FTW Ken's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alleycat View Post
    When I was a kid people could still find a few valuable coins in pocket change. Plus, many of the coins were actually silver. People would look for silver Kennedy half-dollars.

    A few years ago the ANA (maybe with the US Mint's blessing) put a few rare coins in to circulation just to generate interest in coins.
    ... have got a few kennedys, too, along with a couple of mercury dimes. Kinda just like having them. That was a cool idea the ANA had.

    Quote Originally Posted by MaryMumsy View Post
    Also in the stash were some 1918-1919 half dollars.

    MM
    Cool. Can you make out the design? Think Lady Liberty was on them.

  13. #13
    That hairy-handed gent
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    Quote Originally Posted by MaryMumsy View Post
    For now I will leave them alone. Also in the stash were some 1918-1919 half dollars. Those are in very poor condition. Surface is almost rubbed flat.

    If they're almost "worn flat", no collector is going to want them.

    BUT: Those, now, will be silver, and today worth probably ten or more times their face value just for the metal. Any shop that deals in coins/precious metal will give you some high percentage of the bullion price for them. And silver continues to rise in price these days, as well. Unless you really need the money, I'd hang on to 'em for now. They'll always have the metal value.

    But every dime, quarter, half-dollar and dollar coin (except some highly valuable tiny gold dollars from the 19th century) minted prior to 1965 will be silver, and valuable for that reason alone.


    Quote Originally Posted by MaryMumsy View Post
    I have a couple of original issue Kennedy half dollars.
    If those are 1964 coins (the first year of issue), they, too, will be silver, but probably have no particular collector value. Way too many of them were produced and kept as mementos, plus, later, for the silver value. Even in 1964 that was worth more than the face value. Which is why, one year later, the U.S. stopped minting all silver coins for standard circulation, and went to the copper-nickel sandwich planchet we've had ever since.

    caw
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  14. #14
    nurturing tomorrows criminals today PorterStarrByrd's Avatar
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    Doesn't sound like you have anything of great numismatic value, (see comment on silver ,in previous post) unless you can find something from 1909. The S VDB pennies are rare and valuable no matter the condition. If you have some 1909 pennies and don't know where to look, stop by a coin shop or pawn shop and they'll help you. Ask them to show you where to look fot the mint mark and artist initials. That is the only year the latter were stamped into the design.
    I wouldn't use any cleaning agent but it doesn't hurt to wipe them off with a soapy cloth then rinse and dry them.
    http://porterstarrbyrd.blogspot.com/


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  15. #15
    the original blond bombshell MaryMumsy's Avatar
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    The silver coins I will keep, against future rise in the value of silver.

    I also have an early 80s Krugerrand. It was my mother's and is set in a fancy bezel to wear on a chain. Dad gave it to me after Mom died. I wear it sometimes in select company, not in public. I joke with Dad that if times get really bad we can probably eat for a couple of months off the value of the gold.

    MM
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    That is Mae West, not me.

  16. #16
    resident curmudgeon
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    I've known several collectors who clean coins with ketchup. For pennies, many use a pencil eraser. But you have to know your coins in order to know which to clean, and which to leave alone.

  17. #17
    Lost in the Fog rugcat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alleycat View Post
    When I was a kid people could still find a few valuable coins in pocket change. Plus, many of the coins were actually silver. People would look for silver Kennedy half-dollars.
    When I was a kid (and I have more than a few years on you) you could still occasionally get silver dollars in change at the supermarket.

    Most people didn't want them; they were heavy and a billfold of ones was much easier to carry than lugging around a pocket of silver.

    Most of the silver dollars we got were from the early 1900's or a bit later, but about a third of them were from the 1880s and 90s.

    My brother collected them obsessively, and by the time he was a teenager he had 100 - 150 of them, which he kept in a box in his room.

    Eventually, our parents convinced him to grow up, put away childish pursuits, and deposit them in a bank savings account where he could earn some interest on them. Hey, parents always know best, right?

    He still regrets it to this day, of course, not only for the monetary value, but simply because they were so totally cool.
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  18. #18
    That hairy-handed gent
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jamesaritchie View Post
    I've known several collectors who clean coins with ketchup. For pennies, many use a pencil eraser. But you have to know your coins in order to know which to clean, and which to leave alone.
    Never ever clean a numismatically valuable silver or copper coin, except maybe to rinse or brush off loose dust. Coin dealers and astute collectors will recognize such treatment in half a heartbeat, and it will greatly diminish the numismatic value.

    Gold coins may be a bit different in this respect. Gold is the most chemically inert of metals, does not react with oxygen, and retains its luster indefinitely. Great stashes of gold coin treasure have been recovered from shipwrecks, often with the coins having acquired a coating of precipitates from long immersion in seawater. Careful cleaning of these, using archeological techniques, has restored the coins to their original luster and brilliance with no damage to the surface.

    But even with gold coins, never ever ever use anything abrasive on them. Like, never.

    caw
    "Badger! Badger! The weasels have stolen my motor-car!"

    "Frankly, Toad, I don't give a damn."

    -- Gone with the Wind in the Willows

  19. #19
    Mildly Disturbing Filigree's Avatar
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    Mary, there is another coin shop in E Phx. I sometines use, C & S. They'll be able tell you more.

  20. #20
    Sophipygian AW Moderator Alessandra Kelley's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jamesaritchie View Post
    I've known several collectors who clean coins with ketchup. For pennies, many use a pencil eraser. But you have to know your coins in order to know which to clean, and which to leave alone.
    Wow. No.

    I've been collecting coins since I was a tot and one of my grandmas gave me a small set of early twentieth century coins. Later she gave me souvenir coins from her world travels, and one of my grandpas, a doctor, gave me lots of souvenir reproductions handed put by drug companies as part of their advertising campaigns ("In colonial times when this penny was used, doctors had to rely on..." yadda yadda. There seemed to be hundreds of them in the 1960s and 1970s).

    None of them, of course, were terribly valuable, but even then I knew the golden rule of coin collecting: don't clean the things.

    Not with ketchup, not with an eraser, not with soap, and not with silver polish.

    When I grew up my interest was in older coins. Perfect circles of identically stamped metal with minute differences making for fabulous differences in value did not interest me. But ancient coins did. There the rules are a little different, since many of them come from buried hoards and cannot help but have been cleaned at some point.

    But even there, even though it's more okay to handle them than modern coins, you don't clean them.

    You just don't.

    By the way, one thing I have learned is that coins are generally worth less than people expect or hope. Roman bronze coins, which are what really got me started, have been dug up by the millions in Europe. When I started out you could get a coin in pure bronze the size of a nickel with an identifiable emperor on one side and something actually interesting on the other for $10 -- a price which has held steady for at least twenty years.

    I don't know much about the values of modern coins, but I have hung around coin shops enough to know that most of them are ethical and fair and more than willing to help people learn about what they have.

  21. #21
    resident curmudgeon
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    These collectors are pros, and I trust their word enough to buy from them and sell to them. And some of the cleaned coins I've bought have sold for a heck of a lot more than they were originally worth. These guys buy, sell, and trade coins with the best, and make a ton of money doing it. They DO clean a great many coins, and make a lot of money in the process. I've also made a fair bit of money dealing with them.

    You do have to know which coins to clean, which ones to leave alone, and how to clean them, but there is nothing wrong with cleaning a large number of valuable coins you find, if you go about it right.

    There is no such thing as a golden rule about cleaning, except the one that some collectors use to get coins cheaper, but there is a golden rule that says do it right, and only do it when necessary. Done right, you can't tell the coin has been cleaned. It's just looks like it's in excellent condition.

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