Buying Coins Online

Buying coins online can be a great way to supplement a collection without going to a distant coin shop, or waiting for that swap meet weekend to buy a new item for your collection.  The availability and ease of coin shopping online have there benefits over brick and mortar stores, but there are some drawbacks to buying your coins online.  To decide if the online venture is right for you, and to decrease the odds that you are unhappy with any online purchase you do make, just follow this easy guide.

It must be said first and foremost, that it is definitely easier to be fooled or scammed over an online coin transaction than in a brick and mortar store.  Online buyers need to be alert, savvy, and scrutinizing over every aspect of a purchase, to ensure that you remain satisfied with your decision.  Online vendors are much less likely to have the vast coin knowledge that a coin shop dealer would have.  Also,  because all information about the coin is provided by the seller online, and is unverifiable until usually after you have paid your money and received your coin, it is vitally important that you double check what you see in the coin to the vendor’s description. Countless times on ebay and other online clearing houses, the as pictured coin varies from the description.  Error coins and other subtle differences are easily glossed over in a low resolution photo, so watch out for “mislabeled” coins.  Always be your own historian, and never blindly trust that an item is depicted exactly as it is shown.

Also, because you are  being robbed of a chance at seeing the coin firsthand before you buy it, you are also being robbed of a chance to objectively grade the coin yourself.  Internet coin dealers know this, and sometimes use ambiguous or undefined terms to describe the coin’s condition.  As condition can be a deciding factor in the price of a coin, this is a big disadvantage.  This can be negated by buying coins that come “slabbed”, or mounted and graded by a professional service.  Bear in mind though, that a professionally graded coin will cost more than an ungraded coin of the same condition.

Remember, when looking online for a seller, be sure to ask about a return policy.  Reputable online merchants will usually accept returns within a reasonable time period, but nefarious and shifty dealers never do.  It is also helpful to communicate as much as possible with the dealer while you are looking online.  Sometimes prices may go down a bit to someone willing to ask for a lower price, and the questions you ask about the coin all go toward ensuring that you know what you get before you pay for it.

Good deals are always to be had for those who look, and hopefully for those who read this guide that search wont take too long or end up in disaster.  Just keep searching.  However a coin collector finds a deal, online or in coin shop, the pursuit is the same, to enjoy the best coins you can, as often as you can.


Monday, January 7th, 2013 Blog No Comments

The Indian Head Cent, The Precursor to the Wheat Cent

The familiar and trusty small copper penny was not always so small, nor always as the rich amber bronze that we instantly recognize as the Lincoln Cent.  Before the introduction of the Lincoln Wheat Ear Cent in 1909, there was another much loved, bright copper penny in the pockets of Americans, the Indian Head Cent.   It established the look and the color of the “new” cent fifty years earlier, at a time when the public still clung to the heavy, large, familiar Braided Hair Cent.  The Indian Head Cent would eventually become as liked as the old large cents, but fate, and Theodore Roosevelt, gave us the familiar Lincoln Head Cent we use today.

Over 150 years ago, the standard penny weighed about three times as much as the penny of today.  At a massive 13.48 grams of pure copper, the “large cent” certainly felt large in your pocket.  So when the U.S. Mint, in an effort to reduce the demand of copper, changed the weight and correspondingly the size of the standard cent to a tiny 4.67 grams, the public thought it was being duped.  At first people hoarded the old cents, and discounted the new issues as fakes.  Of course, it did not help that the first small cent, the Flying Eagle Cent,  issued in 1856, was so lightly colored and pale through the addition of nickel to the copper that were called “nickels” long before the first 5 cent piece to carry that name.

In order to remedy these problems the U.S. Mint introduced the Indian Head Cent in 1859 and was in continuous production until 1909.  The new coin was better in many ways, first it was the distinct copper color a penny should be.  This was due to the removal of nickel and the substitution of tin and zinc to the copper (so technically speaking the Indian Head Cent, and Wheat Penny for that matter, are bronze, not copper).  The Indian Head Cent was also easier to produce than the Flying Eagle Cent, and the design was well regarded as beautiful and befitting a U.S. coin.  So why was it replaced?  The answer lies in one man’s vision, Theodore Roosevelt.

Roosevelt wanted to revamp the state of U.S. coins at the turn of the twentieth century.  He belived that America needed new coinage to keep up with the new coinage from Europe.  So, as popular and internationally known medal and coin engraver St. Gaudains had recently put his talents to the Dollar,  and as Roosevelt wanted a chance to honor Abraham Lincoln, T.R. instigated a campaign to win public support for the idea of placing Lincoln’s image an a new one cent coin.  Because Lincoln was even more popular in the 1900’s then as he is today, Roosevelt soon had the support he needed to change the coin.

With the new coin’s introduction in 1909, the era of the Indian Head Cent was over, but not lost.  These cents are now highly valued in the their proud owner’s collections, and hopefully will remain there for some time.


Monday, December 31st, 2012 Blog No Comments

A Short History of the United States Mint

The United States Mint was established when the country was still very young. The framers of the constitution recognized the importance of a national currency for the ease of trade and commerce. The plans for the Mint were developed by then Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton and, on April 2 1792, The Coinage Act was passed by Congress. This created the national Mint and authorized the first Mint building, which was constructed in Philadelphia – the capital of the USA at the time. In addition to being the first Mint, it also had the distinction of being the first federal building built under the constitution.

The first director of the Mint was David Rittenhouse, who got the position with his skills as treasurer of Pennsylvania from 1777 to 1789 and his acquaintance with George Washington. Rittenhouse was a famous scientist and had contributed significantly to the fields of surveying and astronomy. His biggest contribution to US coinage was in hand striking the very first coins to test the new equipment. The material to form the coins was actually flatware provided by Washington and, as a token of his gratitude to Washington’s help in creating the Mint, Rittenhouse gave the coins to him. Although this first round of production was not approved by Congress, Rittenhouse was still a prominent figure in US Mint history, and in 1871 Congress paid tribute by approving a coin to commemorate his life

The Chief Coiner of the first US Mint was Henry Voigt, who was famous for clock making and steamboat development. He was well acquainted with Thomas Jefferson, as the repairman for his clocks and watches. In 1791 he applied for a job in the new Mint and was considered well qualified for the Chief Coiner position because of prior coin production experience working in a German Mint when he was younger. During his stint at the Mint, he was credited with the creation of some of the first coin designs.

Several branch facilities opened since the development of the first national Mint in 1792, and the need arose for an identifying feature on each coin to show where it was made. Those were, of course, mint marks. The first branch mint facilities were in Charlotte, North Carolina and Dahlonega, Georgia- both from 1838 to 1861. There was also the New Orleans, Louisiana branch, which opened in 1838 as well, but lasted until 1909.

The national mint is now in Washington D.C,  as it is the current capital city of the nation, but Philadelphia is home to the Mint’s largest facility and one of four coin-producing mints that is currently active. The Philadelphia Mint building has changed four times since the inception of Mint operation in 1793. Coins produced in Philadelphia had no mint mark until 1980, except for the Susan B. Anthony dollar and the wartime Jefferson nickel. In 1980, the “P” mint mark was started. Despite losing the national Mint title to Washington D.C., Philadelphia remains the site of the national engraving and design departments of the mint and master die production for U.S. Coinage is also conducted there.


Monday, December 24th, 2012 Blog No Comments

The 1982 Lincoln Cent : Copper Content Change

The 1982 Lincoln Cent may look just like its predecessor, the 1981 Lincoln Cent, and it certainly still has the same buying power, albeit somewhat small, at 1/100th of a dollar.  Or does it? Recently, the stockpiling and sale of high content copper pennies, that is, all cents minted before 1982, has reached record highs.  Interest in the coins has peaked as copper prices rise, and even with the federal ban on coin melting for their metal value, older copper pennies have brought premiums almost double their face value.  So what did this new penny change, to make the ones before it so much more valuable?

The single reason interest in pre-1982 pennies is a precious metal.  Not silver or gold, however, but copper.  OK, so copper is far from being a precious metal, but its also far from being cheap.  The rising cost of copper means that pre-1982 pennies hold more value in the copper content they contain, than the face value of the coin.  Hoarders and investors hope that by buying the high copper content coins now,  the value of the copper make a hefty profit when copper prices continue to increase.

What does the U.S. Mint think about this?  Well, definitively, they are not too keen on the idea, as they have pressured congress to pass laws restricting the export of these coins to foreign countries, and have disallowed the melting of coins for their metal content.  This is probably the only reason that pre-1982 pennies are still found in circulation at all. In addition to the regulations about one cent coins, the nickel has also been targeted because of its relatively high melt value, as it is now worth more than face value do to the high copper content as well.

In 1982, the U.S. Mint realized that the copper penny was becoming too expensive to produce, so they began looking for an alternative to reduce the metal costs of the coin.  The solution came by the way of plating the coin with copper (because mint officials knew that the penny should remain their traditional bronze color) over a base coin containing zinc.  So little copper is used in the manufacture of these new coins, only 2.5 percent copper vs. 97.5 percent zinc, that it would be impossible to gain any additional value in copper from these coins.  Because this switch happened in September of 1982, it is quite possible to find 1982 high copper content pennies, but they are are harder to sort out without a precise digital scale, as the only discernible difference is the new pennies slightly lighter weight.

Investors are always looking for the next edge over the market, and some people will hedge their bets on copper pennies because despite the ban, the coins provide a verifiability known amount of copper, easily measured, and this represents a sound investment to people who believe the price of copper will continue to rise.  So, in the near future, it may be wise to find good examples of coins before 1982, as a mass melting of these coins will certainly make those gaps in coin albums harder to fill.

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012 Blog No Comments

10 Things You Don’t Know About United States Pennies

There is probably one in your pocket right now and it has had a long and complicated history before coming into your possession. No, it’s not pocket lint. It is, of course, the penny. Here are 10 obscure facts that you may not know about this unassuming coin. This information probably won’t make you the life of the party, but it will give you credence among the coin collecting crowd.

1.Did you know that the current U.S. Penny contains less than 5 percent copper, despite its bronze appearance? The inner core is made of zinc, and was introduced in 1982 to reduce the manufacturing costs of the Lincoln Cent.

2. Additionally, the Lincoln Cent has had its composition changed a total of five times from its introduction in 1909. The original issue was a coin of 95% copper and the remainder equal parts tin and zinc. The first change was to the wartime steel version, comprised of steel coated zinc in 1943. Next was the change to permit the use of recycled shell casings from WWII in 1944, and that changed again back to the prewar composition in 1947. Finally, original composition was usurped again with the copper coated zinc coin, introduced in 1982.

3. The design of the front the Lincoln Cent, called the obverse, has changed only once during its now 103 year run. That change was to incorporate the initials of the designer V.D.B. on the shoulder of Lincoln.

4.The design on the reverse of the Lincoln Cent has changed a total of four times. The original design incorporated the initials of the designer, V.D.B., although this was removed within one year, creating the second reverse without the initials present. The third change was to honor Lincoln’s 150 anniversary of his birth, and placed the Lincoln Memorial in place of the Wheat Ear design. Lastly, a new reverse, depicting a motto and shield, was introduced in 2010.

5.The average penny lasts 25 years.

6. In March of 1973, the penny was the first coin made and distributed by the U.S. Mint. They distributed 11,178 of the copper cents.

7.The Lincoln memorial penny is the only coin depicting the same person’s likeness on both sides. There is the bust of Lincoln on the obverse side, but he is also on the reverse, as the statue, in between two of the columns in the Memorial building.

8.The penny was the first coin to feature a historical figure when Abraham Lincoln was placed prominently on Victor David Brenner’s design of the Lincoln Cent in 1909.

9. In the early days of the U.S. Mint, copper was in short supply to make the penny. So the American citizens at the time contributed their copper belongings, such as copper pots, to the Mint in order to be used for scrap.

10.The first penny was almost as big as a modern day half dollar. It was first struck in 1793. The penny remained at that size, although many people found it troublesome to use because of its size, until 50 years later.

Monday, September 24th, 2012 Blog No Comments

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