One of the most popular series of coins to collect is the Morgan dollar. These big silver coins were designed by George T. Morgan and were first produced in 1878. Each of these contain 77% of an ounce of silver, making one worth a minimum of about $22 at today’s price of silver. These were minted from 1878 through 1904, and production was then halted until 1921 for one last year of issue. At various times, these coins were minted in Carson City, Denver, San Francisco, New Orleans, and Philadelphia.
Part of the reason these coins were minted was the discovery of the Comstock Lode near Virginia City, Nevada. This was a huge silver mine that produced nearly seven million TONS of silver from 1860 to 1880 when it played out. Of course, with all that silver available, Congressman from the western states got the Bland-Allison Act passed in 1878, which mandated the silver dollar as the coin of the realm.
Looking at the mintages of each year they were made, there were about two thirds of a billion of them minted. Most of these are not rare. Many, in fact, are available in high grades for really reasonable prices. However, the 1893 S, the king of the Morgans, will cost multiple thousands of dollars since only 100,000 were minted.
So you think you might want to start a coin collection and haven’t decided where to begin. I have a suggestion for a collection that will be fairly inexpensive and yet have some intrinsic value in the silver content, too.
My suggestion, for a good starting point, is the Roosevelt dime. To make it even easier, you could divide it into two sets—the silver coins in the series, 1946-1964, and the silver clad coins from 1965 to date.
This series began in 1946, shortly after the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The dime is an appropriate place for FDR. As a polio victim, he had a close connection to the March of Dimes, a charity campaign to solve childhood diseases.
First, the silver portion. A set of 90% silver Roosevelt dimes consists of about 51 dimes. At today’s melt value of silver, these tiny pellets of silver are each worth about $2. So, a minimum price of any silver dime will be about this amount. Most of these coins in nearly perfect uncirculated condition can be purchased from dealers for $3 to $5 each. The exceptions to this rule are the 1949 S, the 1950 S, and the 1951 S. These three will run you from $50 to $100 for all three in uncirculated condition. A nice set of the silver Roosevelts, in uncirculated condition, will run you about $150 to $200.
This month, I bring you another fascinating story of how closely our nation’s coinage tracks alongside its history. Last month, we saw how the “hobo nickel” was a by-product of the great depression.
This is the story of the first coin authorized by the young government of the United States. This coin was designed by Benjamin Franklin, and is often called the Franklin cent, but its official name would probably be the Fugio cent.
The coinage of our country has many ties linking coins to our nation’s history. For example, “buffalo nickels” were minted from 1913 through 1938. These had an obverse, or “heads,” with a Native American facing to your right. On the reverse, there was a side profile view of a buffalo. If you recall your history, in 1929 the great crash of the U.S. stock market occurred and the Great Depression began, which ended about the time World War II began.
Times were extremely tough during the Great Depression. Unemployment levels were the highest in our nation’s history. Millionaires became destitute over night. The “dust bowl” conditions throughout a wide swath of our country drove the farmers off the land and began the migration to California.
“Hobos” were people who were unable to find employment and who took to bumming illegal rides on the trains across the country, looking for someplace better to be. Many would stop at homes and ask for food; if a housewife was helpful and generous, the hobo would “tag” that house for the next hobos who came through.
They lived off what they could find as they traveled, or occasionally found short term work. One “occupation” for these people was to create hobo nickels to sell or to trade for a meal.
What do cheerleaders and pirate money have in common?
Remember the old cheer that goes, “two bit, four bits, six bits, a dollar! All for Brownwood, stand up and holler!” Of course, “two bits” is slang for 25 cents.
Well, some of North America’s earliest money was the Spanish 8 reales coin. These were about the size of our old silver Morgan and peace dollars and were worth 8 reales. However, they were commonly cut into four pieces, with each piece worth 2 reales. One fourth was two bits; two pieces were four bits, and three were six bits. At times, the two bit pieces were even cut into two again, making one bit. “Pieces of 8,” they were called. Does that ring any bells with you from pirate stories you’ve read?
The 8 reales coins of Spain were in circulation beginning in the 1400’s. They were a respected form of money around the world. These coins were an important part of commerce. During these early centuries, because they were so common, they were often part of a pirate’s haul from a raided ship. Ask a coin collector what pirate money is, and he should reply “the 8 reales coin.”
One of the really fun parts of coin collecting is that of thinking of coins as “history in your hand.” Our first officially minted U.S. coins were minted in 1792, and most coin dates that start with “17” are not cheap these days. To think that maybe that 1798 large cent in your collection was once held by George Washington, John Quincy Adams, or Thomas Jefferson is a great side benefit of coin collecting.
Here are some interesting facts about U.S. coinage that you may not know.
The first “American” coin, though not official, was the Fugio cent, designed by Ben Franklin. It consisted of 13 chain links together and a sun dial. Fugio is Latin for “time flies.” These are rare and are highly collectible.
The first U.S. coins were the 1792 half-disme, of silver, which eventually was called the half-dime, worth five cents.
“In God We Trust” first appeared on the two cent coin, starting in 1865, during the Civil War.
Morgan silver dollars were minted in Carson City, Nevada, for thirteen of the years between 1878 and 1893. Millions of these were stored away in government vaults until the 1970’s. Why were so many minted and then never used? Politics in Congress, to make sure the silver of the Comstoke Lode in Nevada was purchased!
For Brownwood coin collectors, it’s the most wonderful time of the year!
You might ask, “You mean it’s Christmas time again?”
No, for the local coin geeks, it’s time for the Third Annual Brown County Coin Show!
Our show will be held on Friday, February 17, from noon to 6 p.m. and on Saturday, February 18, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It will be at the old western wear store at Heartland Mall in Early.
This event is not a big fundraiser for the club; it is held for the benefit of community members, interested local folks, and to promote the hobby of coin collecting. We have dealers from at least two states who will be setting up and offering their wares to you. Several will also buy your coins, and others will have gold and silver bullion for sale. Last year we had one dealer whose wife sold vintage jewelry. . . she cost me a hundred bucks because my wife came and browsed!
Brown County Coin Club will be holding their third annual Brown County Coin Show at Heartland Mall February 17th-18th.
Show hours on Friday will be from 12 noon – 6:00pm and Saturday from 9:00am until 5:00pm. There will be 25 tables of vendors, free admission, free parking and an ANACS rep will be taking submissions.
Additionally, there will be a raffle for a 1/10th ounce Gold Eagle and two American Silver Eagles. Tickets for the raffle are $1 each or 6 for $5.
Did you hear about the Aggie who was caught counterfeiting currency? He was caught erasing the zeroes off of $20 bills!
Counterfeit money is coin or currency that is produced outside the province of the government to resemble some official form of money closely enough that it may be confused for genuine money. Producing or using counterfeit money is a form of fraud. We read about store clerks who are handed counterfeit bills, even in Brownwood! These are federal offenses, and for some reason, the defense of our printed and coined money falls under the jurisdiction of the Secret Service.
For the coin or currency collector, there are two categories of counterfeits. The more egregious these days are those who manufacture to defraud for the purposes of ill-gotten gain. This would be someone who uses a fancy printer and computer to make up some of his own cash. Another example of this is the Chinese. Reporters have been to factories in China where they manufacture many rare date coins for the express purpose of ripping people off. If I knew that a brand-spanking-new looking 1916 D Mercury dime is worth $15,000, why I would spend $20 on 5 or 6 of them from China? Dealers are careful not to sell these, but folks who work flea markets and garage sales, or plain old crooks, are not.