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Princess Is Part of Indian Cent's Appeal

January 24, 1985|Don Alpert

Question: I would like to know the value of pennies that have a wreath and shield and the phrase one cent on one side, and United States of America and the figure of a woman with the headdress of an Indian or Egyptian on the other side. The dates are 1889, 1898, 1899, 1903, 1904 and 1907. Also, what are the most expensive pennies at this time?--T.U.

Answer: The coins you have described are Indian-head cents. They were made in huge quantities from 1859 to 1909, and at one time they were among the most popular U.S. coins to collect. They're still quite popular, in fact, and no doubt one of the reasons is the design on the obverse--not of an Egyptian, as you suggest, but of an Indian princess designed by James Long-acre. However, your confusion is not entirely unjustified since some critics consider the depiction more Greco-Roman than Native American. Still, the headdress is unmistakable.

The top dates is this series probably are 1877 and 1909-S. Both are relatively low mintage, with the '77 listed at 852,500 and the '09-S at 309,000. These are copper pieces, and those that are spotted, cleaned or discolored are worth less than those in original condition. Also, uncirculated pieces command a hefty figure over those that are worn. Your dates are worth 35 cents and up; the "up" is possibly at $20. Some of the earlier dates, those before 1880, also are the most expensive.

Q: I would like to know the approximate value of two quarter dollars. One is an 1874 Arrows type, and the other is dated 1838. Both are very choice proofs in uncirculated condition. How can I best care for these coins? And if I choose to sell them, what would be the wisest way to go?--R.L.

A: Sometimes this business can be very exasperating. Coins just aren't described as "proofs in uncirculated condition." They can be one or the other; not both. Also, they didn't make proof quarters in 1838. Your quarter might be proof-like, which is highly desirable. Proof-like coins have many of the characteristics of proofs but are not actually of proof quality. The 1838 quarter is a Capped Bust type with a mintage of 366,000. The 1874 with the arrows at date is only a two-year variety, and if it is indeed a proof the mintage is limited to 700.

I'd suggest that the first thing you do is find out exactly what your coins are. Most coin dealers would be willing to help you. Pricing your coins will then become a matter of grading (determining the exact condition). I would suggest that you shop around for the best offer. One of the most convenient ways of doing this is at a coin show, where you'll have a multitude of dealers to choose from. Protect your coins in a plastic holder.

Q: I have a small $1 gold piece. It has a Liberty head on the front side. On the other side, the United States of America is printed very small around a closed wreath. It is stamped 1852 under the word dollar ; there's no mint mark. It is in fine condition. Is it worth anything?--J.M.

A: Your gold dollar is one of more than 2 million minted. It's worth $150 and up.

Q: I have a Columbian half dollar. One side has World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago 1893 on it. Please tell me the value. Also, I'd like to know the value of a nickel with V on the back, a lady's head on the front, dated 1883.--E.R.

A: Your commemorative half dollar is worth $6 and up; the Liberty-head nickel of 1883 was made with and without the word cents on the reverse. Those without the word cents were often gold-plated and passed off as $5 gold pieces. Later, the word cents was added to avoid the confusion. Your nickel, probably a Variety 2 (with cents) is worth $1 and up.

Q: I would appreciate an answer. Do the following coins have any value: 1920 1 cent; 1956-1959 cents; various 1960s cents; 1953 nickel, and various 1960s nickels? Also, is it worth saving Susan B. Anthony dollars?--M.H.

A: Your Lincoln wheat cents are worth 1 1/2 cents each and up; your other coins have little or no numismatic value. As for Anthony dollars, I don't like to give investment advice. I'd say if you get pleasure from saving these coins, then I don't see any harm. They may, eventually, appreciate in value, but it does seem rather remote and unlikely. There are, however, some varieties that are selling at a hefty premium, and only time will tell whether these are just coins that have been heavily promoted or whether they are highly desirable.

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