Question: I have been buying the U.S. gold art medals as issued. This has not been a successful series, and I find it increasingly difficult to find the new ones. I have had coin dealers refuse to get them for me, and all the ones I have talked with are uninformed and indifferent, a remarkable state of affairs. I have two questions: What is the future of this series, and how many medals of each issue have actually been sold?--S.Y.
Answer: You've brought up an interesting subject. The American Arts Gold Medallion series, as you point out, has not been terribly successful. But the Mint, to its credit, has kept plugging away. Sales were recently reopened for a two-week period on the five half-ounce and five one-ounce pieces available. Cost was pegged at the price of gold plus a small premium to cover production and handling. Figures for the actual number of each piece sold will probably not be available for some time.
I agree with your contention that the program has not been particularly successful, if you measure success strictly by numbers. However, in the long run, it might turn out to be imminently successful, especially for those who purchased the medallions. That's because low mintages could mean high appreciation in the future.
Also, the purpose of the program was to honor American artists. In this endeavor, the program was right on target. Those honored so far (on one-ounce pieces) are Grant Wood, Mark Twain, Louis Armstrong, Robert Frost and Helen Hayes; on half-ounce pieces are Marian Anderson, Willa Cather, Frank Lloyd Wright, Alexander Calder and John Steinbeck.
Now, the reason I say so far is that a proposal has been made to extend the series for 10 more years.
Rep. Jim Leach of Iowa has introduced legislation to continue the medallions; they would honor Arthur Miller, Ella Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Emily Dickinson, George Gershwin, Aaron Copland, Thomas Hart Benton, Charles Marion Russell, Duke Ellington and Will Rogers on the one-ounce pieces; Georgia O'Keefe, I. M. Pei, Ansel Adams, Buddy Holly, Ernest Hemingway, John James Audubon, Henry Fonda, Bix Beiderbecke, Henry David Thoreau and Paul Robeson on the half-ounce gold pieces.
Some people might quarrel with some of the choices, but I think the intent of the program is what's important. A 10-year extension would be a boon for collectors and well-deserved recognition for the arts and artists.
Q: I have a copy of The Times dated Oct. 18, 1984, which contains a photo of a Liberty-head nickel dated 1913. I have had in my possession an identical Liberty-head nickel dated 1911, which was given to me by my brother more than 50 years ago. It is not in mint condition. Do I have a coin of some value?--M.W.C.
A: The 1913 nickel is quite rare with only five known. The 1911 is quite common with 39.5 million issued; since you indicate that it is circulated, it is probably worth only about 50 cents.
Q: I have found in the family belongings a silver Spanish coin dated 1807. On one side is a man's bust with the name Carolus and the words Del Gratia. On the other side, there's a coat of arms and the phrase Hispan et Rex 4 R. Any information about its value would be appreciated.--I.H.R.
A: Your Spanish coin seems to be a 4 reales, and it has a retail value of about $25.
Sunday--The 20th annual show of the Verdugo Hills Coin Club will be at Sterling's Restaurant, 8737 Fenwick St., Sunland, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Coin drawings plus hourly door prizes will be given. About 25 dealers are expected to participate. Admission is 50 cents.
There will be 2,799 lots auctioned in the Russell B. Patterson collection sale with coins ranging from Colonial and Early American to 20th-Century Mercury dimes, Liberty Standing quarters, Liberty Walking half dollars and more. Gold coins including the designer's (Charles Barber) personal specimen of the MCMVII High Relief double eagle will be offered. Augmenting the sale will be offerings from other noted collectors, including an uncirculated 1834 antislavery medal (pictured). A 280-page catalogue for the March 25-26 sale in New York is available for $10 (third-class mail) or $15 (first-class) from Auctions by Bowers & Merena, P. O. Box 1224-NR, Wolfeboro, N.H. 03894.
Don Alpert cannot answer mail personally but will respond to numismatic questions of general interest in this column. Do not telephone. Write to Your Coins, You section, The Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053.