Question: I just received uncirculated sets of P (Philadelphia) and D (Denver) coins from the U. S. Mint. Upon closely studying them, I noticed that the P mint mark is missing from the cent piece. Does this denote any particular numismatic value?--M.R.
Answer: Collectors are always looking for peculiarities on their coins. Missing letters, double dies, errors, missing stars, misprints and various other characteristics that shouldn't be on a coin (or that should be and aren't) could add considerably to its value. The 1983-S proof dime, for example, without a mint mark, is priced in the latest Standard Guide to United States coins at $700. The difference in value between 1979-S proof sets with a filled S and clear S is about $100 in favor of the clear S.
So, the collector who scrutinizes his coins is a wise one. The discovery that the P is missing from the uncirculated cent, however, only confirms the fact that that's the way they were produced. Now, if your cent actually had a P mint mark, that would really be something. So, in answer to the question, in this particular instance, the coin is not unique and does not have special value.
Now, if you were studying the proof sets, that would be a different matter. Most collectors of these popular U.S. coins have probably already received notice that the 1985 proof sets are available. The sets, containing a half dollar, quarter, dime, nickel and cent, are of proof quality (double struck on highly polished dies) and are specially packaged. It is a popular series with more than 2.5 million sets sold last year. Each of the coins in the '85 proof sets, incidentally, contains the S mint mark.
To order these sets, send $11 per set to United States Mint, P. O. Box 7662, San Francisco 94120-7662. Only checks or money orders will be accepted. There is no limit on the number of sets that may be ordered.
Q: Please explain how the beginner and the collector with limited resources can keep abreast of current coinage issues by the three U.S. mints. Uncirculated coins bought from the mints are expensive; bank tellers are not always sympathetic; coin dealers are not interested. Your help will be welcome.--D.W.G.
A: If I understand your question correctly, you want to collect U.S. coins, but you want to get them primarily from circulation. Well, there once was a time when this was possible, but not anymore. Most people realize that coins can be worth more than face value, and it's quite difficult to find anything worthwhile in change.
However, some recent uncirculated and proof sets are available from dealers at less than the issue price, so if that's the sort of material you're interested in, it's certainly in the marketplace. If even this is too much for your budget, it's still possible to enjoy coins by reading as much as possible on the subject, even though collecting may not be feasible.
Q: Many years ago at the Sears, Roebuck store at 1716 S. Main St., Santa Ana, there hung in the window a rug that depicted a huge U.S. dollar. To the best of my memory it was a silver certificate. The rug was a large one, or maybe it was a runner. I believe the rug was on display from 1948 to 1952. It was woven in colors and also, to the best of my memory, carried a card offering $1,000 to anyone who had the dollar bill used as its model. Do you know the whereabouts of this striking rug?--S.M.S.
A: Your question is one of the more intriguing that I've received. And the answer is one of the more difficult to track down. I checked with Rita Ergas of the Sears public affairs office. She in turn checked with the company archives in Chicago and with Sears employees, including many who have retired, to learn more about the rug and the $1 replica. Sorry to report that the big buck doesn't stop here. It's hard to believe that anything that big could just disappear, but that seems to be the case. I guess this is just a graphic illustration of what can happen to an inflated dollar.
Q: A few years ago I collected a number of $1 bills that had the signature of Joseph Barr. It was my understanding that they might be collector's items in the future because he was in office only a short time. Would you know anything of their value? What happened to these bills?--Q.L.
A: Joseph Barr was secretary of the Treasury for 28 days in the late '60s, which caused many people to believe that his signature on U.S. bills would be rare. This is not the case, since a large number of bills bearing his signature were run off. Many people still believe that his signature on a bill makes it valuable. Sorry, but it just ain't so. Your bill has no collector value.
Q: I have a 1980 spread-eagle half dollar. Is it of any value?--T.B.