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Knowledge a Good Primary Investment for a Collector

April 18, 1985|DON ALPERT

Question: I have recently started to invest in rare coins, primarily Morgan silver dollars, though I will also look into other coins for investment purposes. As a newcomer, I must rely solely upon the advice of the reputable coin dealers from whom I make my purchases. However, on my own I would like to acquire knowledge about what gives these coins their value and what to look for in making purchases. Is there a book available that can supply this information to the beginner? --H.G.

Answer: Knowledge is the key to coin collecting and investing. You seem to be going about your program in a very intelligent manner. The first thing to realize is that no one knows everything there is to know about coins. It's a subject of broad general interest and narrow specialization. You seem to have zeroed in on the Morgan dollar. This is not surprising. Many beginning collectors and investors are attracted to this coin, designed by George T. Morgan. It is also known as the Liberty head dollar and was issued from 1878 to 1921.

There's no problem collecting or investing in Morgan dollars or any other coin as long as you understand grading. Coins are graded by condition, strike, luster and several other factors on a scale of one to 70. Certain dates and mints exhibit specific characteristics, so it is important to know which dates are notoriously weak. This means a strongly struck coin of that date would be more valuable than a similar coin of a date with traditionally strongly struck coins.

Now, you really can't learn about grading from a book, although "The Official American Numismatic Assn. Grading Standards for United States Coins" is a valuable tool. But because grading is subjective, there will always be room for argument in that area. And you'll find, not surprisingly, that a coin usually looks better to the seller than to the buyer. So eventually it all comes down to price. And if you can buy the coin at the right price, then it really doesn't matter what the grade is. Still, it's preferable to buy coins in the highest grade possible.

In addition to basic books such as the Red Book and the aforementioned ANA grading guide, you might want to consider "The Complete Investor's Guide to Silver Dollar Investing" by Dick A. Reed. It analyzes Morgan and Peace dollars date by date and illustrates the coins pictorially by grade. Each date is also rated for investment desirability by grade with an easy-to-read color guide.

Keep in mind that for investment purposes, coins usually take about three to five years to appreciate in value.

Q: What is the value of a $100 gold note? Is it redeemable in gold? Does it have any collector value? --E.T.C.

A: Gold notes do have value, but that depends on the condition of the bill and the series. They are not redeemable in gold.

Coin Calendar

Saturday and Sunday--The 11th semiannual Buena Park Coin and Stamp Show will offer ticket holders free wooden nickels in honor National Coin Week, which is next week. More than 70 dealers will participate Saturday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., at the Retail Clerks' Auditorium, 8550 Stanton Ave., Buena Park. Admission is $1.

Saturday--A workshop on collecting and investing is being sponsored by the Numismatic Assn. of Southern California. David Hall of Newport Beach will conduct the session at the Sportsmen's Lodge, 12815 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Contact Tom Fitzgerald at (818) 967-6354, Ext. 400, to participate.

Coin News

Collectors of the United Nations Decade for Women Coin Program will be pleased to know that four new silver coins (pictured on Page 16) have been introduced. Malta, Papua New Guinea, Maldives and Seychelles have issued these new legal-tender, proof-quality coins. Designs incorporate the dove symbol of the United Nations Decade for Women and an inscription identifying the coin as part of this international collection. About 24 silver and 15 gold-proof coins will be issued in quantities of 15,000 gold and 20,000 silver worldwide. For information, contact the United Nations Decade for Women Coin Program, Francis L. Kellogg, executive director, 866 United Nations Plaza, Suite 410, New York 10017.

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