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Specialization Solves the Olympic Issue

October 17, 1985|DON ALPERT

Question: I have a set of 1976 Canadian Olympic silver coins, 28 issued in seven units of four coins each. They are uncirculated and displayed in a case. I would like to know what they are worth now. --B.L.T.

Answer: Your Canadian Olympic set is worth about $200 in today's market. It's important to remember that Olympic coins of all sorts are quite popular. Some collectors concentrate exclusively on Olympic issues. An interesting and varied collection can be assembled, and for the sports fan it can be quite meaningful. However, Olympic pieces as a whole have not gained appreciably in value with the law of supply and demand playing a role.

There is nothing wrong with purchasing new issues. In fact, it's necessary for most collections. But don't expect to make a profit on these coins. It usually takes a long time to retrieve your investment in a coin and an even longer time to turn a profit.

Your best bet is the rare-coin market, purchasing investment-quality pieces that have been properly graded and fairly priced. Stick with United States issues, mostly in the 19th Century. The best ones are not cheap, and before you buy you should learn as much as you can about grading and pricing.

But I wouldn't rule out other coins such as the Canadian Olympic set you mentioned originally. Such coins can give a collector a lot of pleasure, and not everything can be measured in profit alone.

Q: I have an English half penny dated 1905, a Canadian penny dated 1859 and an American nickel dated 1912. Any value? --H.B.

A: Your English half penny has little or no value, the Canadian penny is worth $3 and up, and the Liberty-head nickel is 40 cents and up.

Q: I have found in my possessions a $100 bill, 1928-A, Federal Reserve, Wood and Mellon. Printed on the face is: Redeemable in gold on demand at the Treasury. Is this of any collector's value and is it redeemable in gold? --J.M.W.

A: When the United States went off the gold standard in the early 1930s, bills marked "redeemable in gold" were no longer redeemable in gold. The same holds true for silver certificates. If your bill is not creased or worn it might have some collector value. It would have to be seen to be evaluated.

Q: Cleaning out some drawers, I found two coins--one a 1900 nickel with a woman's head similar to the 1884 silver dollar on one side and the Roman numeral V on the other side. The other coin is a 1915 quarter with a woman's head on one side. It looks like her hair is in a bun, with seven stars on the right side of the field and six on the left side. On the back is an old-fashioned eagle design with a banner in its beak, a wheat shaft in the right claw and, I think, some arrows in the left claw. Can you tell me something about these coins? Are they worth keeping? I am not a collector. --B.G.

A: You may not be a collector, but you certainly have the makings of becoming one. Being curious about designs and characteristics of coins has turned more than one non-collector into an avid hobbyist. Both your coins were designed by the same person, Charles E. Barber. The quarter, in fact, is often called a Barber or Liberty-head type. The nickel is almost always called a Liberty-head type. The nickel is probably more recognizable because of the distinct V on the reverse, a design that lasted from 1883 to 1913. First designs just carried the V without the word cents accompanying it. Sharpies gold-plated these pieces and passed them off as $5 pieces. The omission was quickly corrected, but to this day buyers of 1883 half eagles should make sure they were not actually getting a gold-plated nickel. Your 1900 coin is one of 27 million and worth 20 cents and up. Your 1915 Barber quarter also has a relatively high mintage from the Philadelphia and Denver mints, although mintage from San Francisco was only 704,000. The mint mark is on the reverse below the eagle. Your quarter is worth $1 and up. Should you keep these pieces? Yes, if you would like to start a collection and use these coins as starting points. No, if you have no further interest. They'll just become dust catchers.

Q: I collect world coins, but would like to know the source and value of two coins. One is probably English, the other from the Vatican. The first is 1 inch in diameter and about one-sixteenth-inch-thick brass or bronze, dated 1823, with a George IV bust and St. George and the dragon on the reverse. The other is in bronze, slightly less than one inch in diameter with a bust of Theresa. The reverse reads un soldo and the year 1777 is in a wreath. --J.W.R.

A: Your British coin is copper and worth about $4. Your other coin could possibly be from the Vatican although I was unable to pin it down. The word soldo means penny in Italian. It's probably worth about $3, but you might want to have both of them checked out by a foreign-coin specialist.

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