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Discovering Obscure Numismatic Items

January 02, 1986|DON ALPERT

There's no end to what you can learn in numismatics. No one knows it all, but there's usually someone who is familiar with seemingly obscure and little-known items.

Such is the case with a query mentioned in the Dec. 19 column regarding a Civil War token. Several readers responded, including Jack R. Detwiler, past president of the Civil War Token Society.

"I was able to recognize the piece as a Civil War token," Detwiler writes. "There are three categories: patriotics (anonymous store card; usually has a patriotic theme), store card (has merchant's name on obverse or reverse) and sutler tokens (military tokens with a sutler's name and unit). The tokens were privately minted, emergency money used during the coin shortage of the Civil War. The sutler was a civilian who sold merchandise to the troops. (The sutler's work is equivalent to a modern-day post exchange.)

The token mentioned, according to Detwiler, was made by a die sinker, Francis X. Koehler of Baltimore. "Koehler made store cards," Detwiler said, "for Baltimore merchants as well as sutlers, but he signed only his sutler tokens. Victor Beaudry (another name mentioned in the token query) served as a sutler for the 4th U.S. Infantry in addition to the 1st Regiment of the U.S. Cavalry." This particular token is numbered C100B on Page 78 of David E. Schenkman's "Civil War Sutler Tokens" (1983, Jade House, Box 419, Bryantown, Md. 20617, $17.50 postpaid), Detwiler says, and the rarity factor is R9. One to four known specimens. It would sell, he says, for $30 to $200, depending upon condition.

Another comment comes from Stephen P. Alpert (no relation), who says: "I wish you would stop bad-mouthing tokens and medals by saying they have no numismatic value, are hard to identify and can only be sold at garage sales. There are thousands of token and medal collectors, and hundreds of books and journals on the subject. I make my living selling them." Alpert confirms the token's identity and says "I would pay $50 for it if it is in nice condition."

Still another comment comes from F. A. Rohrman, who uses as his source Walker and Zarling's "Indian Traders and Sutlers," Page 9. He says that several of these tokens exist, and they're worth about $10 to $15.

All this only confirms what I've long maintained: There are collectors for almost anything imaginable. And there are specialists in almost every field. Collectors usually start out trying to purchase everything and then narrow the scope to an isolated series or area. If this discussion has awakened anyone's curiosity about Civil War tokens, contact the Civil War Token Society, Department CW, 6733 Post Oak Lane, Montgomery, Ala. 36117. Dues are $7 annually.

Question: I have five silver dollars with dates 1921, 1922 and 1923. Would you please print an answer as to their worth?--P.G.

Answer: As a rule, you can figure all silver U.S. dollars are worth $10 each and up. Certain dates and mint marks command extra value, but the prime consideration is condition. Any wear detracts from a coin's value; the more wear, the less value. But it is mostly the so-called wonder coins and certain rarities that really call for high numbers. For the rest, $10 each and up.

Q: I have two old coins. Do they have any special value? One is an 1885 Indian-head cent. The other is an 1809 Liberty-head nickel.--E.D.B.

A: Your coins are old but not necessarily valuable. The cent is worth $2 and up, the nickel 50 cents and up.

Coin Calendar

Sunday--Several exhibits featuring Statue of Liberty memorabilia and its history will be showcased at the 23rd Coin and Hobby Show sponsored by the San Bernardino County Coin Club. The show runs from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the National Orange Show Grounds, Citrus Building, 689 South E St., San Bernardino. A donation of $1 includes a 1 1/2-inch bronze Statue of Liberty centennial medal.

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.

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