Many readers submit questions regarding medals and tokens but erroneously refer to them as coins. It's true that medals and tokens are a branch of numismatics, distant cousins, you might say. But strictly speaking, they're not coins.
I've addressed the subject many times in the past and have been reminded about the differentiation once again by Sol Taylor, president of the Society of Lincoln Cent Collectors. Taylor defines tokens as "items used for trade purposes. They can be exchanged for something--such as subway tokens (fare), telephone tokens, store tokens, machine tokens (toll booth, music machine, washing machine, etc.) or a presentation of esteem, such as a love token."
Medals, Taylor goes on, "generally are not used or meant for use as trade items. Military medals are presented for bravery, conduct, service, etc. Medals are often made to honor an event, such as a World's Fair, opening of a new bridge, a baseball stadium . . . . Medals are often made to honor a person, living or dead."
Many books have been published on each topic and subtopic, Taylor says, and he suggests that persons interested in this fascinating branch of numismatics contact the Tokens and Medals Society, c/o Dorothy Baber, 611 Oakwood Way, El Cajon, Calif. 92021.
Question: I have a 1913 nickel with an Indian head and the word Liberty on one side, a buffalo on the other side with a Denver (D) mint mark. It is in what I think is real good condition. Is it possible to place any value on this coin? Also, there's an 1853 2 1/2-D gold coin, no mint mark.--A.H.
Answer: Yes, I can place a value on your coins. But all values are just guesswork. I try to estimate what a dealer might offer you and tend to be a bit conservative on the amount. Only a hands-on inspection can give you an accurate figure, since condition is all-important. Your 1913-D Variety I Indian-head nickel is in the $5-to-$10 range; the 1853 quarter eagle is in the $200-and-up category.
Q: I have an Indian-head penny. The date is 1874. It looks like it is 100 years old. I think it would be very valuable if it could tell its history.--M.L.
A: I agree. That's what makes coin collecting so much fun. One thing your cent could tell you: At one time, there were 14 million others just like it. No one knows just how many have survived. Your cent, after all these years, is now worth about $3.
Q: I have a question I haven't seen addressed in your column. I have a $20 U.S. gold piece, 1916-D with a design under the date; seems to be in good condition. All the stars and letters on the edge are raised and legible, and few surface scratches are visible under a magnifying glass. Would it detract from the value of the coin if I put it in a bezel and use it as a pendant?--N.S.
A: Uncirculated gold coins should not be used as jewelry. It's difficult to tell from your description whether your coin is circulated. Get the opinion of a professional numismatist. If it's circulated you won't damage its value by putting it into a bezel; if it's uncirculated, leave it alone.
Q: I have a gold coin from the Panama Canal Exposition held in San Francisco in 1915. Is there a market for this type of coin? And does it have any value other than its gold content?--N.N.
A: The Panama Pacific Exposition produced both silver and gold commemorative coins. Unfortunately, the tracing you made of your coin does not resemble the official government releases. These coins are quite valuable. What you have seems to be a medal. You'll have to get it authenticated and have the metal content tested before any value can be placed on it.
Q: I have 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 value and is it redeemable in gold?--J.M.G.
A: No to both your questions. The United States went off the gold standard in 1933, making U.S. currency fiat money.
Q: I have three Eisenhower uncirculated 40% silver dollars sealed in plastic, dated 1971. Do they have any special value?--V.G.
A: Your Ike dollars are worth about $6 each.
Q: I have a $5 gold 1880 coin and a $2 1/2 gold 1928. Both have been circulated. What would be their worth? I also have a gold $50 Mexican coin 1945 (37.5 grams) in good condition. What is this worth?--H.T.
A: The two United States gold coins, although different denominations and dates, are worth $150 each and up, depending on condition. The 50 peso (not dollar) gold coin, essentially a bullion piece, is worth about $420. Value here is determined by the daily spot price of gold.
Q: I have a Canadian 1984 dollar in memory of Jacques Cartier and another, Edmonton 1904-1979. Also, I have a 1927 penny (the size of a silver dollar) with Georgius V Dei Gra Britt Omn: Rex Def Ind Imp. Could you please tell me how much these are worth?--H.S.