Question: I have a circulated United States Columbian half dollar dated 1893 with "World's Columbian Exposition Chicago" on the other side. Can you tell me its value?--C.W.
Answer: Your Columbian half dollar represents the first United States commemorative coin. The first commemorative, actually, was the identical coin but dated 1892. Commemoratives currently are enjoying considerable collector interest, probably stimulated by the recent Olympics coinage and the current Statue of Liberty issues.
The Columbian was issued to help defray the cost of completing buildings and exhibits for the World's Fair in Chicago. It is interesting not only because it is a first but also because the obverse, a likeness of Christopher Columbus, was designed by Charles E. Barber but roundly criticized at the time because many believed it more closely resembled either Daniel Webster or Henry Ward Beecher. In Barber's defense, he had no actual model to follow. The reverse was designed by George T. Morgan, better known for the silver dollars first issued in 1878 that feature a profile of Miss Liberty facing left.
The 1892 and 1893 Columbian half dollars are worth about the same even though only about 95,000 1892s were minted and about 1.5 million 1893s were minted. In circulated condition, your half is worth about $6 to $10. Uncirculated versions range in price from about $50 for an MS-60 (that's the mint state rated on a scale of 1 to 70) to about $900 for an MS-65.
Q: I have the following coins. Do they have any value? A 1-cent 1857 with an eagle in flight on the face, 2-cent 1864 (larger than pennies), 1-cent 1863, Indian-head pennies from 1880 to 1909, French 5 centimes 1916, Canada 1-cent 1901, Chinese or Japanese round coin with a square opening and no date.--J.A.
A: Your 1857 flying eagle cent is worth $5 and up, the 2-cent piece is $3, the 1863 cent is $1, the Indian-head cents are 50 cents each, and the foreign coins have little or no collector value.
Q: I have some gold coins that came into my possession from a relative's estate. There are four Swedish gold pieces--two 1876 10 kroner and two 1901 10 kroner. There are also two British gold coins, one dated 1895 and one 1896, with profiles of Queen Victoria. Also, there is a very small U.S. gold $1, 1853, worn but readable.--E.E.P.
A: The four 10 kroners are worth $95 each, the British sovereigns are $85 each and the 1853 $1 is $125.
Q: I have a 1911-D gold quarter-eagle in extra fine (XF) to almost uncirculated (AU) condition. Since proceeds from the sale of this coin are to be divided among four children, what is my best option for obtaining top dollar value?--B.S.
A: Your 1911-D Indian-head type $2 1/2 gold piece is of a relatively low mintage, with only 55,680 issued. In the condition you describe, it's in the $700-to-$800 range. Offer it to more than one dealer in order to get the best price.
Several new pricing guides are now on the market. Just released is the 40th edition of R. S. Yeoman's "A Guide Book of United States Coins." Commonly known as the Red Book, it is probably the most comprehensive price guide available and sells for $6.95 at coin stores. Also being released is the 1987 Blackbook Price Guide of United States Coins (25th edition). This handy pocketbook (published by Ballantine Books) does not agree entirely with the Red Book on pricing, which is good, because no two dealers see eye to eye either. The Blackbook costs $3.95 and there are also companion guides for paper money and postage stamps, also $3.95 each from Ballantine.
A rare, privately minted early California gold coin was found recently by a San Francisco Bay-area treasure hunter with a metal detector. The coin (pictured) is the finest-known example of only seven known Bubosq & Co. $10 gold pieces and will be sold by Kagin's Numismatics Auctions at the annual American Numismatic Assn. convention Aug. 6-10 in Milwaukee. The coin, authenticated by the American Numismatic Assn. Certification Service, is expected to sell for about $50,000. For more information or a catalogue, contact George J. Fuld of Kagin's, 1388 Sutter St., Suite 700, San Francisco, Calif. 94109, (800) 652-4467.