Many hobbies can be learned by doing. Others, such as numismatics, are actually cerebral, and study is as important as mere acquisition.
One of the axioms of numismatics is: Buy the book before you buy the coin. With this in mind, the new book by Q. David Bowers, "United States Coins by Design Types," should be a welcome addition to every collector's bookshelf.
How and what a person collects is an individual matter. Some prefer to collect by date and mint mark, concentrating on a particular series, such as the Morgan dollar or the Lincoln cent. Others prefer to have an example of each of the major design types. This is known as collecting by type, probably one of the more popular methods used today and one that allows the collector to become knowledgeble in more than one area.
Bowers' book is a primer on type coins and type collecting. He not only explains the various types, but describes them in detail and points out where rarities exist in certain grades and where they are more accessible. Type sets can be built along individual lines. Some might want to collect a gold type set, others silver.
Some might concentrate on the 20th Century or the 19th Century. These and other options are pointed out by Bowers, who also illustrates each type and provides a handy description.
Next to mastering the art of coin grading, "United States Coins by Design Types" should be one of the most valuable tools in a collector's reference file.
Copies are available for $9.95 plus $2 for postage and handling from Bowers and Merena Galleries, Box 1224-NR, Wolfeboro, N.H.
Question: My husband bought two pieces of eight, one from the Concepcion, 1641, and one from the Flying Hart, vintage 17-- (date unclear). I am interested in finding out their value for a possible sale. The one from Concepcion has a certificate of authenticity.--S.K.
Answer: Coins from shipwrecks are quite collectible. Pieces of eight are often recovered from these ships, so not only the coin but the lore involved take on special meaning. Pieces of eight were produced from about 1500 to 1900, and there are basically two types--those that were machine struck and the cobs, which were hand hammered and rather crude. Both types had similar designs. Also, these coins were made in various denominations, including 1 real and 2 reals. You will probably have to take your coins to a dealer or a specialist for an evaluation.
Q: I purchased a coin several years ago that had a tag with the following information: "Roman Republic, C. 107 BC, M. Cipius denarius, Roma/Giga, VF." The coin, about the size of a dime, has ROMA on the back and the head of a Roman soldier on the front. Does it have any value?--J.A.
A: Ancient coins are a specialty with narrow but avid collector interest. Your coin is probably in the $2-to-$25 range, even though it's several thousand years old.
Q: Can you give me any information about my silver certificate dollar bills? They were purchased at a bank in 1962 and stored in bank gift envelopes. They appear to be brand new. What is the current value?--L.S.W.
A: Most silver certificates have little or no value if they are circulated. Yours, however (Series 1957-B), which appear to be crisp and uncirculated from the representation, are worth about $3 each.
Q: I have a 1978 dime that has what appears to be raised mint marks on the back side that partially cover the "One Dime" notation. Is this known as a flaw?--D.B.
A: I guess you can call it a flaw. Collectors would probably call it an error or perhaps even a minor variety. It's possible that the marks were even added after the coin reached circulation. Perhaps someone was attempting to alter it. It's hard to tell from your depiction. No matter; it has little or no premium value.
Q: Could you please advise me as to the value of the following: 1896 Isla de Puerto Rico 40 centavos, 1895 Isla de Puerto Rico 1 peso, 1873 Newfoundland 1 cent, 1880 (round O) Newfoundland 1 cent, 1894 Canada 1 cent and 1968 25-peso Mexico Olimpiada?--F.D.L.
A: Your coins, which from your description appear to be circulated, have minimal value. The 40 centavos is worth about $1, the 1 peso is $5, the Newfoundland 1873 cent is $2 while the 1880 cent is $1. The Canadian cent is $3 and the Mexican Olympic is $3.75.
Q: My father was a postmaster for 25 years in a small Midwestern town in the '30s and '40s. He collected Indian-head pennies. Over the years he filled a quart fruit jar. Would these have any value?--L.F.G.
A: Indian cents, if not damaged, are worth about 30 cents each and up. You might want to sort the coins by dates, then consult a catalogue for a general price approximation. Remember, condition is all important.
Q: I am a new coin collector. I see much interest in Mexican World Cup and Libertads. How can I get on the Mexican Mint's mailing list to get these and other Mexican issues directly?--M.K.