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Interest in U.S. Silver Issues Is Rising

November 20, 1986|DON ALPERT

Question: There was a news story about the first-ever United States bullion silver dollars to be struck. Obviously, my chance of obtaining one or more is next to nothing, along with thousands of others like me. What would be my best chance of acquiring these dollars?--J.D.

Answer: Your letter reflects the general confusion many people feel concerning the new government bullion program. Most interest has focused on the gold bullion coins. But because gold is considerably more expensive than silver, interest should shift as the availability of the silver dollar grows.

These one-ounce silver pieces should be funneling into the marketplace shortly, if they are not there already. The bullion coins will pass through several hands before they reach the retail market. You can expect some banks and most coin dealers to handle them.

Initially, the desire to own these coins should drive the price up beyond the expected formula for these pieces, which is expected to be about 80 cents to $1 over the spot price of silver. With silver hovering near the $6-an-ounce level, it's reasonable to expect to pay about $7 per coin. However, supply and demand might make the silver dollar more expensive in the short term.

In line with this, it's interesting to see what's happening with the gold bullion pieces. These are being struck in one-ounce, half-ounce, quarter-ounce and one-tenth-ounce sizes. The one-ounce gold eagle, as these coins have been dubbed, is selling for about $440. That's a premium of about $35 more than the spot price of gold. The smaller gold coins are selling for a premium of about 38% to 40% more than the spot price of gold. Many dealers are holding off stocking these coins until price margins are more reasonable.

You can expect prices for the gold and silver eagles to remain on the upside at least until after the Christmas season. There's a lot of interest, and they'll make great stocking stuffers. Also, the proof version of these coins (discussed last week) should help stimulate the market. But don't be concerned about being left out of the silver and gold rush. I wouldn't be surprised if the various mints are working overtime to satisfy the public's bullion appetite.

Q: Could you advise me on the worth of a $10 gold piece, Indian head, 1909 issue, with an eagle on the back?--M.A.

A: Your $10 eagle is worth between $425 and $500 if it's in very fine to almost uncirculated condition. The price goes up sharply from there in the better grades.

Q: I have a complete set (24 coins) from the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. The set included the famed Series I. This series created a political storm between West and East Germany. These are the coins that originally carried the legend reading "Olympic Games in Germany." This was taken as an insult by East Germany, which considered that it was "Germany." All the coins are in uncirculated mint condition. Could you give me some idea of their value today?--B.T.

A: The catalogue value for proof and uncirculated sets is $300. The market value is about $250.

Q: I have a spare $1,000 to invest. I would like to buy one coin around $900-$1,000, and would like to see this investment grow at around 10% a year--secured. Is this possible?--J.P.

A: Yes, it's possible. But I'm not sure what you mean by secured. There are no guarantees that the market will go up. Many coins have an outstanding profit record. But the public is fickle and a change in collecting habits and preferences could actually lower a coin's value. If you buy gold and the swing is to silver, you might have a problem. The reverse is also possible. Before you decide to toss $1,000 around, learn as much as you can about numismatics.

Q: I would like to know the value of the following U.S. coins: a $1 gold 1865 and a $2 1/2 gold 1865.--D.F.

A: Your gold dollar is worth $150 and up, depending upon condition. The quarter eagle is worth $175 and up.

Q: Some years ago my wife received from her father a charter edition of sterling silver medals from the Great Patriots of the United States series from the Danbury Mint. There are 60 proof medals in all. The question is: Should they be disposed of at this time, and could you give me an approximate value?--J.W.N.

A: Medals are often beautiful, historical and have sentimental value. Many have considerable collector value. Your set, however, is essentially worth the bullion value. Some day it might also have more of a market, but I doubt if you'll get much of a premium today. Should you sell? It's anyone's guess.

Q: I have a genuine 1943 cent, which looks bronze. Would you let me know its value and the source by which I could have the coin put up for sale? Also, I have a silver coin of the year 1737, which seems British. Please let me know the value of this coin also.--W.E.K.

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