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Time for an Upgrade in Design Quality

November 27, 1986|DON ALPERT

Question: The coins we use today seem very plain and artistically drab. Unlike, say, the Walking Liberty or even the Indian-head cent. You can't say the Ike or Anthony dollars are beautiful coins. Do you see any chance in the future for a change of coin design? I believe the time is due.--J.A.G.

Answer: I agree with your assessment. The Eisenhower dollar and Anthony dollar both were unattractive. But that only partly explains their unpopularity. Size was the main problem. The Ike dollar was large and cumbersome. People did not like to carry them around because of the bulk. They're fine in Las Vegas. Anyplace else they're a liability.

The Mint tried to compensate for this problem when the Susan B. Anthony dollar was introduced in 1979. But they went too far in the other direction, and the Susie was often confused with a quarter because of its small size. The public balked because of the size problem, and millions now languish in Treasury vaults with officials unable to figure out what to do with them.

Even the serviceable Lincoln cent, Jefferson nickel and Washington quarter are getting tiresome. The Lincoln cent has been in use since 1909 with only occasional adjustments, basically a redesigned reverse. The Jefferson nickel has been in circulation since 1938, and the Washington quarter has been around since 1932.

The familiar Roosevelt dime has been with us since 1946.

None of these coins is particularly attractive, although the Lincoln cent and Jefferson nickel seem the least objectionable. What's saved the day for collectors looking for new material are some of the recent commemorative pieces, including the 1984 Olympic pieces and the recent Statue of Liberty coinage. In addition, the new bullion coins have resurrected two of the most beautiful American designs of the past, the Saint-Gaudens gold double eagle and the Walking Liberty by A. A. Weinman.

There will always be collectors for the old, classic pieces with condition being an important element. And the public will eagerly await new commemorative pieces. Next up--the 200th anniversary of the Constitution. As for our daily coinage, any changes will be up to Congress. Only an organized, concerted campaign would have any probable effect.

Q: Could you please tell me where I could locate the names, meeting dates and meeting address of some coin clubs in the Long Beach-to-Orange County area?--B.D.

A: The Long Beach Coin Club meets on the second Tuesday of the month at 7:30 p.m. at Great American First Savings Bank, 4601 East 2nd St., Long Beach. The mailing address is P.O. Box 8101, Long Beach, Calif. 90808. The Orange County Coin Club meets on the fourth Wednesday of the month at 7:30 p.m. at Glendale Federal Savings & Loan, 320 N. Harbor Blvd., Fullerton. Mailing address is P.O. Box 2004, Santa Ana, Calif. 92707. Other clubs are listed in a directory of the Numismatic Assn. of Southern California. President of this blanket organization is Lorna R. Lebold, Box 5173, Buena Park, Calif. 90622.

Q: I have a 1904 U.S. silver dollar. I believe the coin is quite valuable. Please respond.--C.P.J.

A: Your coin is probably in the $10-to-$300 range, depending upon condition. If your coin is a proof, or in a high grade of uncirculated, it could be worth much more.

Coin News

Akko, an ancient Judean city, is featured in Israel's latest issue in the Holy Land Sites series inaugurated in 1982. The coin (pictured) is in three denominations--a silver half shekel with 10,000 produced at the Royal Mint of Utrecht; a proof silver shekel with 10,000 produced at the Stuttgart Mint; and a proof gold 5 shekalim with 3,500 produced by the Mint of Berne. Initially, these coins are being made available to those on the Israel Government subscriber list. To qualify, write the Israel Government Coins and Medals Corp., 350 Fifth Ave., New York, N.Y.

Coin Letters

I doubt if this will be the only letter in response to your Nov. 6 item regarding the Liberty gold. I ordered two proof and two mint sets. Eventually my two proofs came, then two letters assuring me the mint sets were on the way. Finally I received two more proof sets--after I had read that the mint sets were sold out. At least they didn't charge me the extra cost of the proofs. I had ordered early too. Of course there was no response to my "How come?" letter. I want you to know that all of us out there are not holding proofs just by choice, but are particularly unhappy as we read the increased prices on the coins we did order and failed to receive.--K.G.T.

Your response to a letter regarding new cents stated, "The weight is the same." In 1982, the copper-plated zinc cent was introduced. It weighs 2.5 grams. The bronze cent up to 1982 weighs 3.1 grams. There is enough of a difference so a person can heft one of each and feel the difference. Also, the two types sound quite different when dropped on a hard surface--the bronze coins ping, while the zinc cents clunk.--S.T.

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