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Typical-Looking Item Can Sometimes Be Worth a Lot

February 26, 1987|DON ALPERT

Question: I have an 1883 gold double eagle ($20). I don't see any CC or S marks on it. What is it worth?--E.B.

Answer: On the surface, this is a very innocent question. The standard answer today for a typical $20 United States gold piece would be: Your coin is worth $420 and up, depending upon condition. However, the coin you have described is not a typical $20 gold piece. You've described a rare proof-only coin that had a mintage of 92. The Guide Book of United States Coins doesn't even list a value on this variety because of its rarity. The true value could only be determined by auction or through a private sales transaction. A search through auction records would help establish earlier sales records.

Before you get excited, make sure your coin is genuine. Show it to some dealers, and if they are encouraging, have it authenticated by the American Numismatic Assn. The mint mark for double eagles, incidentally, is on the reverse below the eagle and above the word Twenty. No mint mark indeed indicates the coin is from the Philadelphia Mint, which was the proof-only issue. Proof coins were specially struck on polished dies, resulting in a distinctive mirror-like surface.

These proof coins are readily identifiable by even novice collectors. Proofs that have been mishandled show the abuse glaringly. Such coins are called impaired and lose considerable value.

Q: Re Series 1950 $100 Federal Reserve Note, which was given to me by Crocker Bank--it does not have the inscription "In God We Trust." I have not seen any other bills of this type and wonder if this bill has any extra value.--J.M.W.

A: These bills were printed both ways--with the motto and without the motto. Either way, the bills have no special value.

Q: I have a coin that says: Half Penny 1790 John Wilkinson Iron Master. It's in very good condition. Can you estimate its value?--T.U.

Q: What is the current value of an 1879 $5 gold piece and an 1898 Queen Victoria half sovereign?--J.S.S.

A: Your $5 gold half eagle is worth $150 and up; the half sovereign is $103.

Q: I have an 1882 silver dollar. Could you let me know the value?--I.H.

A: The 1882 dollar is quite common. Unless your coin is uncirculated, it is worth about $8 or $10. Mint State coins are worth considerably more.

Coin News

Israel's first double mint set containing 12 coins and a medal (pictured) is being released in brilliant uncirculated condition. The set contains trade coins dated 1986 and 1987 in various denominations and designs. Mintage is limited to 15,000 sets, but more than 10,000 have been sold in Israel. Remaining sets are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The 1986/1987 sets are $12 each from the Israel Government Coins & Medals Corp., 350 Fifth Ave., New York, N.Y. 10118.

Nearly $2 million in sales, 30% above pre-sale expectations, was tallied at the Westchester Collection auction held in conjunction with the Numismatic Assn. of Southern California convention Feb. 5, 6 and 7. Highlights of the sale, conducted by Auctions by Bowers & Merena, included a 1794 dollar, graded extra fine for $25,000 ($27,500 with the 10% buyer's fee added), an MS-62/63 1921 $20 gold piece for $25,200 ($27,720); 1793 Liberty Capped cent, graded very fine, $3,700 ($4,070); 1909-S VDB cent MS-65, $1,200 ($1,320); 1880 proof-67 dime, $3,800 ($4,180); 1891-S MS-67 dollar, $1,900 ($2,090); a commemorative 1936 Rhode Island set, MS-64, $1,700 ($1,870), and a 1936 proof set, proof-65, $6,500 ($7,150). The Westchester Collection catalogue plus prices realized are available for $15 from Auctions by Bowers & Merena, Box 1224-NR, Wolfeboro, N.H. 03894.

Don Alpert cannot answer mail personally but will respond to numismatic questions of general interest in this column. Do not telephone. Write to Your Coins, You section, The Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053.

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