Question: We've just had a baby and would like to buy a set of newly minted coins to commemorate the year of its birth. We would like to spend up to $100. Please advise the best purchase from an investment standpoint.--L.R.
Answer: Proof and mint date sets of United States coins make wonderful gifts. Many people give them to mark special occasions, such as anniversaries, births and special occasions. Most recent sets are priced rather moderately. In such cases, it is the thought that counts. For young people, these sets can open up an interest in numismatics that can be important both educationally and financially.
Because your child was born this year, there's no need to spend the $100 you have budgeted. Since 1981 proof sets have been issued for $11, while uncirculated mint sets since 1984 have cost $7 each. The 1987 sets have not been released, so the price at this time is unknown, but I wouldn't expect an increase over the last couple of years. If there is an increase, it should be minimal. Buy several sets if that fits into your plans.
The original issue price will later fluctuate on the open market. Some date sets go up in value through the years; others go down in value. Because your purpose is to commemorate your child's birth, that should not be a major factor. Once the mint has disposed of its sets, the price becomes a matter of supply and demand. These sets have become so popular in recent years that 2 million and more have been sold. Most dates are available at coin stores. It's a good idea to shop for the best price.
When the new sets become available (I always mention the information in my column), they can be ordered from the United States Mint, 55 Mint St., San Francisco, Calif. 94175.
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.
A: What you have is a tradesman's token. They are quite interesting and can be collected as a series. In effect, they were an early form of advertising. Your token is worth $3 to $5.
Q: I have a 1-cent U.S. coin dated 1898 with a "V" sign on one side and a queen on the other, and a 1912 1-cent U.S. coin. Can you tell me how much these two are worth?--P.M.P.
A: You better look at your coins again. The 1898 cent has an Indian on the obverse and a wreath on the reverse. The 1912 is a Lincoln cent. Let me know again when you figure out what you have, and I'll try to give you an estimate.
Q: I have a coin in very good condition that looks like a French gold piece. It is about the size of a nickel with a man's face, right profile. He has a mustache and there's a wreath on his head. The reverse side has the phrase: XX CORON A MDCCCXIX 20 COR 1899. Please tell me what I have and its value.--M.G.
A: Your coin is an Austrian 20 corona gold piece. It's worth about $75.
Q: Can you tell me what the following are and if they have any value to collectors? A Japanese government 5 pesos bill; a 50 pesos Mexican bill 8 de Nov. de 1961; 10 pesos Mexican bill 8 de Nov. de 1961, 10 pesos Mexican bill 24 de Octobre de 1913; a 5,000 Reichsbank note from Germany from 2 December 1922, and a 1,000 Reichsbank note from Germany from 21 April 1910.--C.L.
A: Essentially what you have is Japanese occupation money plus German and Mexican bills. None of them, unfortunately, has much, if any, collector value.
Sunday--About 25 dealers are expected at the 22nd Annual Coin Show sponsored by the Verdugo Hills Coin Club. The show, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Stering's Restaurant, 8737 Fenwick St., Sunland, will feature various numismatic material. For information, call Bob Thompson, (818) 249-5033, (818) 248-8066.
Ancient, foreign and platinum coins from the Edwards Metcalf and Buddy Ebsen collections will be auctioned June 7-10 at Superior Galleries in Beverly Hills. Among coins to be sold is an 1884 Hawaiian pattern platinum half dollar (pictured) in choice uncirculated condition. Highlights include Greek, Judaean, Roman, Byzantine, Russian, Australian and New Zealand pieces, more than 1,000 gold coins and more than 750 platinum pieces. Auction catalogues are $15 ($40 hardcover) from Superior Galleries, 9478 W. Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills, Calif. 90212-4236.
Another auction--this one of United States gold, silver and copper coins featuring large cents, half dollars and silver dollars--will be March 17 and 18 at the Omni Park Central Hotel in New York City. More than 1,300 coins will be sold by Stack's, 123 West 57th St., New York, N.Y. 10019; telephone (212) 582-2580. Catalogues, including prices realized, are $10.
Collectors of ancient coins will be interested in a new publication, the Celator, dedicated to "advancing the appreciation of ancient numismatic art. . . ." Vol. 1, No. 1 is dated February/March and contains 12 pages, cleverly numbered in Roman numerals. The price per issue is $1; subscriptions are $6 from the Celator, P.O. Box 123, Lodi, Wis. 53555.
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.