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Small 3-Cent Piece Issued in the 1800s

April 02, 1987|DON ALPERT

Question: I enjoy reading about coins in The Times, but I have not seen an article about a small, very thin silver coin that I have. On one side it has a C in the center and three ones (III) in the center of the C. On the other side it has a six-pointed star (wreath?) and the date 1852 at the bottom edge. Can you tell me when this coin was first used and has it any value?--P.R.B.

Answer: Silver 3-cent pieces were struck from 1851 to 1873. This is the smallest silver coin ever struck by the mint and was issued primarily to simplify purchasing 3-cent stamps. Your coin is interesting because of its size, design and denomination. The coin was modified twice, making it a three-type series, with coins dated 1851-1853 the first type. Later types were altered slightly and collectors of type sets need an example of each design for a complete set.

Nice examples of this coin are hard to come by. Because the silver 3-cent piece is so small, nice strikes are coveted by collectors. Also, many of these coins circulated widely, complicating the difficulty of finding nice specimens. The early issues primarily were made by the bushel. Your 1852, for example, is one of 18.6 million produced. Still, silver 3-cent pieces are worth about $10 and up. Uncirculated versions of this numismatic oddity range in value from $150 to about $2,000.

Incidentally, there is also an interesting series known as nickel 3-cent pieces. These coins were issued from 1865 to 1889 and differ in design and metal composition from the silver 3-cent series. The nickel 3-cent piece was essentially intended to be a medium of exchange, because silver coins were still being hoarded after the Civil War. Both 3-cent varieties are interesting but considered minor coinage.

Q: When my father returned from overseas after World War II, he brought back several types of German currency. While I understand that these notes are of no value, a friend from Germany has explained that one of the notes is actually a bond of some kind. It is dated 1923 and the amount is for 20 million marks. I assume that this bond is no longer of any literal value, but would there be any potential as a collector's item?--L.L.V.

A: Well, there's no predicting what collectors will buy--or what they will spend. But from a purely numismatic view, your note has little or no collector value.

Q: In the past, you've mentioned errors in paper money. What are some of the major errors, and how often do these errors occur?--M.M.

A: You might want to read the interesting discussion on error notes in the "Standard Catalogue of United States Paper Money" by Krause and Lemke. It's quite difficult to characterize errors, but categories include missing back printing, double printing, printing out of register, inverted face, mismatched denominations, mismatched serial numbers, folds and cutting errors. Prices for paper errors are imprecise and are usually set between buyer and seller.

Q: Why is the price of the krugerrand $12 to $16 lower in price than the Maple Leaf when a short time back, they were of equal value? Secondly, under what circumstances, if any, would they return to equal value?--J.J.

A: The decline in value of the krugerrand is due to political and psychological reasons. The United States and other Western nations banned further importation of the South African krugerrand as a protest to apartheid, an officially sanctioned policy of racial segregation. As a result, many financial institutions will no longer deal in krugerrands and the public has cooled toward them. They still contain one ounce of gold, the same as the Maple Leaf and other bullion coins, but the public protest has driven the price down.

Q: We have in our family a Confederate States of America loan note for $100 dated March 2, 1863, along with coupons to be clipped. It is in pretty fair shape considering its age. I also have a Liberty silver dollar, dated 1900. It is in good shape, probably MS-60. Can you tell me what this might be worth now?--J.J.

A: Your Confederate loan note is probably worth between $25 and $50. The 1900 $1, if it is indeed MS-60 (uncirculated), is worth $25. You might have the most success selling your Confederate note at a coin show, where many dealers with different interests would be present.

Coin News

More than $8 million is expected to be realized when Superior Galleries auctions the Buddy Ebsen Collection and other properties May 31, June 1 and 2 at its headquarters in Beverly Hills. Highlights of the sale include a complete type set of United States gold, 1796 to 1933; more than 150 proof gold coins; sets of $2 1/2, $5 and $10 Indian head gold coins, and numerous coins considered the finest known, including a 1799 $1 (pictured) graded Mint State 63. Catalogues for the auction and mail bid sale are $15 from Superior, 9478 W. Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills, Calif. 90212-4236; telephone (213) 203-9855.

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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