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Collectors on the Trail of the U.S. Cent

June 18, 1987|DON ALPERT

Probably the most popular series for collectors is the cent. The reason is that they are so plentiful and at one time many different dates could be pulled from circulation. I receive almost as many questions about cents as all other coins combined. Here are two recent examples:

Question: I wonder if you could tell me if there was an aluminum penny minted for 1978.--G.W.

Answer: No. However, zinc-coated steel cents were produced in 1943 when copper was needed for the war effort.

Q: I have a 1-cent U.S. coin dated 1907. It has an Indian on the front. Can you tell me how much it is worth?--N.V.R.

A: More than 108 million Indian-head cents were produced in 1907. Prices range from 50 cents to about $300, depending upon condition.

Now, these are rather simple questions concerning the cent. True collectors will study the series thoroughly, recognizing the characteristics of each date and mint, learning where high points are to detect wear, familiarizing themselves with all the details that make numismatics fascinating. Many expand their horizons and concentrate on nickels, dimes, quarters, type coins or gold. The possibilities are almost limitless.

But there are many diehard cent collectors who never tire of the series. Many are members of the Society of Lincoln Cent Collectors. First year's dues are $25 and include a year's subscription to Lincoln Sense and a copy of the Standard Guide to the Lincoln Cent. For information, contact Sol Taylor, president, P.O. Box 5465, North Hollywood, Calif. 91616-5465; telephone (818) 505-0202.

Also of interest is the new Lincoln Report by John Iddings. Iddings predicts higher prices for Lincoln cents by the end of the year and gives advice on avoiding mail order rip-offs and suggestions on buying cents at favorable prices. Iddings describes himself as "strictly a collector." Copies of the Lincoln Report are $15 from John Iddings, Box 963, Victorville, Calif. 92392.

Q: Can you tell me the value of an 1854 half dime with a seated Miss Liberty?--D.L.

A: Half dimes date back to the earliest United States coinage and are interesting because the denomination has not been minted for more than 100 years. However, the coin is well known to collectors and not at all uncommon, especially your date, which had a mintage of 5.74 million. Prices range from $3.50 to about $300, depending upon condition.

Q: I am trying to complete a collection of Burma coins. In particular, I seek the Union of Burma (government in exile) gold coinage, which was issued in weights of two, four and six grams, 1970-1971. Also, I want to know their value. I have the six-gram coin but have been unable to locate the smaller coins. Can you provide me with guidance?--A.K.

A: Most coin dealers will work with customers who give them a want list. If the dealer does not have a particular coin on hand, he will search it out in the open market. A private collector can do the same thing, usually at a coin show. If you are unsuccessful, have a dealer locate the coin for you. Esoteric coins, such as you collect, are difficult but not impossible to find. If all else fails, advertise in a coin publication. Prices for such material are negotiated between buyer and seller. Use the "Standard Catalogue of World Coins" by Krause and Mishler as a price guide.

Q: I would like to know what a 2-shilling and an 18-pence piece are worth. They are dated in the Assembly of Pennsylvania in 13th year of His Majesty George III, October 1775.--N.N.

A: Your Colonial pieces are in the $10-to-$35-each range.

Q: In Monterey I picked up a strange-looking coin. It's thin and seems to be made of copper. On the obverse is an orb encircled by Latin-style writing that is too badly worn to read. On the reverse, in the center, is what might be a fleur-de-lis in alternating order, again encircled by Latin-style writing. A cousin in Paris suggests that the piece may be a token used in Quebec for trading with the Indians, but I am unsure. Can you suggest anything?--L.P.B.

A: Your coin or token has me stumped. The field of numismatics is so broad that no one knows it all. Specialists abound. Take it to a coin show where you'll likely find someone who can identify your coin or direct you to someone else who can.

Q: I would like to learn the value of the following: 1908 $2 1/2 gold; 1925 half dollar; 1856 California gold half dollar; 1955 half dime; 1907 20 franc gold (Helvetia); and an 1861-1864 16th President Abraham Lincoln with the reverse stating Honest Old Abe, the Great Emancipator.--N.K.N.

A: Your gold $2 1/2 is worth $150 and up; the half dollar is $10 and up; the California gold is $75 and up if genuine; the half dime must be dated 1855 and would be $3 and up; the 20 franc is a Swiss gold piece worth $75 and up; while the Lincoln piece seems like a token that would have to be seen and identified to be evaluated.

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