Question: In regard to your article about the 1836 $5 gold Classic Head type: It may be common in circulated grades, but it's very difficult to obtain in Mint State grade. I have an MS-63 Classic Head type on order from a local coin shop, and such coins cost $4,000 and up, depending on the date.--B. N. G.
Answer: You're absolutely correct. Classic Head $5 gold pieces are quite elusive in higher grades. Even though the 1836, for example, has a mintage of 553,147, relatively few are available in higher states of preservation. The Classic Head, incidentally, lasted only from 1834 to 1838 and is distinguished from earlier similar coins by the absence of the motto E Pluribus Unum. Anyone wishing to assemble a collection of one each of the $5 half eagles, which were first minted in 1795, would have quite a challenge, both monetarily and through availability, especially in the better grades. It would take more than 45 coins to complete such a set.
But I must say that for whatever reason you are seeking your Classic Head $5 gold piece, you are going about it the right way. Many dealers will actively search out specific coins for their customers. Obviously, there's a limit to what any particular dealer can carry in inventory. But when a dealer knows a collector is looking for a particular piece, the dealer will then attend coin shows and auctions and put the word out to other dealers. It can take many months to find just the right coin. To the true collector, the wait and anticipation make it all worthwhile.
Q: I have a heavy gold coin found in Germany in 1945. Please tell me if it has any value.--B. McM.
A: Your coin appears to be an ancient (probably early Roman) piece. You will have to take it to a specialist to have it properly evaluated, although if it is indeed gold it automatically has some value.
Q: I have a coin in good condition that looks like it's British. It's about the size of a half dollar with Victoria on one side, dated 1888. What do I have and what is its value?--H.B.
A: You indeed do have an English coin. It's a penny and worth about 50 cents.
Q: I have a 1971-D Roosevelt dime that has the torch and wheat (foliage of sorts) set in a definite circle. It is unlike any other dime I have. Does it have any value other than 10 cents?--P.H.
A: Your coin does not seem to be an error. Your dime is worth 10 cents.
Q: I have a Pikes Peak gold coin, 1860 Twenty D under Pikes Peak. How large is this coin? Is it like the size of a $20 gold coin or is it the size of a $10 coin?--H.S.
A: If you do indeed have a $20 Pikes Peak coin, you are quite fortunate. Only 12,000 of these pieces were minted in Colorado by a private firm, Clark, Gruber & Co. There were $10 and $20 Pikes Peak coins minted. Both generally parallel the size of regular U. S. gold coinage and are probably much rarer than the official mintage.
Orders are now being accepted for Series I of the 1988 Olympic coins issued by South Korea. This series will contain the first Olympic 1-ounce gold coin ever issued. It will be in proof finish with only 30,000 mintage worldwide. Also being offered is a proof half-ounce gold coin and four proof sterling silver coins in 1-ounce and half-ounce sizes. A complete proof set of six coins is $1,475; a proof set of two gold coins is $1,355; the half-ounce proof gold coin is $460, and the four sterling silver coins are $130. To order call Manfra, Tordella & Brookes toll free at (800) 535-7481. 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.