Question: What is considered rare in coins? Would an 1843 $5 gold piece, a 1893 Carson City $5 and 1881 through 1883 Carson City Morgan silver dollars be considered rare? Also, I have proof sets running back to 1959. Are there any yearly proof sets that stand out in scarcity and value compared to others?--S.S.
Answer: There is no universal rarity formula regarding coins. Many dealers consider a mintage of two to 20 coins to qualify for a rarity rating. However, the 1976 Comprehensive Catalogue and Encyclopedia of United States Coins, published by Scott, has a breakdown that I like to follow. It is based on the scale developed by Dr. William Sheldon in his "Early American Cents." That scale, based on the approximate number known: R-1, more than 1,250; R-2, 501 to 1,250; R-3, 201 to 500; R-4, 76 to 200; R-5, 31 to 75; R-6, 13 to 30; Low R-7, 10-12; R-7, 7 to 9; High R-7, 4 to 6; R-8, 2 to 3, and Unique. Some systems call Unique (only one known) R-10.
In any event, coins in the higher rating order are exceptionally valuable. Most have pedigrees and can be traced back from owner to owner. Few collectors can aspire to own such pieces. Instead, it is best for the average collector to concentrate on quality instead of rarity. However, low-mintage pieces are still available, which contributes to the challenge of numismatics.
Your coins, unfortunately, do not fall into the rarefied area. There were more than 600,000 1843 $5 gold pieces (but 1843 with a mint mark is another matter). There were only 60,000 1893-CC $5 but 296,000 1881-CC $1, more than 1 million 1822-CC $1 and 1.2 million 1883-CC $1. In your proof sets, the 1958 and 1960 small date are the lower mintages in your series.
Q: I came across 20 silver Mexican coins. Ten are 1977 cien pesos and 10 are 1978 cien pesos. Can you help me determine the value of these coins?--J.F.
A: Your 1978 pesos are worth $5 each; the 1977 pesos are $4 each.
Q: Enclosed is a rubbing of the face and back of a silver coin. Would it be of any value? Also, can you tell me the value of an 1804 U.S. $1?--R.C.
A: Your rubbing is of a Maria Theresa, which is an Austrian thaler. These coins are very common, struck in various mints and countries. Yours is undoubtedly what's known as a restrike and is worth about $10. The 1804 $1, on the other hand, is a major rarity worth about $150,000 and up.
Q: What can you say about an $8 bill? It is identified as: "Continental Currency No. 8397. Entitles Bearer to Receive Eight Spanish Milled Dollars. According to Resolution of Congress, Passed at Philadelphia, May 9, 1776." On the reverse it says, "Printed by Hall & Sellers" and bears two inked signatures. It appears to be in good condition--the paper does not even seem to be fragile.--P.W.K.
A: Genuine Continental currency is worth $10 and up, depending on the condition and signatures. Your bill might be a copy. If so, it has no collector value. Take it to a dealer who specializes in currency and have it authenticated and evaluated.
Q: I would like to join a numismatic society (club). Please let me know how to go about it and where to start.--O.G.
A: The Numismatic Assn. of Southern California is an amalgamation of various area clubs. A roster of their affiliates is included in the association's quarterly. Write to the Numismatic Assn. of Southern California, Box 5173, Buena Park, Calif. 90622. Some of the clubs specialize in narrow collecting areas, while others are more general in nature. Pick the one that suits your interests.
Q: I would like to know where I can purchase the following commemorative gold coin: Persia 1971 (1380 AH) 37-millimeter, 37-gram medal; obverse, bust of Mohammed Reza Pahlavi; reverse, the cylinder of Cyros and inscription within a floral wreath.--H.L.
A: The coin you seek features the Shah of Iran. I've seen many of them at various coin shows. It's essentially a bullion piece. Either check with a foreign-coin dealer or attend a coin show. I don't think you'll have much difficulty locating this piece.
Q: I have two 5-cent Philippine coins dated 1966 and 1915. Can you tell me how much each one is worth?--A.Y.
A: Your 1966 Philippine 5 centavo has little or no collector value. The 1915 5 centavo is worth about $3 or $4.
Q: My husband found a 50-cent piece in a vending machine. It split open when he dropped it. The inside seems to be copper with a Mexican coin on the inside of the bottom of the coin. Is this a magician's coin or what?--C.B.
A: It is indeed a magician's coin. It has no numismatic value.
Q: I was given an old silver coin. It reads ZEE LAN DIA 1730. The coin is packaged in cellophane and the notation indicates the coin is from Zeeland (a part of the Netherlands). Of what value is this coin? Who would you recommend that I approach for a valuation?--C.A.O'C.