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For Varieties Collectors, It's 'Vive la Difference'

November 26, 1987|DON ALPERT

Question: I have an 1811 half dollar (U. S.) in good condition. What is its value?--G.C.F.

Answer: Most coins can be priced easily enough, using a broad general scale. But your coin plus many, many others are not so simple. The reason is that these coins fall into the category known as varieties. Varieties are coins of the same denomination, date and mint mark but with differences in design, lettering size, positioning or almost anything else that makes the coin distinct from the original intent.

Common varieties get their own listing and pricing. These coins are not generally perceived to be errors; just coins that have changed enough to warrant special attention. Usually, varieties are lumped with the regular issues as far as mintages are concerned. The number of coins minted with a particular variety are not generally known, so the rarity factor entails considerable guesswork.

Your 1811 50-cent piece, for example, has a total mintage of 1.2 million coins. Of these, there is the punctuated date variety (18.11) and the Small 8 and Large 8 varieties. The punctuated date is the most valuable, worth $50 and up. The Small 8 and Large 8 varieties are equal in value and worth $25 and up. More varieties exist in large and small cents, Jefferson nickels and other denominations.

The hunt for varieties can get out of hand. One reference book mentions 23 die varieties for the 1862 silver rupee (India) discovered by two American collectors after "several years" of detailed research. It's good to be aware of varieties, because they can affect the price of a coin. But it takes an unusual person to devote the energy necessary to specialize in varieties alone. However, such collectors do exist, and they attack their hobby with the zeal of a vampire for a throat.

For such collectors, you might say, varieties are the spice of life.

Q: I am very curious to know the value of the following circulating Treasury notes and Confederate States of America bills: There's a $100,000 Treasury note dated July 25, 1861, bearing 8% interest payable two years after the date, and a $10,000 Treasury note dated May 28, 1862, bearing 10 cents per day interest payable 12 months after date. Confederate bills are of $100, $20 and $10 denominations.--L.L.

A: Your Treasury notes have little numismatic value but would make conversation pieces if framed and hung on a wall. The Confederate bills are worth $3 to $10 each, retail.

Q: I would like to know if my two gold coins are of any value. On one side is a head and the phrase GEORG IVS III DEI GRATIA, dated 1788. The other side has a shield, letters around the coin and is dated 1793.--P.G.

A: Your coins are British spade guineas, so called because of the shield on the reverse. More spade guineas were struck than any other type of guineas. Your coins are worth from $200 to $250 each.

Q: Please tell me the value of the following coins. I understand the coins listed as MS-65 may be of lesser grade in a buyer's eye. I have a 1931 gem BU MS-65 Mercury dime, full split band; 1941 gem BU MS-65 Walking Liberty half dollar; 1948 gem BU MS-65 Franklin half dollar with full bell lines; 1903 half dollar; 1812 half penny token of brown or copper metal.--A.B.

A: MS-65 is a numismatic designation with the MS standing for Mint State, and 65 is the grade on a scale of 1 to 70. An MS-65 coin is highly desirable, because it is uncirculated and in a high degree of preservation. BU stands for brilliant uncirculated. As you indicate, buyer and seller may not agree on the descriptions. However, if your coins are accurately graded, the 1931 dime is worth $500, the 1941 half dollar is $300, the 1948 half dollar is $100, the 1903 half is $5, the 1812 token is $25.

Q: I recently acquired a 1929 Series $10 bill. Printed on the front is The Anglo & London, Paris National Bank of San Francisco, California. Red ink is also on the front where green ink usually is. Also down the side of the bill is 9174. The bill is in relatively good condition. I was wondering if you could approximate the value.--J.L.K.

A: Your bill, I'm sorry to say, has little or no collector value. You can check it out yourself with any local coin dealer.

Coin News

Low-mintage, large bullion coins have been in vogue lately, and several new issues are vying for attention. The Mexico City Mint has produced two of the sizable pieces, both containing a full troy pound (12 ounces) of platinum. The Bicentennial of the U. S. Constitution is featured on one of the commemoratives (pictured). Only 250 pieces will be available. The other commemorative honors the fifth birthday of the first panda born outside of China. Both pieces are available at the issue price of $9,950 from Colonial Coins, 909 Travis St., Houston, Tex. 77002; telephone (713) 654-0047.

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