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Zinc-Coated Steel Pieces Saw Action

October 13, 1988|DON ALPERT

Question: I have recently acquired three steel-colored 1943 pennies. They are 1943-S, 1943-D and 1943 no mark. They appear to be uncirculated in condition, and I would like to know if they have any value.--L.L.R.

Answer: What you have are wartime coins. They are zinc-coated steel pieces that were rushed into action during World War II to help alleviate the shortage of copper, which was needed for military purposes. Because of the composition, many of these coins are corroded and discolored. Special care is needed to preserve them so they retain their original appearance.

Unfortunately, many of these Lincoln cents have been doctored to appear new. Original pieces have a bluish cast and satiny finish. They are a one-year-only type but the mintages are high. The no mark, as you call it, is actually from the Philadelphia Mint, and more than 684.6 million were produced. The Denver Mint (D mark) made more than 217.6 million and the San Francisco Mint (S) more than 191.5 million.

Even so, these 1943 cents belong in all Lincoln cents collections, and they are a minor type coin as well as a curiosity. Circulated versions have little or no value and for all practical purposes belong in pocket change. Brilliant uncirculated pieces, however, can be worth as much as $15, depending upon condition. They must be seen to be evaluated.

Q: On Oct. 12, 1965, while I was in England, I was able to acquire two 5-shilling coins from the Royal Mint. They are mint state, never in circulation. They have the head of Queen Elizabeth II and, on the other side, the head of Winston Churchill. I would appreciate it if you could tell me their value.--V.H.C.

A: Sorry, but your Churchill crowns have little or no collector value. They were originally issued as commemorative pieces and, I believe, they've been demonetized.

Q: In 1976, the Royal Canadian Mint began issuing a commemorative gold coin once a year. So far, 12 such coins have been issued. The 1985, commemorating the Canadian National Parks, has what I believe to be the lowest mintage, 59,745. Now, the $5 gold Statue of Liberty uncirculated has a mintage of more than 90,000 but commands a higher premium than the lower-mintage Canadian piece. What's even more surprising is that the Statue of Liberty has only about a quarter of an ounce of gold while the Canadian coin has exactly half of an ounce of gold. In your opinion, would you consider this 1985 Canadian gold coin a rare item with good investment potential?--R.K.

A: You're getting into a very speculative area, and I don't like to speculate. Especially on modern issues. But 59,745 is not rare. It is perhaps scarce, but then only if 59,746 collectors are interested. The market will be determined by supply and demand. It is also dominated by Americans who primarily buy American coinage. You have to decide what your goal is in collecting. If it's for profit, you're in a highly speculative area. But if you like these modern coins because of their designs and the history that surrounds them, then by all means be a buyer. With any luck, enough people will agree with you and the profit potential will follow.

Q: I have some old coins and would like to know if they have any value. They include a large American cent, 1851; an 1895 U.S. nickel; 1955 gold piastre, Republique Libanaise; 1 new penny, 1976, Elizabeth II on the reverse; 1918 Canada 1 cent; 1944 cinco centavos; seven Buffalo nickels; 1892 half dollar, World's Columbian Exposition; 1877 trade dollar, and two 1922 silver dollars and one dated 1923.--R.V.A.

A: Your large cent is worth about $4; the Liberty head nickel is $1; the Lebanon gold is $75; the new penny has little or no value; the 1918 Canadian cent is 50 cents; the centavo has little or no value; the Buffalo nickels are 7 cents each; the Columbus commemorative is $7; the trade dollar is $50, and the silver dollars are $8 each. Prices will vary with condition.

Q: I wonder if you could help me find a place where I can find some information about this $50 bill. Twenty years ago I bought it in Dallas and was then offered $75. I've been to the library and could not find any information.--C.H.

A: Your bill is national currency from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. There are collectors for such bills, but those from small towns are more desirable. If your bill is not crisp and uncirculated, it will have little or no premium value. The two basic references are the "Standard Catalogue of United States Paper Money" by Krause and Lemke and "Paper Money of the United States" by Robert Friedberg. Many coin stores carry the books.

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