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Cleaning or Polishing Reduces Value

July 06, 1989|DON ALPERT

Question: I have a $3 gold U.S. coin. I cannot detect any scratches or marks on either side. It has a bright, shiny finish. To me it looks like an MS-63 when compared with other coins I have looked at. I took it to a dealer and asked about grading and slabbing. He said it has been polished a bit and the grading service would not accept it. Could you tell me what amount would be deducted from the value if a coin has been lightly polished, and why a grading service would not accept it?--W.D.L.

Answer: You've raised many interesting points that are critical in today's coin market. But the old admonition against cleaning coins remains constant: Don't.

You don't mention the date of your $3 gold piece. The $3 gold (known to collectors as the Princess) was issued from 1854 to 1889 but never achieved much public acceptance (something like the Anthony dollar).

It's true that the major grading services will not grade a coin that has been recently cleaned. Some coins that were gently cleaned many years ago and have re-toned will be graded, but the cleaning will cause them to be downgraded.

After coins have been graded by a service, they are sealed in air-proof, tamper-proof plastic containers called slabs. This helps preserve the integrity of the coin and the grade. The MS-63 is a relatively high grade on a Mint Scale of 1 to 70.

Now, here's what cleaning can do to the value of a coin. If an MS-63 is worth about $7,250, that same coin, polished, is worth between $1,200 and $4,200, depending upon the degree of damage. And, like the grading services, there are many dealers who won't handle such coins, just as there are many collectors who don't want to own them.

Q: I recently came across some coins and paper currency and would like to know their value: a 1922 Peace dollar, a 50 centavo from the Philippines dated 1944; a 1923 Italian 1 lire; a Series 1953 $2 bill and a Series 1957 $1 Silver Certificate. Also, I noticed that on the Peace dollar, the word Trust is misspelled. Is there any explanation for that?--N.N.

A: Your Peace dollar is worth about $10. The word Trust is not misspelled. The U looks like a V; just a stylized rendition. The Italian lire has no collector value; the 50 centavo is worth about $2, and your bills are worth face value.

Q: I would appreciate your help on the value of my silver dollars that have been in my possession for more than 30 years. What are silver dollars worth on the market today? I have some dated from 1900 to 1976. I have V nickels from 1900 to 1914. Is a 1915 quarter worth anything?--J.E.M.

A: Silver dollars issued from 1878 to 1935 are worth about $7 to $10 each in circulated condition, except for rare dates. The 1976 $1 is an Eisenhower and it is only worth face value. Your nickels are worth 10 cents to 20 cents each if circulated; and the 1915 quarter is $2 if circulated.

Q: I read your column some months ago on the Quintuple Stella. Were any of these coins, which you state are five times heavier than a proposed $4 gold Stella, minted in later years? I have what I think is a coin dated 1882. The obverse has a Liberty head but no legend, just the 13 stars. The reverse has the heraldic eagle and the In God We Trust motto and an S mint mark.--M.M.

A: The Stella was minted only as a pattern coin in very limited quantity. Gold types were issued in 1879 and 1880. The Quintuple Stella discussed on Nov. 10 is one of only four known and a special example. The 1882 coin you describe can't be evaluated without more information, such as the denomination and metal content. It might be best to take it to a dealer for identification.

Q: Could you let me know how much a silver dollar dated 1888 is worth today?--R.N.

A: Your dollar is worth about $7 and up, depending upon condition. If your 1888 $1 has an S mint mark (located on the reverse, below the wreath), it will be worth more.

Q: I have a misprinted $1 bill. There is a fold in the paper, leaving a blank space. Please advise if it is worth anything or should I just keep it?--R.D.

A: Your bill is an error, but not a major one. It's called a paper fold or crease. It may carry a slight premium. The trick will be finding a dealer or collector who's interested.

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