The Most Beautiful Coin: Walking Liberty Half Dollar

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The Walking Liberty half dollar is one of my very favorite coins and I am not alone. Everyone seems to love this striking and patriotic 90% silver U.S. issue. If you aren’t already familiar with the beloved and historic half dollar you should take the time to learn a bit about the series.

She’s a Beauty:

Issued from the World War I era right through the post-World Word II period, the magnificent half dollar is often regarded as America’s most beautiful classic silver coin. Even today, the coin designer A.A. Weinman’s flag-draped Liberty and indomitable Eagle engravings remain enormously popular. (In fact, the obverse design is so beloved that it was adapted for the U.S. American Eagle silver dollar introduced in 1986.)

And She’s Popular:

Collectors flock to the series to enjoy the combination of numismatic and silver value. The Walking Liberty half dollar is probably the second most collected U.S. silver series — after the famous Morgan dollar. But, far fewer “Walkers” were minted, and they tended to get much more use in commerce. (Many of the famous Morgan dollars were stored in bank vaults and never entered commerce.) So today a far smaller proportion of Walker half dollars survive in collectible quality grades.

She Aged Well:

The Walking Liberty half dollar became eligible for retirement in 1942, after 25 years of service. But the wonderfully patriotic coin continued to be minted through World War II and the immediate postwar period. It wasn’t replaced by the Franklin half dollar until 1948.

It’s the most unabashedly patriotic coin in U.S. history: Liberty is garbed in the American flag, striding towards the dawn of a new era. She wears the traditional Phrygian freedman’s cap of the ancient world, symbolic of hard-won freedom and carries laurel and oak branches, representing civil and military attainments.

On the reverse, a vigilant eagle stands on guard for American freedoms. Introduced when World War I was raging in Europe, the eagle does not hold the traditional peace branch and arrows of war. Instead, his right talon rests on a pine sapling. Like Liberty, the eagle exudes a confident power.

She’s Affordable:

Most Walking Liberty issues are wonderfully affordable in circulated grades. A few issues are scarce and pricey but the majority are easily attainable. This is a wonderful coin for the new collector, as these half dollar are available, affordable, and beautiful.

Where to Go From Here:

Although you won’t see Walking Liberty half dollars in circulation, they should be available anywhere you find other collectible coins. Coin shops, coin shows, antique shops and flea markets are a great place to start. Online sources (ICCoin.com) and catalogs will also carry a wonderful selection.

Happy coin hunting!

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Here is Why Peace Silver Dollars are Worth Owning

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Collectors may wonder why they should bother to assemble a collection of Peace silver dollars when Morgan dollars, which are older and more available, generally get all the numismatic attention.

These “little sister” Peace silver dollars have appeal of their own and are a wonderful series to acquire. Here’s seven good reasons to collect these beautiful coins.

1. Peace dollars have the same silver content as Morgans. Both coins are a big 1 1/2 inches in diameter and contain .77344 ounces of pure 90% silver. Collectors love silver and these dollars are beautiful, historic and precious.

2. The Peace dollar series is much easier and cheaper to complete. Only ten Peace dollar dates were issued, compared to 28 Morgan dates. A complete date and mint set comprises 24 coins, compared to 97 Morgans. Hence it’s much easier and more affordable to acquire a Peace dollar set.

3. It was the last 90% silver dollar for commerce. The 90% silver Peace dollar was America’s last circulating silver dollar. Since the series was retired in 1935, no U.S. silver dollars have been issued for commerce. (The 40% silver Ike dollars and recent 90% silver commemorative dollars were only issued directly to collectors.)

4. The advantages of scarcity and limited availability. Only three Peace dollars were minted for every ten earlier Morgan silver dollars. Because of attrition in commerce and huge melts after recall, only a fraction of original Peace mintages survive in collectible quality. In fact, today only one Peace dollar survives for every two Morgans making them especially treasured to collectors.

 5. Changes in U.S. dollar coinage. In 1964, Congress authorized additional Peace silver dollars, but the proposed issue was never produced. Later, the Eisenhower design became the official U.S. dollar and more recent dollar coins have been much smaller. The Peace dollar was thus America’s last circulating big silver dollar and there is never likely to be another.

6. It was the first coin to commemorate peace. The inscription “PEACE” on the reverse refers to the belated 1921 Peace Treaty between the United States and Germany, which formally ended World War I. The inscription “PEACE” appears on the rock below the American Eagle standing guard for freedom.

7. This series is acquiring real vintage status. Minted from 1921-1935, Peace silver dollars are now up to nine decades old! No more of these big impressive silver dollars will ever be made. Every year we lose specimens to melts and attrition, now is the time to start your collection.

Happy coin hunting!

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The Case of the Missing Proof and Mint Sets

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Collectors love U.S. proof and mint sets. The allure of a complete set of coins, in beautiful condition and specially packaged is hard to resist. Once you own one or two of these sets you’ll want a complete collection.

But along the way you’ll find a few holes that you just can’t fill, no matter how hard you try!

Special Mint Sets of 1965-1967:

The U.S. Mint didn’t issue proof sets in the years 1965-1967. Instead they substituted high-quality “special mint sets.” This transitional period fell between the last Philadelphia Mint proof set of 1964 and the first San Francisco Mint proof set of 1968.
Like previous proof sets, each “special mint set” contained all five coin denominations for the date: cent, nickel, dime, quarter and half dollar (the 40% silver Kennedy type). These “hybrids” are a higher-quality form of mint sets and had mintages far lower than proof sets of the time. The coins were packaged in hard plastic cases unlike the earlier proof sets.

No 1982 or 1983 Mint Sets:

No regular U.S. mint sets were issued in 1982 or 1983. It seems they were a victim of president Ronald Reagan’s cost cutting moves. Instead, souvenir sets were sold at the Denver and Philadelphia Mint gift shops. These sets featured five individual coins with special bronze mint tokens in an official envelope. These sets are limited in number.

Over the years some dealers and collectors have compiled their own 1982 and 1983 uncirculated coin sets. They are packaged in a wide variety of ways and may even look very much like official sets. But they are privately assembled, as the only official sets that year were the 5-coin souvenir sets offered only in person at each Mint.

Where to Go From Here:

U.S. proof and mint sets are a wonderful way to collect coins. Although these sets vary in price depending on availability, some are still very affordable. Start with those that are easy to acquire and work toward that full collection.

As you go you can confidently add any of the sets mentioned above to fill the empty spots from 1965-1967 and 1982-1983. Happy coin hunting!

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Nine Good Reasons to Collect Coins

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1. Coins are small, easy to store, carry and hide! You could collect classic cars or luxury yachts, but coins won’t require building a garage or renting a slip. They are easy to store under your bed, in a file cabinet or a safe deposit box. And no one needs to know you have a stash of coins at all! Coins are also easy to transport. If your collection has monetary value this can be a VERY important consideration.

2. Coins are durable and lasting. Coins are resilient and hold up for centuries and more. They won’t rip or deteriorate like stamps or break like glass or china. Although coins need to be handled with care, they are a wonderful collectible you can display, share and enjoy without much worry.

3. Coins are everywhere. You can start your coin collection right now with the items in your pocket or purse. You’ll find older coins at antique shops, flea markets and coin shops. Coins are available for sale online, through catalogs and at coin shows. Collectors are everywhere as well. Once you start your own collection you’ll discover how many other coin fans share your interest.

4. Coins are affordable. Although some rare coins can be very pricey, most items are wonderfully affordable. You can be a collector no matter what your budget limitations may be. Start with an affordable series in a grade you can afford and work up from there.

5. Coins tell stories. Every coin has a history. Through collecting you can learn about historic events, important people, places and much more. When you collect coins you’re holding history in your hands. It is fun to imagine who else might have held that coin and what transactions it might have been a part of. Was that Morgan dollar earned by a cowboy on the range? Did a gambler use it in a card game? Was that vintage penny spent by a child in a candy store?

6. Coins are beautiful and artistic. Each coins is actually a tiny work of art. Some of the world’s finest craftsman have designed the engravings featured on coins. And today the beauty of coins goes beyond the image. Many designs now include extra features like colorization or an interesting shape. There are even coins that include a special aroma!

7. Coins are diverse. As a collector you can choose from U.S. coins or the great multitude of foreign coins. Modern issues, as well as vintage coins are wonderfully collectible. Your focus can be on silver and gold coins. You’ll find colorized coins, holographic coins, interesting shaped coins and much more. There are coins devoted to animals, historic events and special places, just to name a few.

8. Coins are important. Not only are coins essential in everyday life, but coin collectors play a crucial role in preserving history for future generations. Without this extremely important hobby countless coins would be lost to posterity. Without numismatists, future generations might never get to see an ancient lepton or a U.S. large cent. As it is, we continue to lose important coin artifacts to attrition and melts.

9. Coins are fun. Each time you find a new item for your collection you’ll get that collector’s thrill. And when you finish putting together an entire series or collection you’ll feel an even greater sense of satisfaction. And even just getting out your collection to pour over your past finds is great fun!

10. Why do you collect coins? I know I promised nine reasons to collect but there surely are many, many more benefits. Why do you collect? Answer in the comment section below and help encourage new enthusiasts to the hobby.

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What Are Bag Marks?

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Most every hobby and avocation has its own set of specific terminology. Numismatics is no exception. The term “bag mark” is one of those very specialized phrases that have meaning only to coin collectors.

What are Bag Marks:

Bag marks are the minor abrasions on otherwise uncirculated coins that are caused by contact between pieces during minting and while stored in a mint bag.

As part of production, U.S. coins minted for circulation are dropped into large canvas bags. During this process, and when these bags are moved from the minting facility to banks or into storage, the coins make contact with each other. This often causes those minor abrasions, dents and nicks on the surfaces.

How Do Bag Marks Affect Collectability:

A crucial factor in determining a coin’s value is grading, which is the process of measuring the wear on a coins surface. Bag marks are an expected feature of mint-state coins but will certainly be a component in deciding the coin’s grade.

Uncirculated coins are measured on the standard ANA grading chart from MS-60 to MS-70. The number, placement and severity of bag marks will be part of what determines the coins final grade.

Naturally larger the coin, the more prevalent and obvious the bag marks. Morgan silver dollars regularly include these faults. Although most are well over a hundred years old, a surprising number of these historic treasures remain in Brilliant Uncirculated condition with no wear from use but some bag marks. The reason is that many Morgan silver dollars were kept for decades in mint bags and never released to the public at all.

Where to Go From Here:

Experienced collectors accept bag marks as a probable feature of most any business strike coin (proof coins are produced and handled differently and should not be affected by bag marks).

As you expand your collections and handle a variety of coins of different grades you’ll learn to distinguish between bag marks and wear from circulation. As with most any aspect of coin collecting, the more you know the more you’ll enjoy this fascinating and complex hobby.

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Do Morgan Silver Dollar Proofs Exist?

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Collectors new to the hobby, just learning about coin grading, may think of proofs as just one grade higher than a top quality mint-state coin. But proof coins are a completely different category as they are produced in a distinctive way, with special materials and processes.

What Makes a Proof Coin Special:

The U.S. Mint has been producing proof coins since the 1830s. These finest-quality specimens are painstakingly created from highly polished, immaculately clean dies, which are again carefully cleaned and polished after a limited number of strikes and replaced before the slightest imperfection can appear.

These coins are distinct from those produced for circulation and generally only output in limited quantities. They are handled, packaged and stored specially to keep them in ideal condition.

Are There Morgan Dollar Proofs:

As a collector you probably appreciate the exquisite beauty of Brilliant Uncirculated Morgan silver dollars. In fact, you may already own a few of these historic treasures in wonderful mint-state quality. Although not often seen, proof Morgans do also exist. From 1878-1904 the Philadelphia Mint issued proof silver dollar coins but in very limited numbers, with 1,355 being the highest output for any one year.

Of course, today these coins are quite expensive and difficult to locate.

“Proof-Like” Morgan Dollars:

But did you know that some Morgan silver dollars are not only graded mint-state but also carry the unusual “proof-like” designation.

Proof-like Brilliant Uncirculated Morgans have a surface nearly as clean and crisp as a proof coin but were struck from working dies for circulation. These special coins were probably some of the first produced from new or newly polished dies.

When grading these coins two distinctions are given, PL (Proof like) or DMPL (Deep Mirror Proof Like). The higher quality DMPL is reserved for coins with exceptional mirrored fields.

Both types differ from true proof issues as they were originally struck for circulation. Unlike actual proofs, they may have bag marks and other minor blemishes. These “proof-like” Morgans will also lack some sharpness in comparison, as proof coins are specially struck for crispness of design.

Where to Go From Here:

Today only about 17% of original Morgan mintages are estimated to survive. And far fewer remain in mint-state grades, much less special proof-like BU quality. These coins are a wonderful collectors item and well worth owning.

Watch for availability of these issues but always keep in mind that “proof-like” coins are not actual proofs but a grading distinction of uncirculated coins.

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Here’s Why Morgan Silver Dollars are Worth Owning

The Value of Morgan Silver Dollars

Holding a Morgan silver dollar in your hand is a memorable experience. These big silver rich coins are much more impressive than any of our current coinage. For many years the average American worker made only about $1 a day and they were frequently paid in silver dollars. Desperadoes stole bags of these big coins from banks, cowboys plunked them down in saloons and gamblers bet them in poker games.

Imagine the stories these artifacts could tell if they could talk! I believe every collector should own at least one Morgan silver dollar. These big 90% silver coins not only evoke the romance of the past, but offer the value of silver with the added advantage of collectibility.

Popularity:

Morgans are the most collected classic silver dollars in the world. Most of these legendary treasures are now over 100 years old and their vintage status is only enhanced with each passing year. And due to melts and attrition, they are tougher and tougher to find all the time.

Very Few Survive:

Only about 17% of original Morgan mintages are estimated to survive today. The vast majority of the silver dollars were lost through melts. In fact, it’s estimated that 40% of Morgans were melted during the two world wars. In the 1960s and again in the 1980s more were lost when silver prices skyrocketed. No one knows how many more were melted a few years ago as silver prices more than doubled. When these irreplaceable keepsakes of history are melted, surviving coins become more valuable.

Double Dynamic of Value:

Silver numismatic coins, like Morgan dollars, have a double foundation of value. The combination of demand in the collecting marketplace and intrinsic precious-metal value give these coins a twofold advantage. As well as hard-asset value and scarcity, personal possession and portability are also all strengths of Morgan silver dollars.

Naturally, previous performance is no guarantee of future gains. (We recommend coin collecting as an enjoyable hobby rather than an investment vehicle.)

Where to Go From Here:

One advantage of collecting Morgan silver dollars is that they come in a wide range of price points! Common dates in circulated condition are a wonderfully affordable way to start a collection. For more committed numismatists, there are plenty of options for scarce Morgans at higher grades with costs ranging up into the four figures! As always, start with what you can afford that truly interests you and go from there. As you collect learn as much as you can about the series and enjoy the thrill of the coin hunt!

But beware, once you have acquired one Morgan dollar you’ll inevitably want more of the big silver treasures!

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