Coin Collecting For Dummies, 3rd Edition
Book image
Explore Book Buy On Amazon
Throughout the years, people all around the world have experimented with a variety of items to denote value. The natives of Papua New Guinea valued the dried carcasses of the bird of paradise. The early Chinese created copper money in the shape of knives. Native Americans made and used wampum (clam shells, handmade into beads, polished, drilled, and strung on strands of leather) as a medium of exchange. All sorts of innovative methods have been used to facilitate trading, but none of them became so convenient and important as those little round pieces of metal we call coins.

Gold and silver coins

Gold and silver formed the basis for most great civilizations' systems of money. Greece, Rome, Egypt, Spain, England, the United States, and other countries all based their monetary systems on gold and silver at one time or another.

Commemorative coins

In the 1930s, numerous proposals for commemorative coins appeared before the U.S. Congress. Although many of the coinage bills had narrow appeal, they became law, and the U.S. Mint dutifully struck the coins, which were then sold through distributors who added a premium above the face value of the coins. The collecting public paid the premium for the coins and happily added them to their collections.

But before long, collectors rightly complained of too many different coins and argued that speculators were manipulating the markets and prices. The U.S. Mint got the hint, the flood of commemoratives slowed to a trickle, and collectors were happy again. Nevertheless, many new people were attracted to coin collecting by the beautiful commemorative coins, just as they are by today's commemorative coins.

BU rolls

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, collectors went nuts for BU rolls: original, bank-wrapped rolls of Brilliant Uncirculated coins. Collectors tried to obtain rolls of as many different dates, denominations, and mintmarks as they could. Certain issues, like the 1950-D nickel, were promoted as being rare, and prices shot up. The public eventually realized that coins with mintages in the millions were not rare and would never be. Today, the BU 1950-D nickel roll remains cheaper than it was 35 years ago, and new collectors can't understand why BU penny rolls from the 1950s are so inexpensive. Like all good fads, the BU roll craze created lots of new collectors.

Silver certificates

The front of old silver certificates state that they are redeemable on demand for one silver dollar (or later, for silver). That ended in 1964, when the U.S. government changed the law and discontinued the redemption of silver certificates. For a short while, the government allowed the public to redeem silver certificates, in person, for a fixed amount of silver per note, either in granules or bars. The metal in the silver dollar became worth more than a dollar, so coin dealers found themselves the enviable recipients of another windfall. Suddenly, everyone began looking through their wallets for silver certificates to sell to coin dealers. You can bet that many new collectors were created among the thousands of people who visited coin shops to sell their silver certificates.

Art bars

Silver popped up again in the early 1970s when 1-ounce silver art bars became the rage. Art bars are thin, rectangular silver bars with polished surfaces and designs that commemorate just about everything imaginable — weddings, a new year, Thanksgiving, cats, you name it. Mintages were limited, unusual varieties appeared, and some rather deliberate errors showed up. In short, a flood of art bars overwhelmed the market and quickly killed it. However, while it was alive, the art bar craze introduced thousands of people to coin collecting, many of whom stayed.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Neil S. Berman: Neil S. Berman has been an expert numismatist and professional rare coin dealer since 1968. Coming back to the United States from Israel at the end of 1967, he apprenticed to the world-renowned Dutch numismatist and coin auctioneer Hans M. F. Schulman. He incorporated as Neil S. Berman, Inc., in 1968. In 1974, Neil became an associate of Metropolitan Rare Coin Company of New York. For the next several years, he represented Arthur and Donald Kagin of Des Moines, Iowa, then the largest coin dealer in the Midwest, as a purchasing agent. Later he represented Superior Galleries under the Goldbergs, also as a purchasing agent. In 1979, Neil, with his brother Jed, founded First Federal Coin Company, the first East Coast coin company to sell rare coins into IRA, Keogh, and pension plans. From 1983 until 1990, he was the purchasing agent for Asset Services, Inc., the largest coin company serving the financial community. Neil donated his large collection of German and Swiss silver minor coins to the American Numismatic Society (ANS) in 1989. In 1997, he received the American Numismatic Association (ANA) Service Award from ANA President David Ganz. In 2005 and 2006, he was associated again with Superior Galleries of Beverly Hills, this time under the ownership of numismatist Silvano DiGenova.
Neil catalogued the U.S. gold in the 1977 Kagin’s ANA Coin Auction Sale, the first New York coin auction sale in 1981 of Spink and Sons, England’s oldest and largest coin dealer, and a coin auction sale by Superior Rare Coin Galleries of Beverly Hills in 2006.
Neil has been published in Barron’s, Trusts & Estates, The National Law Journal, The Financial Planner, Pensions World, and Executive Jeweler. In 1987, he wrote, with Hans Schulman, The Investor’s Guide to United States Coins, which sold 40,000 copies and received a Numismatic Literary Guild award for Best Investment Book. In 2007, he wrote the second edition of the book with Silvano DiGenova. Neil has just completed a book on rare coin auctions.

Ron Guth: Ron Guth is a jack-of-all-trades and master of one — numismatics. Ron is a certified public accountant (CPA), a licensed auctioneer, and a writer, but the bulk of his time is spent on his true love — coin collecting and dealing. Ron’s battle with coin fever began when he was 12 years old, and he’s never gotten over it. After a decade of collecting, Ron went professional in 1976, when he began working for a local coin shop in Tampa, Florida. In 1978, he partnered with David Goldsmith and purchased the Bay Area Coin Exchange in Tampa. Ron and Dave blasted through the silver boom, and then split up in 1981, when Ron moved to Evansville, Indiana (his wife’s hometown), where he set up shop on First Avenue. In 1984, Ron formed Mid-American Rare Coin Auctions with Jeff Garrett of Lexington, Kentucky. The company quickly established itself as an innovative leader in the industry and, within the first year, became the fifth largest rare coin auction company in America. In 1988, Ron sold his interest in the company, went back to school to finish his bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance, and has since become a numismatic consultant and a major dealer in German coins.
In 1984, Ron won the American Numismatic Association’s Wayte and Olga Raymond and Heath Literary awards. He has written many coin-related articles and is listed as a contributor to several books, including Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of United States Coins, Krause Publications’s Standard Catalog of German Coins, Roger S. Cohen’s American Half Cents, Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of United States Half Cents, and others. Ron has served as a numismatic consultant for many rare-coin companies, including major firms such as the Professional Coin Grading Services, Heritage Numismatic Auctions, and Early American History Auctions.

Neil S. Berman: Neil S. Berman has been an expert numismatist and professional rare coin dealer since 1968. Coming back to the United States from Israel at the end of 1967, he apprenticed to the world-renowned Dutch numismatist and coin auctioneer Hans M. F. Schulman. He incorporated as Neil S. Berman, Inc., in 1968. In 1974, Neil became an associate of Metropolitan Rare Coin Company of New York. For the next several years, he represented Arthur and Donald Kagin of Des Moines, Iowa, then the largest coin dealer in the Midwest, as a purchasing agent. Later he represented Superior Galleries under the Goldbergs, also as a purchasing agent. In 1979, Neil, with his brother Jed, founded First Federal Coin Company, the first East Coast coin company to sell rare coins into IRA, Keogh, and pension plans. From 1983 until 1990, he was the purchasing agent for Asset Services, Inc., the largest coin company serving the financial community. Neil donated his large collection of German and Swiss silver minor coins to the American Numismatic Society (ANS) in 1989. In 1997, he received the American Numismatic Association (ANA) Service Award from ANA President David Ganz. In 2005 and 2006, he was associated again with Superior Galleries of Beverly Hills, this time under the ownership of numismatist Silvano DiGenova.
Neil catalogued the U.S. gold in the 1977 Kagin’s ANA Coin Auction Sale, the first New York coin auction sale in 1981 of Spink and Sons, England’s oldest and largest coin dealer, and a coin auction sale by Superior Rare Coin Galleries of Beverly Hills in 2006.
Neil has been published in Barron’s, Trusts & Estates, The National Law Journal, The Financial Planner, Pensions World, and Executive Jeweler. In 1987, he wrote, with Hans Schulman, The Investor’s Guide to United States Coins, which sold 40,000 copies and received a Numismatic Literary Guild award for Best Investment Book. In 2007, he wrote the second edition of the book with Silvano DiGenova. Neil has just completed a book on rare coin auctions.

Ron Guth: Ron Guth is a jack-of-all-trades and master of one — numismatics. Ron is a certified public accountant (CPA), a licensed auctioneer, and a writer, but the bulk of his time is spent on his true love — coin collecting and dealing. Ron’s battle with coin fever began when he was 12 years old, and he’s never gotten over it. After a decade of collecting, Ron went professional in 1976, when he began working for a local coin shop in Tampa, Florida. In 1978, he partnered with David Goldsmith and purchased the Bay Area Coin Exchange in Tampa. Ron and Dave blasted through the silver boom, and then split up in 1981, when Ron moved to Evansville, Indiana (his wife’s hometown), where he set up shop on First Avenue. In 1984, Ron formed Mid-American Rare Coin Auctions with Jeff Garrett of Lexington, Kentucky. The company quickly established itself as an innovative leader in the industry and, within the first year, became the fifth largest rare coin auction company in America. In 1988, Ron sold his interest in the company, went back to school to finish his bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance, and has since become a numismatic consultant and a major dealer in German coins.
In 1984, Ron won the American Numismatic Association’s Wayte and Olga Raymond and Heath Literary awards. He has written many coin-related articles and is listed as a contributor to several books, including Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of United States Coins, Krause Publications’s Standard Catalog of German Coins, Roger S. Cohen’s American Half Cents, Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of United States Half Cents, and others. Ron has served as a numismatic consultant for many rare-coin companies, including major firms such as the Professional Coin Grading Services, Heritage Numismatic Auctions, and Early American History Auctions.

This article can be found in the category: