US Coins

Be discerning, not gullible

If no such thing as a “full details” Standing Liberty, Mailed Breast quarter dollar exists, do some cherrypicking from those certified as full head, as here. The Mint State 65 Full Head 1923-S quarter dollar, at top, has a 95 percent full head and all the rivets on the shield. The lower image, an MS-66 full head 1927-D quarter, has about an 80 percent full head and is missing all of the rivets at the lower left of the shield. Use your God-given brains when buying.


Last week, I mentioned that investors and many other gullible people pay sharp premiums for gem Mint State and Proof 68 to 70 modern coins that are certified, perhaps thinking they are rare.

The secret is just, on your own, to select superb gems – which the vast majority of modern Proofs and commemoratives sold by the U.S. Mint are. If you want a rarity, try to find some at “only” the MS-65 or Proof 65 level!

I also left you with the thought that 1917 to 1930 Standing Liberty, Mailed Breast quarter dollars that are certified as “full head” usually have nearly full heads, but with some weakness, and, as likely as not, have some of the rivets in the lower left part of the shield weak or missing.

Neither I nor several leading experts I consulted have ever seen such a quarter with “full details” (sharp everything).

To be a smart buyer, you should look at the entire quarter dollar. Think twice about paying a premium for a “full head” quarter dollar that is weak, sometimes very weak, elsewhere.

John Albanese’s Certified Acceptance Corp., with its “green bean” stickers indicating that within a given grade a Professional Coin Grading Service or Numismatic Guaranty Corp. graded coin has good eye appeal, has had dynamic market acceptance.

Here is another idea for the innovative John Albanese and CAC: Issue a “royal purple bean” if a coin has “full details.” Right now, “full head” doesn’t mean much. Can you imagine the sensation if a “full details” Standing Liberty, Mailed Breast quarter dollar were found?

Now, with 11 grades between 60 and 70, and with plus signs, stars, etc., sometimes added to slabs, not to forget CAC “green beans,” there are dozens of grades to consider. “Help me!” you might plead.

A logical thing to do would be to pick a CAC coin, as this means that CAC graders believe it is nice, then on your own ask yourself, “Is it pretty?” “Do I have to say ‘but’ when describing it?” If a coin passes these simple tests, you probably have one of the finest of its kind.

Now, on your own check for “full details.” Check the head, the shield, the center of the torso, and the date, then turn the coin over and check the reverse.

Find one as sharp as you can, even if not completely full details. Go beyond the label and be a cherrypicker! See my two illustrations as examples.

Q. David Bowers is chairman of the board of Stack’s and numismatic director of Whitman Publishing LLC. He can be reached at his private e-mail,, or at Q. David Bowers, LLC, Box 1804, Wolfeboro, NH 03894.

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