US Coins

Dates not only definitive for value

Coin Lore column from May 16, 2016, Weekly issue of Coin World:

Here are the current prices for some very collectible coins:

??1877 penny?— $6 in Fine. 

??1804 dollar?— $86 in Very Fine.

??1849 gold 20?— bullion value in Very Fine.

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Collectors lust after the 1877 Indian Head cent. Even well-worn ones will set you back $1,000. However, another 1877 penny?— a bigger one at that — can frequently be found for just a few dollars, sometimes just a few cents in junk boxes.

With a mintage of 852,400, the United States 1877 cent is key to the Indian Head series. The 1877 Great Britain penny has a mintage approaching 10 million.

The English coin shows a youthful Queen Victoria on the obverse and a personification of Britannia on the reverse. The British also throw in a sailing ship and lighthouse on the reverse at no extra cost. The 1877 Indian Head cent, in contrast, is about one-third the size. The coin shows a not very Indian-looking Native American on the obverse and an oak wreath on the reverse.

The 1804 silver dollar is a fabled American rarity, but if you’re not picky about who made it, you can get a genuine legal tender 1804 silver dollar for less than $100.

While only 15 1804-dated United States silver dollars are known (and they were struck decades later for presentation to potentates and sale to connected collectors), another North American silver dollar?— one that was actually struck in 1804 and was legal tender in the United States until 1857?— is cheap and plentiful.

In 1804, the Mexico City Mint struck the coin with abandon from plentiful Spanish colonial silver deposits. The obverse shows Spain’s Carlos IIII. The reverse shows a crowned Spanish coat of arms flanked by representations of the Pillars of Hercules at the entrance to the Mediterranean.

Until 1857, the Spanish milled dollar and many other foreign coins were legal tender in the United States. Merchants often kept books in Spanish reales, English pence and United States dollars. This genuine American 1804 silver dollar comes cheap?— about $25 for well-circulated pieces and about $140 for Extremely Fine coins.

While there is only one United States 1849 Coronet $20 double eagle, and it’s in the Smithsonian Institution, Sardinia struck 58,203 20-lira gold coins in 1849.

You can pick up these 1849 twenties at bullion value in Very Fine and less than $1,000 in Uncirculated. The coin is barely a fifth the weight of a double eagle. 

The three coins are cheap, plentiful and auspiciously dated.

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