Michael Bugeja

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Michael Bugeja

Michael Bugeja, a coin collector since childhood, is a professor at Iowa State University and also a former member of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee. He is a nationally known author, journalist and educator.

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Beware of replaced coins in Double Mint sets

Last year I blogged about being on the lookout for missing half dollars in Double Mint sets, which the U.S. Mint produced between 1947 and 1958. I reported how coins in those sets were housed in cardboard folders often with green flimsy paper that caused the coins inside to tone.

I also promised to write about other ethical issues concerning Double Mint sets at a later date. I will do that here, but want to summarize content about missing halves.

Some collectors remove one pair of half dollars without reporting that in descriptions, relying on the buyer to know what should be in original sets. That’s not as simple as it sounds. In 1955 and 1956, no half dollars were struck at Denver because of lack of demand for the denomination. The San Francisco Mint closed in 1955, reopening a decade later.

For these reasons, you will legitimately find only two half dollars in Double Mint sets from 1955 and 1956.

A bigger issue concerning Double Mint sets involves unscrupulous sellers removing toned half dollars and other coins from those sets and replacing them with dipped or lower grade ones minted in the same year. 

Often those suspect sets come with original U.S. Mint and U.S. Post Office envelopes, for which many hobbyists pay a premium. Those envelopes are no barrier to lesser value coins being inserted in the cardboard folders, fooling the inexperienced buyer.

True, all coins do not tone in Double Mint sets. But more often they do, because of the chemical interaction of the cardboard and paper. As these are pricey sets, often exceeding $1,000 for the years 1947 through 1952, you want to secure an unmistakably original, toned set.

Look at the photo above from 1948 sets.

One panel shows untoned coins and the other, toned ones. Each set was offered on eBay for $1,500+. If I wanted to buy such a set, I not only would go for the toned coins, I also would check recent prices on the Internet. PCGS Price Guide pegs the retail value of such a set at $1,300.

As always, be skeptical and buy cautiously when bidding online.

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