Question: I would like to know the value of pennies that have a wreath and shield and the phrase one cent on one side, and United States of America and the figure of a woman with the headdress of an Indian or Egyptian on the other side. The dates are 1889, 1898, 1899, 1903, 1904 and 1907. Also, what are the most expensive pennies at this time?--T.U.
Answer: The coins you have described are Indian-head cents. They were made in huge quantities from 1859 to 1909, and at one time they were among the most popular U.S. coins to collect. They're still quite popular, in fact, and no doubt one of the reasons is the design on the obverse--not of an Egyptian, as you suggest, but of an Indian princess designed by James Long-acre. However, your confusion is not entirely unjustified since some critics consider the depiction more Greco-Roman than Native American. Still, the headdress is unmistakable.
The top dates is this series probably are 1877 and 1909-S. Both are relatively low mintage, with the '77 listed at 852,500 and the '09-S at 309,000. These are copper pieces, and those that are spotted, cleaned or discolored are worth less than those in original condition. Also, uncirculated pieces command a hefty figure over those that are worn. Your dates are worth 35 cents and up; the "up" is possibly at $20. Some of the earlier dates, those before 1880, also are the most expensive.
Q: I would like to know the approximate value of two quarter dollars. One is an 1874 Arrows type, and the other is dated 1838. Both are very choice proofs in uncirculated condition. How can I best care for these coins? And if I choose to sell them, what would be the wisest way to go?--R.L.
A: Sometimes this business can be very exasperating. Coins just aren't described as "proofs in uncirculated condition." They can be one or the other; not both. Also, they didn't make proof quarters in 1838. Your quarter might be proof-like, which is highly desirable. Proof-like coins have many of the characteristics of proofs but are not actually of proof quality. The 1838 quarter is a Capped Bust type with a mintage of 366,000. The 1874 with the arrows at date is only a two-year variety, and if it is indeed a proof the mintage is limited to 700.
I'd suggest that the first thing you do is find out exactly what your coins are. Most coin dealers would be willing to help you. Pricing your coins will then become a matter of grading (determining the exact condition). I would suggest that you shop around for the best offer. One of the most convenient ways of doing this is at a coin show, where you'll have a multitude of dealers to choose from. Protect your coins in a plastic holder.
Q: I have a small $1 gold piece. It has a Liberty head on the front side. On the other side, the United States of America is printed very small around a closed wreath. It is stamped 1852 under the word dollar ; there's no mint mark. It is in fine condition. Is it worth anything?--J.M.
A: Your gold dollar is one of more than 2 million minted. It's worth $150 and up.
Q: I have a Columbian half dollar. One side has World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago 1893 on it. Please tell me the value. Also, I'd like to know the value of a nickel with V on the back, a lady's head on the front, dated 1883.--E.R.
A: Your commemorative half dollar is worth $6 and up; the Liberty-head nickel of 1883 was made with and without the word cents on the reverse. Those without the word cents were often gold-plated and passed off as $5 gold pieces. Later, the word cents was added to avoid the confusion. Your nickel, probably a Variety 2 (with cents) is worth $1 and up.
Q: I would appreciate an answer. Do the following coins have any value: 1920 1 cent; 1956-1959 cents; various 1960s cents; 1953 nickel, and various 1960s nickels? Also, is it worth saving Susan B. Anthony dollars?--M.H.
A: Your Lincoln wheat cents are worth 1 1/2 cents each and up; your other coins have little or no numismatic value. As for Anthony dollars, I don't like to give investment advice. I'd say if you get pleasure from saving these coins, then I don't see any harm. They may, eventually, appreciate in value, but it does seem rather remote and unlikely. There are, however, some varieties that are selling at a hefty premium, and only time will tell whether these are just coins that have been heavily promoted or whether they are highly desirable.
Q: Over the years I have collected an odd lot of coins and have always wondered if they had any value other than the face amount or what I had paid for them, usually a nominal amount. Gold coins: $10 Indian 1910-S; $5 Indian 1910; $5 Liberty 1881; 20 francs dated 1980; 10 francs 1915; Mexican 50 pesos, 1821-1946; Mexican 50 pesos, 1821-1922; Caciques de Venezuela, 9 grams oro; Russian coin, 1899, 5 p; Russian coin, 1901, 10 p; two California gold pieces, Indian heads, one-half dated 1954 (paper thin, small); two California gold pieces, Indian head, one-quarter dated 1853 (paper thin, small). Silver coins: 1891-CC $1; 1934 $1; two Booker T. Washington half dollars, 1950; 1876 quarter, very thin and worn; 1967 Kennedy half dollar; 1952 Franklin half dollar; $1 silver certificate with pictures of Lincoln and Grant, autographed by actor Rex Bell; $2 silver certificate with picture of Washington, series of 1899-B.--E.M.
A: The $10 Indian is $350 and up; the $5 Indian is $200 and up; the $5 Liberty is $150 and up; the 20 francs is $95; the 10 francs is $64; the 50 pesos, 1821-1946 is $420; the 50 pesos, 1821-1922 is $425; the Venezuelan piece is about $100; the 1899 Russian, $55 to $60; the 1901 Russian, $95; the California fractional gold, $50 each and up; 1891-CC $1, $20 and up; 1934 $1, $10 and up; Booker T. Washington commemorative half dollars, $5 each and up; 1876 quarter, $3 and up; 1967 Kennedy half dollar, $1; 1952 Franklin half dollar, $3; autographed silver certificate is specialized collector area, not numismatics; $2 silver certificate, $35.
Q: I have a British gold coin slightly larger than a U.S. 1-cent piece. I do not know whether it is a sovereign or a half-sovereign. Could you please let me know? Also, the coin is dated 1898 and has Edward VII on the back. Could you possibly give me a rough idea of how much it would be worth?--E.P.L.
A: Your coin is a half sovereign. It's worth about $55 to $60.
Q: I have two buffalo/Indian head nickels. One has the date of 1929, the other date is rubbed off. Can you tell me if they have any value?--L.S.
A: Because of the design, dates on the Indian nickels wear rather rapidly. These coins with dates are worth 15 cents each and up. Really nice specimens are worth several hundred dollars each. Coins without dates are worth face value and perhaps more if other details are distinguishable.
Today, Friday, Saturday--The 13th Convention and Coin Show of the Numismatic Assn. of Southern California will be highlighted with a forum Saturday at 3 p.m. conducted by author and historian Walter Breen and a four-session auction of the Milton G. Cohen Collection conducted by Bowers & Merena. Auction hours are at 7 p.m today; Friday at 1 and 7 p.m., and Saturday at 10 a.m. All activities are at the Hyatt Hotel, 6225 W. Century Blvd., near Los Angeles Airport.
Friday--An open house for collectors of Mexican coins will be held by the Azteca Numismatic Society at 8 p.m. at Union Federal Savings, 13300 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. The event will mark the group's 22nd anniversary.
More than 6,000 Masonic pennies and shekel tokens from the Virgil Brand Collection will be sold in the first of a five-session auction at the St. Moritz Hotel in New York, March 25-27. The Masonic pieces, some of which are pictured, include examples from every state, territory and foreign possession having a Royal Arch chapter. For a March auction catalogue, send $10 to Auctions by Bowers & Merena, P. O. Box 1224-NR, Wolfeboro, N.H. 03894.
Don Alpert cannot answer mail personally but will respond to numismatic questions of general interest in this column. Do not telephone. Write to Your Coins, You section, The Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053.