Hunting Down Mint Sets of Recent Uncirculated Issues

Question: Local coin dealers seem unsure as to whether mint sets of uncirculated coins were issued in 1982 and 1983 and have been or will be issued in 1985. If any of these three were issued, can you tell me how I might try to obtain them?--M.W. O'M.

Answer: I'm rather surprised that you were unable to get the answers you wanted from your local dealers. Next time you're in their shops, suggest that they look it up in the Red Book, otherwise known as A Guide Book of United States Coins. The 39th edition, for the year 1986, has recently been released. It contains a wealth of information. Page 60 concerns proof sets. Page 249 has a full discussion on uncirculated mint sets. There is a gap in uncirculated sets for the years 1982 and 1983. However, 1985 is listed.

Obviously, you can't get '82 or '83 sets because they weren't produced. But the 1985 sets, with a face value of $1.82, were issued for a selling price of $7. Often, when sets are first released, the market price does not get established for a while. Many of these later issues, both proof and uncirculated, are selling for less than their original price. However, this has occurred in a relatively short time span, and only time will tell what the true value of these sets will actually be.

Incidentally, proof sets were issued for '82 and '83, so there is a certain continuity that collectors can maintain, even if there's a void during those years for uncirculated sets.

Announcements about the 1985 uncirculated sets have just gone out, and dealers will probably be stocking them before you know it. However, you can order them direct with P and D mint marks for $7 each (there is no limit) from: United States Mint, Uncirculated Coin Set Program, P. O. Box 7743, San Francisco, Calif. 94120-7743.

Sometimes they sell for more than the original issue price; other times you might be able to get sets for less. Proof and mint sets are available from the mint only during the year of issue. For proof sets, write: Bureau of the Mint, 55 Mint St., San Francisco, Calif. 94175.

Q: Please tell me the value of the following gold coins: 1881 $5, 1906 $2.50 and 1924 $20. Also, how does one go about finding a reliable dealer to do business with?--B.B.

A: Ah, the old "reliable dealer" problem. Well, once again, you find a reliable coin dealer the same way you find a reliable doctor, banker, stockbroker or dentist. You shop, question, compare, study. Learn as much as you can on the subject and check the price guides. Also, the field is competitive. There are wholesale (dealer-to-dealer) prices and retail (the price the public pays or gets) prices. Grading is tough, but mainly because it's subjective. It's easier to buy than to sell, but by careful preparation you can get a fair price for your coins.

Here's what to expect: $130 and up for the $5, $125 and up for the $2.50 and $550 and up for the $20. The "up" depends on the condition of the coins. If your coins are damaged or noticeably worn, expect less; uncirculated and in better shape, expect more.

Q: I have four Liberty-head gold coins that you don't seem to write about. I wonder if they are rare. The coins are two $1 gold coins dated 1850; a half-dollar gold coin dated 1870, and a quarter-dollar gold coin dated 1870. Please tell me what they are worth.--F.B.J.

A: I'm a little baffled by your descriptions. The 1870 gold dollar is an Indian head, not a Liberty, as you describe. It's known as a Type III, and they are worth $150 each and up. I suspect you mean half eagle and quarter eagle on the other pieces. The half eagle is a $5 denomination and the quarter eagle is $2.50. If so, the $5 gold piece is worth $200 and up; the $2.50 gold piece is worth $150 and up.

Q: I am hoping that you can tell me more about my coin and how much it might be worth. It is in fair condition. The writing on the front is DEI GRATIA--1778--CAROLUS III. On the back is HISPAN IT IND REX M 'R FF.--P.S.

A: Your coin is commonly known as a piece of eight or a pillar. Technically, early versions were Spanish-milled dollars, and they circulated widely in the Americas from around 1500 to 1900. It was probably the world's most successful trade dollar and was used in the Colonies before the United States produced its own coinage. Machine-struck coins came from Mexico City in the 1730s, and yours appears to be one of those, with the image of Charles III on the obverse and the coat of arms flanked by the Pillars of Hercules on the reverse. There's a lot of history in your coin, but it's only in the $20-and-up range.

Q: I have 1966 and 1967 special mint sets; 1970, 1971 and 1972 proof sets, and 1970 and 1971 mint sets. I would appreciate two things: the value of the coins and how to dispose of them.--D.P.F.

A: U.S. mint sets and proof sets are among the most popular collectibles. You'll have little trouble selling them. Most dealers keep many in stock. A call or two should do the trick. Here's what you can expect to get: $3 each for the 1966 sets, $5.50 for the 1967, $6 each for the 1970 proof sets, $3.50 for the 1971 and '72 proof sets, $18 each for the 1970 mint sets and $2 each for the 1971 mint sets.

Q: I don't know much about old coins and wonder if these are valuable: U.S. silver dollars dated 1897, 1921 and 1922. How long should I keep them for the most worth?--S.K.

A: Your dollars are worth $10 each and up, depending upon condition. If your coins are circulated or worn, chances are they will fluctuate in value with the price of silver. Right now, silver is priced low compared to several years ago. If your coins are uncirculated, they have collector value. These coins vary in price depending on collector demand. Coin prices go in cycles, although there has been a general increase in collector pieces over a long period of time.

Coin News

California artist Marika Somogyi has designed a medal (pictured) honoring the Statue of Liberty. A portion of the profits from sales will go to the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island Centennial Commission, and the balance will support educational projects. An antiqued bronze edition (limited to 1,000 pieces) is $16; a sterling-silver vermeil edition (500 pieces) is $50, and a gold-plated sterling-silver vermeil edition (250 pieces) is $65. Checks should be sent to the nonprofit Magnes Museum, 2911 Russell St., Berkeley, Calif. 94705. Allow 60 days for delivery.

Intaglio engravings of the Liberty Bell will be sold by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing using the original die engraved in 1917. Mail orders for the prints, which will be featured at three East Coast numismatic shows Nov. 14-17, May 22-June 1 and Aug. 6 and 7 next year, are $16.50. Orders should be addressed to Mail Order Sales, Room 602-11A, Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Washington, D.C. 20228. Request either item No. 418, 419 or 420, depending on which show is desired. Do not order more than two weeks before the first day of each show.

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.

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